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4 Design Thinking Takeaways for Successful Mobile Products
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The process of developing and launching a successful mobile product is complex, with many aspects of the process affecting the end result. With that said, the most important aspect that influences successful mobile app development is proper planning. If you don’t know your business intentions, the reason why you want to launch a mobile product, or your product’s value proposition, it will be very difficult to design and develop a useful product that addresses both business and user needs. 

The design thinking process helps businesses set product goals, make a compelling business case, and build a solid understanding of the product’s target user base. By the end of the design thinking process, you’ll walk away with a clear product vision statement, user personas, user journeys, and a product roadmap that addresses short- and long-term business goals with the technology solutions required to achieve them. 


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A Primer on Design Thinking


The Interaction Design Foundation defines design thinking as a non-linear, iterative process that seeks to understand users, challenge assumptions, redefine problems and create innovative solutions to prototype and test. Design thinking helps to understand complex problems with unknown solutions. 

Today, there isn’t a single business that remains untouched by the societal and economic shift towards a customer experience facilitated by technology. Now more than ever, innovation, agility, and predictable software delivery are all requisites for any business to survive in the digital economy. Design thinking provides the process and tools which allow businesses to understand and act on rapid market changes and customer demands. The design thinking process reframes complex business problems in human-centric ways and allows product teams to focus on what’s important for users. Design thinking is more than just a process, it’s a mindset and an approach to problem-solving that allows businesses to find innovative solutions to the problems their customers are facing. 

This article will go over the most important design thinking takeaways that support the delivery of a successful mobile product. 


A Product Vision Statement 


Design thinking encourages companies to think critically about business goals and whether or not they’re attainable. More importantly, design thinking prompts business owners to analyze their business strategy and how it will translate into a product strategy. A clear product vision statement is the result of this process and provides a sense of direction towards the end goal of the mobile product. 


Why is a Product Vision Statement Important for Mobile App Development? 


There are significant advantages to creating a product vision statement: 

  1. A vision statement explicitly defines who will be using the product.
  2. A vision statement expresses the solution to the problem those users are facing. 
  3. A vision statement differentiates the product from what currently exists in the market. 


A product vision statement establishes a definite area of focus for the mobile product, which helps businesses set specific success criteria and clear objectives to determine what features the product needs to be successful. The process of defining a product vision statement allows all of the project stakeholders to visualize the product in context and not as a catalog of features and design efforts. To develop a product vision statement, you start with the end-user and define: 

  1. What is the problem you are solving?
  2. Who is the audience you are solving the problem for?


Next, you evaluate the specific job to be done: 

  1. Why are you doing this project? 
  2. What is the strategy, or how will this project be done? 


Last, you outline your deliverables: 

  1. What are the goals we are setting, and what exactly will we accomplish? 
  2. What features will this product manifest as? What is required to reach our goals? 


Essentially, drafting a product vision statement is a method for evaluating and appraising every design decision in context with both the needs of the business and the end-user. It also builds out the connection between user experience design and product management. 


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User Journeys


The purpose of design thinking goes beyond the mobile product itself, and the overall goal is geared towards creating a solution for a specific set of users, which is why it’s so important to have audience insight. 

A report from 2018 by Localytics reveals that only 32 percent of users continue to engage with an app after three months and 21 percent of users abandon an app after only one use. On top of those statistics, 65 percent of mobile users say a poor user experience negatively impacts their opinion of the brand. It’s very clear that users have high expectations for the mobile products they choose, so if you want your product to have ongoing engagement, it’s imperative that your product serves a purpose in the user’s life. 

A core objective of design thinking is discovering who your target users are, what they value, and the central pain point they experience that your product will address. A key deliverable from a design thinking session is the product’s user journeys, but before you can create user journeys, the first step is creating detailed user personas. There can be multiple user groups for a mobile product and each user persona will have its own unique user journey. 


Why are User Personas Important for Creating User Journeys? 


A user persona is a partially fictitious depiction of your ideal user based on research, which serves as a representation of all the different user groups your service, product, or brand will target. User personas include everything about a user’s demographics, background, mobile preferences, interests, and unique identifiers. User personas also address the central goals of the user and the challenges they currently face. 

