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Elevating your organisation with design-led product development

Design-led development stops your organisation from wasting resources on products nobody wants

58% of new products fail because there’s no customer need for them. Design-led development ensures organisations target their customers’ needs from the outset and build products they actually want.

58% of new products fail. To be on the right side of this divide, organisations need to define, design and deliver products their customers genuinely need. Using design-led development makes this a reality. 

Design-led development uses a five-step process to build user-centric products that are technologically feasible and economically viable. It’s an opportunity for your organisation to optimise product spending, boost customer satisfaction and gain a competitive advantage over rival businesses.

Design-led companies build the right products

In ‘The Business Value of Design,’ McKinsey & Company states: “One of the strongest correlations we uncovered linked top financial performers and companies that said they could break down functional silos and integrate designers with other functions.” 

At Nearform, we’ve also seen this correlation. Companies that come to us and are design-led are more organised and have a clearer vision and path to accelerate, achieve and sustain product success. This results from design being part of pre-planning, scooping and generating detailed user and market research. 

It’s hard to believe, but the main reason new products fail is a lack of customer need — as product launch icon Roger Grannis says “After the investment of time, resources, and mental energy, we find out during the launch there is no customer need? That’s inexcusable.”

How is it possible that companies invest massive resources in launching a new product that nobody actually wants? It comes down to a disconnect between product designers and decision-makers, resulting in a failure to understand the problem that the new product is intended to solve.

This issue can be resolved with design-led development, an approach to problem-solving that leverages proven design thinking methods to meet the needs of the end user. Design thinking is a “methodology which provides a solution-based approach to solving problems.” It’s an iterative process that uses the following five-step approach to solving complex user challenges:

  • Empathise

  • Define 

  • Ideate 

  • Prototype

  • Test 

The goal of design thinking is to build products that are desirable for customers, technologically feasible for staff and economically viable for organisations. 

Design-driven development is an approach to development that is holistic, interdisciplinary and integrative. The process unites designers and developers to ensure that each step in the development lifecycle of the product is aligned with the end user’s requirements. It progresses logically and creates a solid foundation for scaling design as a whole.

Target users’ needs from the outset

Design-led development gets right to the heart of what business is all about, by delivering a product that people will actually use — which improves business outcomes and accelerates growth. 

By targeting users’ desires and expectations from the outset and incorporating design thinking throughout the entire development process, you can set realistic timelines for reaching an agreed goal and start delivering incrementally bigger wins based on an iterative process. A constant, fluid interaction between design and development ensures that everything that goes into your product is included to solve your customers’ problems.

The alternative approach — designing and developing products in silos — is slow, expensive and often ends up meeting the CIO’s needs rather than those of the end user. Hence the prevalence of products that fail. Typically this is referred to as “Waterfall”, an approach that focuses on a large feature set that’s developed and released.  

While the practice of Waterfall isn’t inherently wrong, the business implications can be considerable. It risks delays in go-to-market, reduced developer speed, scope creep and decisions based on unvalidated hypotheses. In contrast, design-led development provides a learning experience for your team that can carry to other projects, so that initial successes help to foster future growth. 

Design-led development enables accessibility

Accessible design not only ensures that people with disabilities can use websites, tools and technologies, it also enhances user experience and satisfaction for all users, across a range of situations, devices and age groups. By incorporating accessibility in the design of your product, you grow your market reach.

Developers often build websites that are not accessible to everyone — not deliberately but because the principles of accessibility are not baked into the initial design. By approaching development from a design-led perspective, these principles can be prioritised from the outset. The following components of web development and interaction must be designed to work together to make the web accessible to everyone:

  • Content — natural information (text, images, sounds) plus code and markup

  • Web browsers, media players, other user agents

  • Assistive technology, such as screen readers and scanning software

  • Users’ knowledge, experiences and potential adaptive strategies for using the web

  • Developers and designers

  • Authoring tools

  • Evaluation tools, including web accessibility evaluation tools, HTML validators and CSS validators

Discovery workshops deliver a product roadmap 

The process of design-led development can vary, but generally it contains the same basic elements. Rather than getting a project team to speak to multiple stakeholders across various departments individually, at Nearform we use discovery workshops, which can condense the discovery period down to a much shorter time period and accelerate the time to impact. 

Discovery workshops involve teams working to discover as much as possible about the aim of the project, the needs of the end user, the challenges involved in meeting them and other considerations. The more comprehensive the information surfaced at this stage, the more effective the team will be in optimising the time and budget available.

The organisation’s key stakeholders on the project and our paired team of a senior product designer and senior technical director work together to define the project objectives, strategy and vision. 

We start by defining your product’s vision, gathering details about your team, users, strategy, goals, risk, milestones and other elements that will help determine success for you. Given that the purpose of your product is to satisfy your customers’ needs, we will build personas to model how the product will be used.

The team uses this research to define the project’s scope and requirements before launching directly into designing the product. That involves developing concepts that seek to solve the end user’s problems in the most effective way. We look at your competitors’ products and use a variety of prototyping tools to test just what a practical solution might look like.

Your team will contribute elements such as typography, colours, layout and flows while our engineers devise the best way to build the product. At this stage of the process, you can expect the prospective solution to undergo several refinements as it proceeds from prototype design to user testing and back again. User feedback is incorporated, and any kinks are resolved.

At the end of the workshop, clients have a roadmap for product design and development.

This roadmap is not simply an abstract set of recommendations; the discovery process delivers a comprehensive product prototype, a full architecture overview and a timeline of milestones to help clients measure their progress. The prototype and product roadmap generated give the development team the material required to launch directly into the project. The client is kept informed throughout, so they know exactly when they need to start preparing for launch.

This process gives us a deep understanding of how the product will perform, both for the customer and your business, with minimal capital investment. With ongoing analysis and retrospectives, we continue to refine our methodologies to investigate what worked well and what may not have been as successful.

Adopt user-centric strategies across your organisation

Embracing a design-led approach starts with a change in mindset to one that focuses on user-centric strategies across the organisation. Optimising the user experience (UX) enhances customer engagement and adoption and leads to a healthier overall company culture.

It is every business leader’s responsibility to learn as much about their customers as possible. Armed with this knowledge, they can accelerate their organisation’s growth through a closer alignment of their products with their end users’ needs. Design-driven development can help orient your business strategy so that you become more effective at meeting your customers’ needs and prime your business for ongoing, sustained impact.

Design-led organisations outperform their competitors

It’s “inexcusable” that your organisation invests time, resources and capital into products that fail at launch because there’s no customer need for them. Using design-led development ensures your customers get the products they require. This gives your organisation over its rivals, with McKinsey & Company highlighting that design-led organisations outperformed the S&P 500 by 219% over a ten-year period. 

Insight, imagination and expertly engineered solutions to accelerate and sustain progress.