Most entrepreneurs start exactly where you’re starting before they head into product design for start-ups: researching on the internet. While the internet is a treasure-trove of advice, the sheer number of articles is enough to start your product design stressfully.
That’s why I want to simplify a checklist for product design for start-ups; you’ve got enough to worry about as it is. Start-ups don't have access to unlimited resources, so you’ve got to make sure all your ducks are in a row before you dive into product design.
So, how can you keep product design for start-ups simple and without a shred of stress?
The most essential elements of product design for start-ups
As the entrepreneur driving your start-up, your role is the visionary. You’ve spent hours – even days – imagining how to solve your user’s problem in a way that only your start-up can.
You’ve done the work of making your product idea unique. Now, you just need to make it real. To do that, you need to make sure that your concept really works for its intended users.
That is the key to unlocking successful product design for start-ups: every decision taken should be chosen specifically because it helps your target customers solve their problem.
Now that we have our objective, let's get back to basics: what do you really need to get through your start-up’s product design?
1. A dedicated designer
Your first step in product design should be to enlist a group of experts to help you in the process. A dedicated design team is the driving force behind smooth and optimized product design for start-ups. They will quite literally take the load off your back!
On the contrary, hiring any old designer or developer won’t give you the stress-free product design for start-ups that you’re looking for.
After all, you don’t want your design team to simply design your product; you want a team that considers your product’s objectives and designs with those in mind. You want a team that sees the product vision in your head and brings it to life.
As part of our checklist for product design for start-ups, you will NEED a dedicated designer. With an expert designer, you’ll be able to:
- Trust your designer to make decisions with your product in mind
- Share enthusiasm about your product with people who believe in it
- Discover new ideas and solutions from your team
- Rely on an adaptable team that can handle pivots
- Look forward to a product design that evokes emotion in users
- Establish your brand in the minds of users
You can also enlist your design team to work on two other aspects of our checklist for product design for start-ups: the product roadmap and the digital prototype.
The consequences of skimping on the designer
Before we get into the rest of the checklist, let’s focus for a moment on what you DON’T need: low-cost, non-specialized freelancers.
By hiring non-experienced freelancers, you’re often volunteering for stress by making yourself the sole responsible for the product design (on top of the other tasks you’re juggling).
The end result is lots of stress and a product design that is NOT optimized to appeal to your target users’ emotion, lead your users through your sales funnel, or leave users with a lasting impression of your brand.
There are a host of other problems entrepreneurs can encounter when hiring inexpert freelancers. Here are some of the situations that can arise, all of which will cause you to lose time while gaining stress:
- Constantly responding to requests for approval
- Missing the best solutions for your product in favor of the easiest solutions
- Receiving less-than-ideal design
If you want your product design for start-ups to be stress-free, you’re going to need a dedicated, experienced, and autonomous designer. You need to be able to trust your designers and developers to make the best decisions for your product.
2. A clarified vision (on a timeline!)
Before you dive into the product design process with your newly hired team, you’ll need to flesh out the specifics of your idea. Some entrepreneurs choose to tackle these aspects one by one (and most checklists for product design will tell you to do this), but there’s a better way.
As an entrepreneur, you’ll need to research your product’s market, your target customer, their purchasing behaviors, and your competition. Instead of gathering all the research separately, get it done in one go by product roadmapping.
A product roadmap is a start-to-finish execution plan for making your product idea into a functioning reality. Creating a product roadmap will give you detailed customer personas, a realistic list of features, and even a financial model to follow as you go.
Once you’ve mined the specifics of your idea to find the foundations of your product, budget estimates and deadlines are integrated with your product roadmap. This basically gives you step-by-step directions to product completion – including the product design phase!
Product roadmaps provide the structure needed for successful product design for start-ups.
This provides the structure needed to maintain stress-free product design for start-ups. Plus, knowing what to do step-by-step gives you peace of mind, which is hard to come by for entrepreneurs! It’s also a great asset if you plan to make a digital prototype.
3. Testing, testing
Entrepreneurs typically spend hours upon hours, days, or even years inventing their product idea. Creating a product roadmap whittles the idea down to its most essential properties, turning it into a feasible version that’s waiting to be developed.
Now, imagine doing all that product soul-searching just to rush through the design and deliver a product that users aren’t reacting to. 😫
To save yourself from scrambling for a redesign right as you release your product, you need to test it beforehand. The best way to test your product design is to make a digital prototype.
Testing should always happen before going into full-build mode. This way, you’re able to test users’ reactions to the ideas and interfaces. You can also track their interactions with the product, which immensely helps your conversion strategy.
Luckily, once you have a digital prototype, testing is very easy. Studies have shown that testing your product with 5 users yields sufficient results.
*Make sure to choose test users similar to your intended users for the most accurate results.
Have them try out your digital prototype and ask open-ended questions to garner feedback. You can get detailed information about your product’s functionality before you even finish with product design for start-ups!
What is the most indispensable aspect of product design for start-ups? YOU! You’re the visionary, the innovator, and the one with the great idea. Without you, none of this would even be possible.
The cliché entrepreneur works all available hours on their product design, sacrificing their mental and physical wellness to build their product. It’s a common, glorified image, yet there’s something not many people know: this is a surefire way to drive your product into the ground (with you in tow)!
Once you run out of space to take care of yourself, that energy carries over to the product. Whether you start stressing your design team about every detail or start doubting the worth of your product, it’s simply no good.
To complete a successful and stress-free product design for start-ups, you have to take care of yourself. If you’re working from a stressed-out, sleep-deprived, frustrated, or negative place, you cannot give your product the focus it needs to live up to your expectations.
Remember the impact you’re trying to make on the world with your product. Let your amazing design team deal with the nitty gritty.
Keep your focus on your “why,” and keep your eyes on the prize: bringing your product into the world!