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Methodical - 5 D's of Product Design & Development - Discovery part 1

First Principles (1 and 2) are the North Stars for great product design. They help us a lot, especial
Methodical - 5 D's of Product Design & Development - Discovery part 1
By Akar Sumset • Issue #4 • View online
First Principles (1 and 2) are the North Stars for great product design. They help us a lot, especially when we are lost. But the North Star alone can’t tell us how to get where we want to get. 
We need a roadmap to take us there. 5 D’s of Product Design & Development is that roadmap. Last week was about Destination and this week it’s Discovery time! Again, I’ll share very practical resources and best of the tools available. We are starting with Inspiration. Ideation and Testing to follow.

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5 D's of Product Design and Development
5 D’s of Product Design and Development is a framework to design and develop great products. It covers the 5 main stages of product design and development: 

  1. Destination: Vision, Strategy, Roadmap
  2. Discovery: Inspiration, Ideation, Testing
  3. Definition & Design
  4. Development
  5. Data and Optimization
Introduction to Discovery
Discovery has three major steps. 

  1. Inspiration: Learn as much as possible as fast as possible.
  2. Ideation: Generate as many ideas as possible as fast as possible.
  3. Testing: Iterate as much as possible as fast as possible.
The main purpose is to make sure that we are going to be Defining & Designing the right thing. Discovery ensures (as much as possible) we’re working on the right thing because it;

  • Provides us with a 360 view on the problem
  • Helps us consider as many solution alternatives as possible
  • Enables us to remove biases through collaboration and testing

By doing all these before writing a single line of code or deep diving into Definition & Design, we eliminate lots of waste.  I avoid using the word Lean because it became one of those eviscerated  terms. Nobody understands what it means anymore. Lean = Minimized Waste. It’s that simple. 

So, how does Discovery help with minimizing waste? Well, for one thing it is way cheaper to find out what to build and how to build it with Discovery techniques. Those techniques are mostly quick and dirty. That’s obvious. But what’s not so obvious is this: The further we are in the product development process the harder it is to admit we made a mistake. It’s what we call the Sunk Cost Fallacy. That’s why Lean UX is mostly focused on early stages of UX design. Another not so obvious value of Discovery is that it increases the credibility of the product people and helps a lot with getting buy-ins. 
Why is this important? For two reasons: 

  1. If people believe what they’re doing is the right thing to do then they work much more efficiently and behave much more constructive. 
  2. If people feel that their voice is heard during decision making they adopt final decisions even though they didn’t agree in the beginning.
These, again help minimize waste because we don’t need to persuade people again and again, push teams to get on track or deal with frustrated colleagues who hate us because we didn’t care for their ideas in the first place.

The Design Sprint — Google Ventures
The MVP is dead. Long live the RAT
This is where we diverge. Where we open up all our senses and try to absorb as much as possible. Imagine yourself being a newborn baby or an alien landed on Earth for the first time. We should be that receptive, that curious. We have to learn as much as possible and as fast as possible. 
When it comes to product we have a lot of places to learn from. Mainly from the following.

  1. Users
  2. Our Company
  3. Competitors
  4. Patterns 
  5. North Stars

Inspiration does two things. First, it helps us understand the problem correctly by listening to customers and our company. Then, feeds us with inspiration from competitors, existing patterns and from North Stars. 

Of course, we start with users. It’s always, always about them. Nothing works unless they are happy. This is one of the most popular topics in product world so I won’t say much about this. The only thing I want to highlight is that listening to users can’t happen on a project to project basis. It’s crucial that we keep the feedback and data coming all the time. We never know when we might need feedback/data and more importantly if we’ll ever get the time to gather any.

Our Company
No matter how small or large our company is one thing that doesn’t change is products brought to life by the the entire company. Building a digital product deceives us into thinking that we, the product people, run the whole show but no. It’s not like that. Yes, we get to shape it more than anyone else but more or less  each person in the company plays a part in the user experience. There are obvious roles like marketing, sales, support etc. but the not so obvious roles like devops, legal, finance, business development… are also influential on user experience. 
Let me give you an example. Take a look at what happened to Revolut (a digital wallet accompanied with a physical card) users outside of Europe. They were disabled to use Revolut because Revolut couldn’t renew their deal with a payment processor! Yes, that is an extreme example. But it makes its point very well.
Don't obsess with competitors
Don't obsess with competitors
That, unfortunately, is the most common inspiration source. And obsessing with competitors is quite dangerous as the comic points out. However, we have to know what our competitors do and how they are perceived because as Nir Eyal puts it: People Don’t Want Something Truly New, They Want Familiar Done Differently. Enough said.

Familiar things are not only things we can source from competitors but we can also use patterns to find them. It’s crazy that we invent the wheel so many times in product design just because we can. There are very few cases which can justify ignoring patterns. Either you come up with a system like Material Design or it’s such a core part of your product that you have to fix pattern related problems. Otherwise, especially for mundane parts of the products, patterns are golden solutions.

North Stars
North Stars are the products/companies/systems.. we admire. They are the products/companies/systems who lead the way regardless of their industry. They are the ones show us the way when we are lost. My personal North Stars are;

  1. Basecamp because of the way they run the company and their approach to business.
  2. Airbnb because of their emphasis on design and tools they produce and share with product community.
  3. Facebook because almost everyone uses their products be it Facebook itself, Messenger, Instagram, Whatsapp or Snapchat. Wait! Snapchat has Stories feature either but it’s not owned by Facebook, right? (Want your own version of Stories? Use Zuck.js)
  4. Google Material Design because it helps a lot with consistency and continuity. Uses motion just right. Looks at interface design from a user perspective rather than interface perspective.
  5. Linkedin, well this might seem a little unorthodox however we have to admit that sometimes we need dark patterns and Linkedin is the king of dark patterns.
What are your North Stars? Share with me by just replying to this mail.

Connected UX
Methods to Understand Your User and Business
Methods to Understand Your Competitors
When to Use Which User-Experience Research Methods
Open Roadmaps to Gather Feedback
Conducting an effective stakeholder interview
Material design guidelines
An Awesome Library of Pattern Libraries
3 Uses for Analytics in User Experience Practice
Analytics Simplified
Lean Product Analytics by Dan Olsen
Discovery is where we make lots of costly decisions. It requires lots of learning and validation. Nevertheless, investing time in Discovery is like investing money in a good startup very early on. Even very, very small investments can pay off quite big time. 

Hope you’ve enjoyed this! If so please share this newsletter with your friends and network.

Akar - Continuously brainstorming
Bonus! UX Design for Startups: Understanding and Calculating The Market
It turns out, if it gets repeated enough anything can come true!
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Akar Sumset

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