Guest Post - Why Product Thinking is the next big thing in UX Design

When we think about User Experience, we often think about a simple, beautiful, and user-friendly set of product features that make life easier for the user. But in fact, the features are just a small part of the product.

These are just a few of the many thoughtful solutions to the user problem the product is trying to solve. Thinking about the product means thinking about specific user problems, in work ahead, in goals, and in revenues.

The very essence of great user experience is not in design or functions. It is the product's ability to solve a problem. For example, when you order something from Amazon, there is a feature that allows you to track your product.

This is amazing, but it doesn't mean anything if the product never reaches your door. On the other hand, shipping from Amazon may still work fine without it.

The main aim of Uber users is to get a taxi at any time and without any problems. A countdown that shows precisely when the cab will arrive is a suitable feature that expands this experience.

However, the Uber service works independently of this function, which on the other hand, cannot live without the product (the certainty that the taxi will arrive quickly at any time).

The product functionality ratio is not a two-way street. For this reason, product thinking is the next big thing in UX design.

Product Thinking Vs. Design Thinking: What's New?

Product thinking is more holistic than UX designer thinking, and it's also much more complicated.

When you work on product design, you have to think about much more than just the needs of the end-user and UX (or creative) design.

It would help if you considered business factors and goals, the competitive landscape, the rigid "costs" around the feature set (whether a physical or digital product), and how to communicate and market the product to existing or potential customers.

Product design is very similar to service design in that many "ancillary" processes or moving parts need to be defined and supported to provide end-users with a "front-end" experience.

Traditional design thinking tends to focus on "front stage" things, and thus has a lesser understanding of what is needed to implement a proposed design.

If the team remains in the "silo" of our UX design, it will reduce its capabilities and understanding of the business. It would also risk being seen as "nice to have" rather than a key part of the process.

UX design is often a project phase, while product design is a project. The more UX practitioners move to a product design model, the more we will be involved in defining and implementing end-user solutions - and we will have a more significant impact when it comes to bringing useful solutions to the market.

1. Define The User's Problem

The first step in thinking about the product is to identify the problem that your users want to solve. This is why they will buy your product. (as long as it solves the problem in a meaningful and valuable way).

If the problem you choose does not really exist, or the solution you propose does not solve the problem, your products will be useless to your users. Products without users fall into a pile of rubbish.

Of course, there is a chance that if you make a mistake with the solution, you can fix it. However, if you solve a problem that doesn't exist, there is little you can do about it in post-analysis.

Sometimes it can be difficult to find the real problem. Even when you do a lot of research, you may find a problem that does not exist. However, the right way to start is always to talk to potential users.

Keep in mind that users may not be able to formulate their problems very well (“it's not their job,” as Steve Jobs would say.), so you may have to dig deeper and make some real observations and talk to your users.

Rob Fitzpatrick, customer development and product evangelist, encourages every product manager, UX designer, and even the back-end developer on the team to go and talk to customers and explore their needs and problems. The bad news here is that your team will probably need some serious training in communication skills.

Clay Christensen, for example, once tried to improve sales of milkshakes. He wanted to make them sweeter, so he offered them to different tasters and slightly increased the size of the cups. It didn't work until he started watching the customers who were buying milkshakes.

He learned that the reason for which customers bought milkshakes was actually to make their morning commute to work less tedious. The significant advantage of a milkshake is that it is a thick drink that lasts longer than any other drink and fills the stomach. It was a real problem that customers had no idea about it.

2. The Structure of Product Thinking

Product thinking helps to create successful characteristics. By identifying the problems a product faces, it answers the questions:
•“Why are we creating this product?" - Defines the target audience
•"Who has these problems?" - Defines the solution
•"How do we do it?" - Setting a target will help to measure the success of this feature.

Start with the user and define the following:
•The problem that you need to solve
•The audience you're going to solve the problem for.

Then you look at the work to be done:
•Why do you do it (what's your vision)?
•Strategy - how do we do it efficiently?

In the end, you will achieve results:
•What goals do we set?
•What exactly are we going to achieve?
•What features will it reveal?
•What will we do to achieve our goals?

3. Define the Product from a UX Perspective

•This product is for: (Your audience)
•This will help them solve this problem: (Problem).
•We'll do it: (Strategy)
•We expect the product to work: (Objective)
•Once you have made this definition, you can move on to deciding functions.

Advantages of The Product Thinking Approach

Product thinking gives designers an advantage in creating the right characteristics for the right people. It helps to understand the user experience of a product in general, not just as interaction and visual design features.

It allows designers to solve real-world user problems and thus reduces the risk of creating something that no one wants. It enables you to make the right decisions every time it comes to building functions.

The product thinking system allows UX designers to ask the right questions, create the right features, and communicate more effectively with stakeholders. This will enable designers to say "no" and think twice before adding new features.

Whenever a new feature is requested, or someone has an idea for a new product, designers can ask the right questions before creating fancy layouts. Questions may include:
•Does it fit in the product?
•Does it serve a real user problem?
•Do people want or need it?

Let's find out first! This will keep the product subtle and efficient.

To Sum Up: Is Product Thinking The Next Big Thing?

Product thinking allows designers to create better products. It's a way to look at each design solution in the context of the problem the user wants to solve. It should also expand the connection between UX and product management.

However, for some, product thinking is just yet another buzz word that does not necessarily bring anything new compared to, for example, design thinking; regardless of whether it is a new approach or not, you can use product thinking as a propaganda tool.

Maybe this term is easier to understand for your manager, customer, or team.

Therefore, analyze your internal audience and see what makes more sense to achieve your goals and convey your ideas!

Author’s bio: Dmitrii B. is the founder of GRIN tech – full service agency.

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