This series will cover all phases of product design from initial business understanding and customer research, ideation, prototyping and testing through to product delivery and analysis.

If you want to create valuable, profitable products that have significant business impact, then you may find this series useful.

This week, we’re looking at step one:

  1. Understand
  2. Ideate
  3. Prototype & validate
  4. Visual & motion design
  5. Measure impact

Step 1: Understand

Whether you’re starting out with an entirely new product, or improving an existing one, it’s essential to begin with a solid understanding of the market, the business and your customer's experience.

Business understanding

The Market

In a promising market, there’s always competition. Whether it’s a non-digital solution or a product that appears to have the customer experience nailed, it’s important to understand what’s out there. Look at what other services are offering and most importantly, what opportunities there are to improve the customer experience through your product.

The Business

Especially with larger companies, it’s important to understand all areas of the business: strategy, research, technology and anything else that could support your product decisions. Lightning talks, as described in Google’s design sprints are a great way to share knowledge concisely and quickly with the whole team.

The Customer

When it comes to understanding your customers, it’s essential to build a realistic, informed picture of the overall customer experience beyond the confines of your product.

Customer Interviews

Focus groups

Focus groups can provide a relaxed environment for open discussions and large-scale sketch-noting. Starting with a group energiser session helps participants to break the ice and encourages conversation.

Customer interviews and journey mapping

Spending one-on-one time with your users is one of the most effective ways to gain insight on their experience. An ideal interview starts at the beginning of their journey and continues through the process, describing each step along the way. As the interview proceeds, you can use sketch-noting to create an experience map highlighting key moments, pain-points and emotions.

These unique insights can then be analysed alongside your other findings and together form an overall customer experience map, highlighting obstacles and opportunities.

App store reviews & customer care

It goes without saying, app store reviews can be harsh but they can also be a great ego boost and provide vital feedback to the product design process. Spend some time reading the good and the bad to identify customer pain-points and favourite features to help you improve the product design.

The customer care team (if you’re lucky enough to have one) will be a fountain of knowledge on any issues your customers may be having with the service. Asking them to give a lightning talk about their insights could be of great benefit to the team and the project.


Analytics refers the process of collecting, analysing and formatting large-scale data. When exploring a new design challenge, analytics can help to understand current usage and behaviours such as element interaction, screen views, session information and crashes. You can read more about analytics in Step 5: Track & validate.

What’s next?

When you’ve concluded your research, it’s time to share! It’s important the whole team starts the project well-informed, with a shared focus on the end goal.

A high-level presentation outlining the results of your research, clear business goals and key opportunities will form the perfect platform to kick-start your project and prioritise solutions.

Read 'The 5 steps of better product design: Step 2: Ideate' now.