Product Thinking in UX Design – A Step Into the Future or the Past?
Well, if you’re into tech, you must be well aware of the term ‘UX design’. It is concerned with human-computer interaction and creates processes that enhance customers’ experience during all the interactions with a business.
On the other hand, product thinking is all about designing/modifying your product, service, or offering in such a way that best solves the problem of the user. It is about putting yourself in the customer’s shoes.
It is about looking at your product/service from the customer’s point-of-view, and then coming up with solutions that are highly focused on solving the ACTUAL problems.
Both phenomena apply to every business, irrespective of their industry. From the food and beverages industry to IT and tech, proper UX design and product thinking can help you take your business to the next level.
Generally, these two concepts are thought to be relevant to the IT and SaaS industry.
Even though product thinking and UX design apply to all industries, the nature of implementation is different. Industries such as restaurant and fast food industry are labour-intensive, meaning that labour is more important.
Therefore, the implementation of product thinking and UX design strategies will involve more people and less capital.
The IT and SaaS industry, on the other hand, is more capital intensive. Hence, the implementation of these strategies will involve more capital and less labour/human resource.
Therefore, keeping track of your mobile app development costs is recommended if you’re into such industries.
This guide will discuss the importance of product thinking in UX design and assess if it is a step into the future or the past.
Product Thinking: Key Component of UX
Every customer has multiple interactions with the businesses. UX is all about enhancing the experience during these interactions.
Product thinking is a crucial component of User Experience. It is part of the process.
In UX, we are thinking about users’ interactions with the business from a holistic point of view. On the other hand, product thinking is about thinking about a specific problem from the consumer’s perspective.
Without proper product thinking in place, you cannot design your product or service effectively. Most startups fail because they can not find the right market for their product.
Do you know why does this happen? It is because most entrepreneurs do not see things as a customer. Product thinking is about looking at problems a customer faces; it’s about putting yourself in the customer’s shoes.
Why Is Product Thinking Important?
Product thinking is often confused with design thinking.
Design thinking looks at the problem’s users, behaviours, and needs from a task level, while product thinking is about thinking from the customer’s perspective, not the brand. As they say, product thinking is about loving the problem, not the brand.
The survival of any business depends upon its capability to solve a problem the customers face. If the product can solve the problem for the long term, the business is sustainable and scalable.
To do so, a business needs to define and exceed customers’ expectations appropriately.
The common misconception is that entrepreneurs do not think like users.
As their business grows, they start thinking like a brand, and they launch products/services that are not useful for the customer – the products that do not solve any problem. That is the reason why these products fail so miserably.
For example, Microsoft launched Windows Vista back in 2007. It is by far the most significant failure that Microsoft has ever faced in terms of Operating Systems.
Why did it fail? Because an operating system like that was never needed. It didn’t solve any problem for the user. A product that does not solve a problem for the customer is destined to fail.
It makes product thinking essential for all businesses. All businesses need to implement proper product thinking to their product strategy, from food and beverages to software.
The key is to find a product-market fit. A product-market fit means the right product for the right market.
UX and Product Thinking Go Hand in Hand
Let’s face it. You can not have an excellent product with just good UX. You need to make sure you’ve found the product-market fit. Product thinking is critical. But, product thinking alone won’t do the work.
UX and Product thinking go hand in hand with each other. One can not exist without the other.
Product thinking is about optimising your product/overall solution, and UX is about optimising the individual features of that product/overall solution.
In simple words, UX is related to the micro-level aspects of a product, and product thinking is related to the macro-level aspects of a product.
The Five Stages in the Product Thinking Process
After that, we have established that product thinking should become an integral part of your business strategy; it is time that we now explore the process.
Here are the five stages in the product thinking process that you need to complete when implementing any such strategy to your business:
Stage 1: Empathise
As we have discussed earlier, product thinking is about loving the problem, not the brand. Practical product thinking always starts with empathising with the user.
Look at stuff from the perspective of your customer, and try to empathise with them. Try to explore what problems they face to see if you can solve them with your product.
That is what the founder of Uber did when they launched the service. They empathised with the users. They had to face the same problem. When they couldn’t find a cab quickly, they were better positioned to solve the problem with their product/service.
