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      What Is Product Design? Definition and Overview

      By The Fullstack Academy Team

      A product designer uses computer-aided design software to design a product.

      What Is Product Design? Definition and Overview

      Product design is the process of designing, creating, and implementing products that solve problems or address needs within a specific market. Product design involves anticipating the ever-changing needs or desires of businesses and consumers, then creating iterations of a product designed to address them.

      While product design always plays an integral role in consumer satisfaction, its role in the digital space is profound. In fact, product design can significantly influence consumers’ opinions of a company. A 2021 study conducted by Top Design Firms found that half of consumers say their overall impression of a brand depends on the design of that company’s website. Furthermore, 30% of consumers believe that companies should focus on providing an engaging user experience when designing their websites.

      As consumer opinions and trends shift, product design ensures that companies’ websites and other offerings shift along with them. Successfully managing a product through its life cycle requires a solid understanding of product design and how it evolves in a changing digital space. A product management bootcamp program can help you develop the skills and understanding necessary to thrive in this high-demand role.

      Considering a career in product management?

      Learn more about our part-time product management bootcamp.

      Product Design: What Is It?

      What is product design, and what is its role in product management? For a product to succeed, it must address its end users’ needs and satisfy their desires. Product design involves researching users’ experiences and developing an understanding of how they use a specific product, then incorporating information gleaned during the research phase into the design phase to influence and improve the next generation of products.

      Whereas product management involves the entire life cycle of a given product, from the wireframe or road map creation through the post-launch assessment, product design focuses more on the development phase and works to align the user experience with the business’s goals.

      Design Thinking and Product Design

      Design thinking is a creative process that allows designers to develop products with a holistic view. While product design tends to affirm a specific point of view or problem, design thinking starts with finding the underlying problem that needs to be solved. The goal of design thinking is to ensure that everyone who is involved with the product—from the users to the customer support team—is directly involved with the product’s design.

      Design thinking occurs in five phases:

      • Empathizing with the consumer to ensure a high-level understanding of their wants or needs

      • Defining the problem or need based on consumer insights

      • Ideating potential solutions with an analytical and creative mindset

      • Developing a prototype that creates a tangible product based on the ideation

      • Testing the prototype and collecting valuable feedback from the intended audience

      Product design often incorporates elements of the design thinking process. However, the phases of the product design process often thread throughout the product’s entire life cycle. The phases of product design include the following:

      • Brainstorming ideas

      • Defining the product

      • Researching and studying the end user

      • Sketching basic compositions and layouts

      • Creating a prototype

      • Determining the product’s specifications

      • Producing working samples

      • Testing the samples

      • Beginning the development or production of the product

      • Ensuring the product’s quality

      Importance of Product Design

      What is product design’s role in the modern world? Product design serves several essential purposes, especially in the digital space. As technology continues to advance, brands search for ways to use that technology to solve their customers’ problems or innovate within their industries. At the most basic level, product design is important for ensuring that a company’s products are attractive and easy to use.

      Catering to Consumers’ Needs

      Because the needs of the average consumer change and evolve, one of the most important aspects of product design is research. Product designers must empathize with the end user in order to understand not only their wants and needs, but also their behaviors, habits, frustrations, and pain points. The ultimate goal is to design, develop, and implement products that solve anticipated problems before they can impact the user negatively.

      In some cases, product design requires creating something brand new to address an evolving challenge or need. In other cases, it requires improving an existing product to make it easier to use, more aesthetically pleasing, or better suited to a specific purpose.

      Spearheading Innovation

      Innovation is the act of introducing new or improved products to end users, and in the digital space, it is vital for business growth. To remain competitive in a saturated market, companies must offer something unique. Innovation may involve being the first company to add a specific feature to a familiar software category, or it may mean developing technology from scratch. The product design process successfully brings these ideas to fruition.

      Ensuring Attractiveness and Ease of Use

      End users tend to focus on two aspects of product design more than all the rest: aesthetic appeal and user-friendliness. In the digital space, aesthetics can include everything from font styles and sizes to color schemes and screen clutter. User-friendliness refers to the placement of menus, the number of clicks or taps required to complete a task, and the overall intuitiveness of the product. Sometimes, a simple cosmetic difference or a more intuitive menu layout is all it takes to sway a consumer’s opinion of a product.

      Considering a career in product management?

      Learn more about our part-time product management bootcamp.

      Skills Required for Product Design

      Creating products that align with users’ needs and a business’s objectives requires a mix of technical and soft skills. These skills help product designers come up with new ideas, develop presentations, and create attractive and user-friendly products that solve problems or address unique needs.

      Technical Skills

      The technical skills required for successful product design can vary, but aspiring product designers should focus on the following:

      • Coding: Designing a user experience in the digital world can require computer coding skills. Some of the most important languages include C++, CSS, and JavaScript, though different companies, clients, and employers may require different coding languages.

      • UI Design: The design of the user interface (UI) influences how an end user will interact with a product. Front-end UI design and development skills are vital in product design. Copywriting and developing interactions are also part of exceptional UI design.

      • UX Design: Product design also requires excellent user experience (UX) design skills. The user experience is designed around consumer behavior, and it involves creating an experience that is both intuitive and convenient. Prototyping, wireframing, and information architecture are all important parts of UX design.

      • User Research: User research allows designers to identify end users’ needs. From planning the research to using the most effective surveying and auditing methods, user research involves learning more about the target audience, their needs, and their challenges.

      Soft Skills

      Many soft skills come into play in a product design career. Some of the most important include the following:

      • Creativity: At the most fundamental level, product design requires a substantial amount of creativity. Creativity is crucial for innovation and for creating a product according to the information provided by employers, clients, or stakeholders.

      • Empathy: Empathy allows the designer to think like the end user and anticipate problems, frustrations, or pain points that a product might solve.

      • Communication: Designers must communicate well with their team members in order to effectively delegate tasks, ensure they understand their clients’ or employers’ needs, clarify the business’s objectives, and understand the guidelines behind a specific project. They work and interact regularly with product owners, product managers, stakeholders, engineers, and others in a wide range of settings.

      • Critical Thinking: The ability to think critically is important for exploring a variety of product designs, especially in the observation and testing phases. It is also important for using research to ensure that the product is aligned with users’ needs.

      • Emotional Intelligence: Emotional intelligence is vital for creating designs that generate specific emotions among end users. Voice recognition, artificial intelligence-driven software, and more are dependent on the designer’s emotional intelligence for realism and thoughtfulness.

      Build Important Product Design Competencies

      In the digital era, product design is more important than ever. Not only does it influence consumers’ opinions of a brand, but it also makes technology more accessible to consumers, solves everyday problems in home and business settings, and leads to innovation. Take the first step toward an exciting career in product design and learn important core competencies with Fullstack Academy’s live online Product Management Bootcamp.

      Recommended Readings

      Product Management vs. Project Management: Career Differences

      What Is Product Management Leadership?

      Product Management vs. Software Engineering


      American Marketing Association, “The 5 Phases of Design Thinking”

      DesignRush, “Product Design and Development: How to Design a New Product In 2023”

      Qubstudio, “Product Design Process: 10 Steps”

      PRNewswire, “Half of Consumers Consider a Company’s Website Design Crucial to Their Opinion of That Brand”

      ProductPlan, “Product Design”

      ProductPlan, “What Is the Product Manager Career Path?”

      UserGuiding, “Design Thinking: A Key Skill for Product Managers”