The key building blocks that make products successful simplified into digestible, actionable, and shareable insights.
The talk is over and it’s time to get to work creating a product that will knock people’s socks off. Not literally knocking people’s socks off, but hey, maybe that would be a pretty cool product?
You’ve conducted research, analyzed the marketplace, prototyped, and have a strategy in place. Now, you’re ready to make your new digital product a reality, or maybe you’re updating or expanding an existing product. This is a pivotal time for the organization and you have to get it right, we understand.
Over the years working with startups and large corporations, we've been able to pinpoint key building blocks and processes that make products successful with amazing user experiences (UX). Keep reading as we simplify them down into digestible, actionable, and shareable insights.
Oh, that's a question! Still, the answer is yes. When we refer to a “product”, we’re including the user experience associated with that product.
There are products designed for any and everything in our lives—from completing common routines, to work, leisure, and everything in between. They serve to improve or augment our being. Experiences, workflows, and processes are all shaped by the products we use.
And let's be honest, as users, we’re often overwhelmed with choices. I mean, have you seen the cereal aisle at the grocery store, er I mean Instacart? Whew.
Let's try an activity together. Say you recently decided you want to lose a few pounds (you look great, by the way), and you want an app to help. Grab your phone and search "fitness app" in the app store. Start scrolling and come back when you've had enough.
The marketplace is extremely competitive—fitness or otherwise—meaning you could be scrolling for days. So, how do you stand out? What are your differentiators? Outside of the product(s) itself, great branding is certainly one aspect. The other is to crush the user experience.
What are the staples of a great product? It’s hard to boil that down to a few key points, but if you look across many successful products, you’ll see a lot of common themes.
At its core, a product is designed to help a user efficiently and effectively achieve a task, fix a problem, or perform an action. Whether that is something physical, like a paintbrush, or digital, like an investment app.
A good example of this would be a tool like a screwdriver. Its job is to twist screws into holes–if it can do that, then you’ve designed a screwdriver. It achieves #1 here, but it’s just another boring screwdriver. Same as the majority of fitness apps mentioned above.
Now, let’s think about one of the best-selling screwdrivers on the market. It twists screws into holes just like the other one does, but this one has a soft, ergonomic grip that doesn’t hurt your hands. It’s also magnetic to keep screws attached to the bit and to recover lost ones. The handle also houses various bits of different sizes that can be swapped out in an instant. I can go on and on about all the different features and benefits this screwdriver has. But you know what else? It also comes with amazing packaging and an unboxing experience that is super cool.
Does this screwdriver do the actual job of twisting screws any better than the first one? Nope. But damn, the experience of using it definitely sets it apart.
This is a rather simple example but it's a great metaphor for approaching digital product design. To really differentiate your experience and be set up for success, you need to go the extra mile to surprise and delight those who use it—which is no easy task!
A great product must help achieve a task or solve a problem, be enjoyable to use, but does it have to look good? Is a killer user interface (UI) a must? Does typography really matter? What about colors?
Yes. 100% yes, to all of those.
Form and function have a similar relationship to how we think about the head and heart. One without the other is a life without balance; our choices become skewed and blinded when we only look at the world from one perspective.
Reference #1 above: products are meant to do a job. Many think that is the entirety of “function,” but here at ZoCo, we don’t believe you can create a truly great and efficient experience without considering form as well.
Just because a product can “do the thing” doesn’t mean it has served its functionality fully. Is it efficient? Practical? Seamless to use? Optimized for the user? If yes, then a more complete functionality starts to take shape, which then leads form. I.e., how the data is displayed, color theory, typographic hierarchy, and much more.
It all starts here. Research helps products and organizations meet their potential—it's your spark. It helps answer so many different types of questions and sets you up for success.
Research creates a strong foundation to build upon. And sometimes people lose the idea that there are different kinds of research and they serve different purposes.
You can leverage research to really understand users:
You can also use research to remove ambiguity:
However, we understand research must be treated as a luxury and not a necessity in some cases. We recognize the importance of speed and quick iterations with some projects. Whether that's because there is an important funding round approaching, a stakeholder meeting, or otherwise, there are still ways to accomplish the things above without cutting out research completely.
There are a few things to make sure you check off your list and be conscious of as you plan, build, and execute your product.
The team that is going to get you to the finish line will be made up of all kinds–investors, external partners, decision-makers, strategists, executors, and more. The key is to make sure they all believe in the product, the vision, are excited about it, and can do their job at a high level.
And then listen to them, which may be the hardest part. Listen to their suggestions, questions, concerns, and wins.
This can be a tough pill to swallow but there are so many factors, internal and external, that can derail a project.
Here are a few ways to help make necessary shifts less dramatic:
Always try to lead the decision making process with the user's experience in mind. The path forward becomes much clearer once the customer is at the heart of every conversation. And leverage that superpower! Use research to build a deep understanding of your needs, including those of your users. That rockstar team of yours will then have the right information they need to bring your vision to life.
You'll be set up for success if you do this. But you still have to execute! Don't forget the nuts and bolts of your product. It's easy to get caught in the moment chasing that wild assumption, that golden goose. But remember the keys to what makes a great product, crush those, and then begin further exploration.