Uber’s app interface and design are things that do not matter at this stage. Even customers do not much care about that in the first place.
All they want to have is an excellent on-demand ride-hailing service that enables them to travel hassle-free. That’s it.
Stage 2:Define (the Problem)
The second stage of implementing a product thinking strategy in your business is defining your problem. It means having clarity inside your organisation about the purpose of your products.
In the first stage, you’re just exploring the problems that your users face. In the second stage, you’re now defining your exploration.
What did you explore in the first stage? What is the problem that most of your users face? You need to define that problem clearly.
Once defined, it is time to communicate that problem with your team. Without defining and communicating the actual problem, how would you be able to solve it?
Stage 3: Ideate
Since we are now discussing solving the problem, let’s talk about the first stage in the ‘solution phase’.
The first two stages in the process were about the problems; they were about empathising with the users and defining their main problem.
These two steps, though foundational for any proper implementation, talked only about the problem.
Now is the time to ideate the solutions. It is when your creativity and problem-solving skills come into place. Collaboration and brainstorming ideas are two key strategies that can help you at this stage.
Try to brainstorm ideas with your team members and decide on the most simple idea out of all.
Stage 4: Prototype
Once you have finalised the solution idea, it is now time to create a prototype.
SaaS businesses create software that would look like the final solution but with minimum investment. It can be a wireframe or high-fidelity design of an app instead of an actual app.
But, if you’re into the traditional businesses, as the fast-food industry, you would need to create a product that looks (or tastes in this case) like the solution. The solution in the fast-food industry can be a new flavour of your famous shake or anything like that.
Stage 5: Test
After you’ve created the prototype and are satisfied with the output, it is now time to launch it for selected audiences.
It can be launched for beta testers (in the SaaS industry) or in selected locations (in the case of other traditional industries).
You have to analyse the response you get from the users. If it’s positive, the new solution will be a good idea to pursue. Otherwise, it would be best if you started over.
Why product thinking is the next big thing in UX design?
We have talked about product thinking being the critical component of UX and the five stages. But why do we need to care about it in the first place? What are the benefits that product thinking brings to your business?
Here’s the list of advantages that you get with the proper implementation of product thinking strategies in your business:
Product thinking will help you know what to build
With the proper implementation of product thinking strategies into your business, it would be pretty easy for you to know what to build.
As discussed earlier, most startups fail because they produce a product that nobody wants. Finding the product-market fit is key to the success of any business. Product thinking will help you do that.
Since you are looking at your business from your customer’s perspective, you would be better positioned to judge your market offerings.
You would have to start by researching your target audience and then researching the common problems they face.
After this whole research process is done, you should now know the main problems faced by your users. If your product addresses these problems well, you’re good to go, but if not, you surely need a new product that does it.
Product thinking enables you to learn about your customers and create solutions that best suit them. It helps you fall in love with the problem, not with your brand.
Product thinking will help you prioritise
Product thinking has another advantage. It will help you prioritise. It will help you prioritise the features, products, and user segments to target.
By allowing you to research your target audience, product thinking helps you prioritise the target audience that needs your solution the most.
When you’re thinking about solving a problem, you’re thinking about a specific set of customers currently facing it. That way, you’ve already prioritised them, who are the most critical market segment for your business.
Product thinking will help you keep your team aligned
When in industries like the SaaS industry, keeping your team aligned is the most challenging task. Your marketing team has a different perspective, and your development team has another one.
Implementing proper product thinking strategies into your business means your teams are united to solve a specific problem.
It means that the drive to solve a specific problem of your users is working as the uniting force between your team members.
When your marketing team and your development teams are aware of the main problem your product addresses, they will be better positioned to develop strategies and increase the efficiency of your business.
Product thinking, as compared to UX design, looks at things from a different perspective. UX design strives to improve the experience a user has when interacting with your business.
It’s more about the features of your product. But, product thinking, on the other hand, strives to develop products that solve a problem.
It’s more about designing your product for the customer, not for the aesthetics or features. None of them can work alone.
Both product thinking and UX design go hand in hand to provide a product with excellent features and solve the problems at its best.