Designers can do more than you think. How to maximize the potential of your UX/UI design team.

Boosting Product Success with UX/UI Design

"There is no worse feeling than investing all of your resources into building a product and then realizing no one knows how to use it." - Michael Frederick from Flatirons

Imagine you are a business owner. You invest money in a product that is designed to be great, fresh and very innovative. And, above all, it's supposed to become your golden goose one day. You treat it like a baby, precious and the most beautiful in the world (even if it turned out to be a bit wrinkled like Dobby). You pay developers with gold and diamonds to create this disruptive app, while waiting impatiently for the app to appear on the App Store - a milestone you have been waiting for so long. And then you start reading user reviews. Each one is worse than the last, as if they were pelting you with virtual punches.

"I lost access to my account because I can't see the password reminder option anywhere" — punch to the stomach;

"I don't know how I can proceed to payment" — a punch to the leg;

"Can't find my transaction history" — punch in hand;

“The app sucks. 2/10 " — punch to the face.

You fall to the ground, instead of growing like Scrooge McDuck's, your pile of money melts like ice cream in 30-degree heat (or 86-degree, if you're from the US). Suddenly, when you are at the bottom, a mysterious person reaches their hand out to you. It's the Product Designer on a white (and probably super minimalistic) horse. They have been on your team all the time. They look at you and smile, it's the "what did I tell you?" smile. And you remember how they said that design isn’t about pushing pixels around, but something more like one of these complex Lego constructions, which are damn complicated, require a lot of elements and knowledge on how to put it all together correctly. You can almost spot a glowing halo that has appeared over their head. You already know that you will be saved. Of course, while your money went down the drain, and ended up somewhere at the end of the rainbow, you still have a chance to bounce back and become the second Elon Musk. Or Jeff Bezos — depending on how much you love Twitter.

"If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design." - Ralf Speth, CEO of Jaguar

This was quite a lengthy introduction, which in my opinion perfectly illustrates the fact that without a Product Designer, a good team does not exist. And yes, I probably say that because I am a Product Designer myself, but hey, never miss the opportunity to brag about yourself, right? But no, we don't stack blocks and we don't play around with pictures. We need to clarify this once and for all — our work is much more complex.

It is a bit like saying that the surgeon is doing the same job as a tailor —  although these two professions have sewing in common, one of them "saves" clothes, while the other saves lives. And we, as Product Designers, are able to help save both, lives and clothes. In short — we can make everything easier.

No more bragging, time to explain how it all works and what we can do. Let us talk about what your design team is capable of, what you can achieve by having such a (valuable) skillset within your team and how to turn the tide so your product starts to deliver.

So... how can Product Designer help you?

Research (aka problem-solver)

“A Product Designer, at it’s core, is a problem solver.” - Henry Wu, Senior Product Design Manager at Hubspot

Good Product Designers focus on everything, but most of all on solving problems. We do not want to generate these problems — we want to solve them and we will do our best to make the product we are dealing with as intuitive and understandable as possible for users (read: for the target group). To solve problems, you need to understand users, what they are struggling with, what bothers them, what are the weaknesses of the product they use, what they would like to change, and what are their goals. Your main objective is to keep your target group using the app, you don’t want them to shut it down, frustrated because they couldn’t find a desired functionality. The Product Designer will make sure, your product is easy to navigate, each goal can be completed effortlessly and there are no dead ends.

UI&UX Design (aka solution-maker)

“Good design is like a refrigerator — when it works, no one notices, but when it doesn’t, it sure stinks.” - Irene Au, Design Partner at Khosla Ventures

Show me your skillset and I will tell you who you are. Product Design is not so much about dealing with ketchups but with the entire understanding of the product. The whole design process always has several iterations — idea, sketch, wireframes, prototypes and finally mockups. Sometimes there can be more such iterations — because after testing with users, we often have to take a step back, adapt, improve and polish even more so that the final result sparkles like water in a large, dry desert.

