Designing a great digital product
There are number of apps and online services that I use on a daily basis. I really value the ones that consistently solve my problems in a meaningful way. I’m familiar with their brands and more importantly, I have trust in them. This means I’m on board with what that brand is doing and I believe in their products.
There are countless things that influence the quality of a product, but good planning and research help a lot. Especially before designing your app. This is the step where you are effectively laying out the plan and checking if everything makes sense before continuing to development phase.
Research to gain understanding
Asking questions about the organization, brand or the product is how you set the best course for the project right from the start. No matter how difficult it turns out to be to pose questions, you have to do it because this will serve as sort of a reality check.
“What problem are we solving?”, “Is there a better way of solving that problem?”, “Is this feature a necessity or is it just nice-to-have?”.
And so on…
Use research to empower your idea and reevaluate your decisions. Sometimes a hard hitting question takes a lot of time to answer. That’s totally OK, because solving issues at this stage has a huge impact on project quality. When doing research, look at the competition with your product in mind. Odds are that you’re not reinventing the wheel and that other people might have had a stab at similar problems.
Once you’ve made a good case on how to move forward with a project, start making the information architecture with all of your modules, features and user journeys. Writing all this information down is very important as it brings clarity and a bigger picture to everybody involved.
Shape your product
In sculpture, wireframes are used to set a basic shape for a piece, serving as sort of a backbone. Use it the same way to give all those ideas you have an embodiment.
Brands that have a digital presence aren’t only made up of their visual standards. User experience is just as big of a part of their brand and is not to be taken lightly when making wireframes. Take into account the particular navigational and informational patterns that are used. Once you’re done, piece together a prototype and test it out. We use apps like InVision, Framer, Justinmind and Marvel to bring our ideas to life.
Balance form with function
When the first phase (research and wireframing) has been concluded and the path forward is defined, the project can move on to the visual design phase. Setting clear goals will help everybody understand the bigger and smaller decisions that will be made.
Just like at the start of the project, preparation and research will set the tone for moving forward. How important is the brand to this product? Is the product going to be mostly functional or will it have some sort of a promotional character to it? Designers need an understanding of a platform’s visual and functional intricacies. Along with being able to grasp the relationship between the brand, the product and the way it’s going to be used.
We produce our visual design in Sketch and use InVision, Framer, Flash and After Effects to bring the static screens to life. Making prototypes is especially important because this way the client can give feedback on the visual design in the context of the user experience it’s built upon. Prototypes keep the goals and the big picture in focus.
The details are not the details
Some people talk about the delightful details in a product as sort of a novelty or something that’s superfluous. When drinking juice, you are effectively drinking water and a small amount of molecules that make it taste different.
You could say that the details just like in a glass of juice, give the product some flavour and delight. Be it animations, sounds, copywriting or some other intangible thing, think about these things as a way to put a spin or a twist on something otherwise static.
Designing a great product requires learning as much as it requires doing. It’s also not a process which you can contain in phases, but is almost always intertwined. That’s why you shouldn’t lose the big picture and the end goals you set at the start of the project.