In-depth user personas create the foundation for user journey design and help you customize every aspect of your mobile product to each of your users’ preferences and needs. Everything from branding and in-app content to functionality, features, platform choice and monetization need to resonate with your target user. By thoroughly outlining your target audience with user personas, you’ll answer essential questions that will guide your design and product strategy. 

  1. What is a central pain point this audience collectively experiences? 
  2. What mobile operating system does this audience use? iOS or Android? 
  3. What types of apps does this target audience frequently use? 
  4. Are there any visual branding patterns evident amongst this audience’s preferred apps? 
  5. Are these users known to pay for apps or make in-app purchases? 
  6. Do these users engage with in-app advertisements? 
  7. What social media platforms is this audience most active on? Can you benefit from paid advertising on these platforms? 


Using personas to answer questions like these will help you coordinate design and business decisions to attract the right audience to your product. If you haven’t properly researched your audience, you won’t be able to deliver a product that is relevant to their needs. 


Why are User Journeys Important for Mobile App Development? 


User journeys are the foundation of user experience design. A user journey is a series of actions a user performs to achieve a particular goal within the mobile product. User journeys are how your product will provide user value by creating an intuitive direction towards solving a pain point. At the same time, a user journey delivers business value by guiding users to the desired conversion point. 


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Once you establish the goal and audience for your mobile product, you need to record the exact actions a user has to take to complete the product goal. Not only does design thinking provide you with a prioritized list of product features, but the process also provides wireframed maps of how those features come together to create the entire user experience. Wireframes outline step-by-step how a user will move through the app. 


Why are Wireframes Important for Mobile App Development? 


If you’re looking to win stakeholder or investor buy-in, it’s essential to have a high-level visual solution that details the product’s user experience. Wireframes are outlines of what the mobile product will be without the granular details. They’re used to depict how the product’s basic functionality will play out on-screen before including stylized visual components. Through the process of creating wireframes, you create a succinct path towards the central action you want the user to take. This process helps keep the first version of your product lean and user-friendly. 


A Product Roadmap


Ultimately, you want to build a product that is scalable. You need to be able to adapt to the ever-changing needs of your users. Design thinking will prioritize the most important features necessary to launch a successful product, but also delivers a summary which includes the product vision and the long-term direction of the product. 


Why is a Product Roadmap Important for Mobile App Development? 


A product roadmap addresses the now, next, and later of your mobile product. A roadmap creates a collective consensus for the direction of the product and helps determine the level of investment at each future stage of development. 


The Product Roadmap Now


The initial release of a product is considered the Minimum Viable Product (MVP). An MVP includes only the features necessary to take a product to market. MVPs follow a build-measure-learn process, which allows you to learn how your target users reach and experience the product’s core functionality. From there, user research identifies what features to include to address evolving user needs over time. 

The risk of developing more (or less) than you need is why validating your product assumptions with an MVP is so important. Starting with a core feature, learning how users react to that feature and building in accordance with user feedback is essential for determining the appropriate amount of functionality your product needs to acquire and retain users. Over time, the learnings that come from an MVP define your product roadmap and guide the evolution of your app. 

MVPs provide immediate value while minimizing development costs. Ultimately, an MVP allows you to build a product with minimal features and iteratively built it out to create a better, more polished product while leveraging user intelligence to make the best decisions possible. With every release version, the product evolves to maximize return on investment (ROI) and move towards a mature application.  


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The Product Roadmap Next


The next iteration after the MVP includes features to support the pre-existing functionality of the mobile product, as well as any new features that can add distinct user value. The launched product should continue to address all the business objectives and provide insight into the success rate of the product roadmap. This phase also continues to collect data about user engagement patterns. 


The Product Roadmap Later


The later phase of the product roadmap is for future iterations of the product and includes new features to build out the ideal functionality of the mobile product. Again, this phase addresses all the business objectives and provides useful insights to further guide product decisions.


The Bottom Line About Design Thinking


Design thinking takes your initial idea and transforms it into actionable deliverables, which you can use to validate your assumptions before development to win stakeholder or investor buy-in. By the end of the design thinking process, your product team will have a future-oriented product roadmap, user journeys, wireframes, mockups, and a clickable app prototype. The entire process helps guide business, design, and development decisions so you can confidently take a fully scalable mobile product to market.


Keep Reading:

A Step-by-Step Guide to Product Design & Discovery

A Beginner’s Guide: POC vs. MVP vs. Prototype


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