This is when we look for a solution to the problem, propose different options and decide what works best. At this point, we often discover gaps that must to be filled or user needs which must be addressed by adding new features. Thus, this is when new functionalities and great interfaces are born. Successful products combine good UX and aesthetic UI. Product Designers focus on both. They make sure your product is functional and intuitive, and at the same time visually pleasing. We care about it (a lot), because design is the first thing users see when they open an application.

"The designers don’t create pictures and let them be. They need to make sure that everyone understands the flow, the process, and the chosen solutions." - Jakub Wojciechowski, Founder of VisualPanda

User testing (aka people-observer)

To understand users, we need to observe them, talk to them and respond to their needs. As designers, we create products to make human life easier, not more difficult, so we always look for the best and optimal solutions. The user shouldn’t have to "think" too much while using your product.

"A user interface is like a joke. If you have to explain it, it's not that good." - Martin LeBlanc, CPO at Freepik

Instead of imagining what the users like, we just prefer to talk them. Before the final products are created, we go through specific ideas and solutions with target groups — thanks to this, we save time and money, because developers do not create an application that may turn out to be completely pointless and unnecessary. Instead they will be developing a product that has been tested and responds to specific needs and problems. This also makes sure that the value you are providing is data-driven and not purely hypothetical.

There are many ways to find out what the target group actually wants - A / B Tests, interviews, surveys and open beta tests. The ultimate goal  is to meet the users’ needs. We don't judge them, we don't direct them to solutions, we just listen and observe. And that is a really smart thing to do, for your business and your wallet.

Designs — once more (aka iteration-taker)

As Product Designers, we would like to be infallible, but truth is, that no one is. We do everything we can though to combine business goals,  the client’s budget and user needs. Balancing between those requires soft skills as much as design talent. We are talking empathy, patience, prioritization, flexibility, detail-orientation and many more.  And in the end of the day, we need to be prepared to take a couple of steps back because as I mentioned in the previous sections, sometimes it takes several iterations to properly respond to user needs. As a designer, you have to be open minded and you must always be prepared to step away from your initial assumptions.

Scope of features & MVP (aka complex-thinker)

As much as we would like to, we are not able to solve all the world's problems at once. The same applies to user problems. It takes time and many, many iterations. There is nothing worse for the client than spending money on a product that finally turns out not to make any sense. Moreover, product development can take months or even years and multiple things can happen  n the meantime. E.g. technology might have changed or several new team members might have replaced previous ones. This is when the buzzword “Agile” comes into place.

The best products are the ones that are released step by step. We create an application, a prototype, which is an MVP, i.e. a minimally profitable product. As a result, we are releasing a product with enough features for early adopters to use, who can then provide feedback on future product development. Focusing on the MVP release also means that developers are potentially avoiding long and unnecessary work. In other words - we help to save money and nerves.

Additional: Supporting other team members (aka always-helper)

There is always one character in games or movies who is not a leading role, but they help is crucial to win (against evil) and save the world. It’s how we, Product Designers, see ourselves. We work with Product Owners, developers and the rest of the team throughout the entire project. Our task list doesn’t end with handling the designs to the software developers, we also oversee and consult them during the process. All of this in oder to make sure the final product looks the same as the initial designs. Think about world’s most famous artists. Most of them wouldn’t be called that way, if they have let other people modify their masterpieces. You probably won’t find a Product Designer’s work in your national art gallery any time soon but we have the same mindset as those artist.  We make sure none adds "something from themselves" to our work. It's not the Dead Sea, we don't need any more salt.

A Product Designer must be in constant contact with other team members, working out various scenarios in case it turns out that something cannot be done technically, making sure that quality and UX will not be affected. We make the work of developers easier because they should focus primarily on the technical part of the application, and not on how a certain flow works, what can be improved and what can be changed. In addition, after the implementation of a certain feature, we review it and let the developers know about any errors and mistakes that have occurred. We are also always open to feedback and suggestions. And to questions. The questions are great.

But really. The questions are great. Don't be afraid to ask. And don't be afraid to hire Product Designers and pay them in gold. They will save you a lot of much money, nerves and time. In the end of the day, the Product Designer is the bridge between your assumptions and your users. And trust me, you don’t want to build a product without that bridge.