The Role of Design In Digital Product Development

Digital technologies are changing the world we live in. Over the past decade we have witnessed industry after industry being disrupted and transformed forever, as a result of digital.

“Software is eating the world” — Marc Anderseen, VC and Founder of Netscape

Technologies keep growing exponentially to create an abundance of opportunities. As the technology matures and gets widely adopted, it ceases to be the bottleneck to innovation. In fact the barrier to entry has reduced so much in last 10 years and it has never been easier to build a digital product. The real differentiation is achieved through user experience and the innovators that end up capitalizing the most are those that own and design the best experience for their consumers, in turn simplifying and humanizing technology making it useful for people.

There are countless case studies about companies that have witnessed this phenomenon play out over and over again. I will cover a number of these businesses in my upcoming posts but let’s quickly talk about one right now. In 2007, Nokia was the leading mobile phone company with over 70% of the market share. They kept on perfecting their devices, adding features and making them faster and smaller. Then came the iPhone with a more meaningful experience that converted the device into a provider of endless services through the app ecosystem. That marked the beginning of the end of Nokia.

No matter what kind of digital product we are designing and whatever fancy titles (Director of User Experience, Vice President of Product Design, Product Design Director, Senior Interaction Designer, UI Designer et all) we give to ourselves; in reality we are all designers and we are all solving problems in similar ways. There is one key difference from other areas of design like architecture, graphic design, industrial design — digital product design isn’t about making something timeless. As people evolve, as their needs evolve, design must evolve. So instead of trying to get the perfect aesthetic, form or typography like in other mediums, what we are designing are systems, platforms and experiences that can be adapted using feedback loop through data about how people are using our product.

10 years ago no one knew the meaning of user experience in digital design. A designer needed to be a Photoshop ninja who would take brief from the engineer and add artifacts to make it look pretty. That’s not the case anymore — now designers are leading the discussion about what is the problem we are solving and how should we solve the problem, and everyone can be a designer as long as they can produce the idea and articulate it for everyone else.

Next, we’ll talk about what makes a great digital designer.

Designer, Growth Marketer & Product Leader