Digital Product Design: How Your Approach Can Make Or Break Your Business

By Valdis Barrett, 23 February, 2023

In this modern-day, tech-driven age, a customer’s primary point of interaction with a business is with its digital product.

Whether that product is an app, a website, or a software program, the average consumer is likely to base their engagement (or disengagement) with an organization entirely on that product’s design—and that’s not just limited to its visual components. It includes customer experience design, workflow design, and industrial design—among others.

In whatever format, the architecting of the experience makes or breaks an organization’s interaction with its customers.

Your Willingness to Adapt or Change is Vital (Yes, You)

The return on investment can be astronomical for organizations ready to go the extra mile to produce a product with a design centered around solid business fundamentals and genuine user needs.

  • How many consumers will voluntarily visit a site or download an app that has fallen flat on user experience?
  • How many have the patience for disorganized platforms?

The answer is few. But let’s not forget the importance of incorporating an empathic approach to the user’s life within and outside the context of your product’s offerings.

There are too many digital products available to consumers across every market for them to choose one that is perfunctory or could be more productive. With this inundation of choice, consumers are likely to flock to products that are not only easy to use but high-quality and solutions-oriented.

For this reason, creating a comprehensive digital product is the easiest way for a company to set itself apart in a competitive industry and increase its market and mind share.

An organization’s digital product needs to go beyond pixels and screens; it needs to be a manifestation of the company itself. Businesses can show consumers their underlying values and fundamentals between the lines of code and its visual representation. In doing so, they drive digital engagement, increasing mind share and product attention while producing more opportunities to build lifelong customer relationships.

This idea goes beyond differentiating a company from market competitors; it allows organizations like yours to show their audience precisely who they are, why they are here, and what they can provide.

The Integration of Pragmaticism

The market and its needs should heavily influence product decision-making. This ensures that the final offering represents the existing demand while catering to user needs.

In my extensive experience as a lead designer at Planetary and my interests beyond day-to-day work, that implication is always best approached logically. While it may seem wise to utilize proven solutions, many of these approaches have begun to gather dust in the endlessly growing field of product development.

With intentional research and a scalable system, companies have a far better chance of establishing themselves in complex industries and creating universal products configured for success.

Planetary built its pragmatic strategy for product development and comprehensive design from exposure to a broad spectrum of industries, including real estate, private credit, and agriculture—and a personal partiality for international travel. This is just a small subset of the broad spectrum of industries we serve.

Having been personally molded by these experiences, I have developed a unique outlook on technical solutions—what problems consumers need to solve and how they will use digital solutions.

Every decision I have made in my work can be easily traced to transparent research and collected data. That practicality is something I am thrilled to bring to Planetary’s product design initiatives every day.

Fitting Business Fundamentals Into Product Design

For companies with solid fundamentals, product design becomes simple. When you present a product team with clear goals and subsequent values, those values are integrated with best practices in digital design and applied directly to the product’s creation.

As a whole, this allows a product to be built as a better reflection of your business.

It also provides an excellent opportunity for new businesses to consider how their business runs—or will run—in detail. For established companies, this process forces decision-makers to reimagine their overall purpose and go back to the drawing board to optimize user-centric goals.

This process is far more difficult when such fundamentals are lacking. Without a transparent business model, product designers will approach a design project from a removed product development standpoint, resulting in a generic solution. While simple, tested solutions are not a bad end result, it allows more user-centric, innovative competitors to take your business.

Sure, product development teams will apply best digital design practices, but it is far less likely your product will fill the specific niche it was meant to, and consumers will undoubtedly feel it in their experience.

My advice for market newcomers and entrepreneurs? Fake it until you make it.

If there is no clear business model when your company is starting out—create one. Digital products allow companies to test strategies and challenge industry assumptions. The best digital products will evolve as your company does, and they’ll have tangible evidence to support their strategy every step of the way.

A Comprehensive Design Can Surpass Innovative Ideas

The fundamentals and goals of a company don’t have to be the most extraordinary or unique to be successful. In fact, there’s evidence that a comprehensive digital product can surpass even the most innovative ideas.

An organization doesn’t have to find new problems to solve—it just has to solve old problems in the most innovative and engaging way for its audience.

Take any top start-up making strides within their respective industries. Often, you will see a productive twist on an age-old idea. For instance, learning a foreign language isn’t a new concept. However, Duolingo presents a sleek, easily-digestible product that keeps determined language learners fully engaged.

Similarly, Slack was not the first company to produce a product designed for inter-organizational communication. It was, however, able to create a comprehensive product that encouraged connection from the bottom to the top. It started gaining traction within small teams in large organizations and slowly expanded upwards, rather than the typical structure of an organization mandating a tool.

OpenDoor also provides a unique productization of the age-old business of buying homes. In minutes, product users (potential sellers or buyers) can use its online platform to meet their immediate needs. For sellers, this means typing in their home addresses to receive an estimate. For buyers, this means finding their perfect home at the click of a button. OpenDoor is streamlining the home buying and selling processes by providing a user-centric product.

So whether you’re reading this and are part of a new startup, mid-level company, or a Fortune 500 corporation, your digital product doesn’t need to have the newest, shiniest ideas behind it. It just needs to be a productive reflection of your overall purpose and efficiently prioritize the user’s actual pain points.

Moral of the story: A well-thought-out, well-tested product experience will always win over an under-baked, potentially innovative concept.

Understanding The Benefits For Your Business

Early-stage companies have an impression to make, strategies to test, and a niche to occupy. As every product-first company knows, a comprehensive digital product can make those goals far easier to reach. They are an excellent opportunity for a company to establish itself within a competitive market and provide a framework for its evolution. Developing a product with direct solutions is a company’s first step to ensuring its audience follows along.

For those companies that have been around the block, however, a high-quality product design offers them a leg up on the competition. In the relentless market environment, comprehensive digital products address the existential threat of product-first startups and allow long-established, perfected business models to enter a new age of productivity.

Regardless of your company’s age or the strength of its foundation, a holistic digital product provides considerable benefits from a financial view. Whether the goal is cutting costs or building revenue, the investment into a high-quality digital product will likely pay off.

This is easy to see when comparing product-first companies to their traditional counterparts. Product-first companies have disrupted traditional industries, and successful incumbents have survived because they’ve begun investing in products as well.

Streaming networks have long since surpassed physical video stores; online shopping has become the preferred option amongst consumers. A well-designed digital platform will almost always win, even when competing against companies with noteworthy legacies.

The Opportunity For Growth Within The Digital Field

One of the most significant advantages of a product-first company model is the ease with which it can grow. Compared to brick-and-mortar alternatives, changing or expanding a digital design to fit your organization’s needs and values is simple and cost-effective.

As a product grows, the opportunity to reuse or overlap design structures increases, there’s less need for new code to be written, and the original blueprint can adapt and evolve with the business.

The potential for growth within the digital field is on an upward trajectory. As the previous hurdles and obstacles of digital development fall by the wayside, open-source technologies and accessible programming continue to increase opportunities for development teams who, only a few years ago, would have had to build products entirely from scratch.

While this accessibility and commoditization of digital development and products certainly simplify the design process, it also places further responsibility on companies to find their edge in a fast-paced, ever-evolving market.

Taking The First Steps

Before taking any leap into product development and design, your team must prepare appropriately to ensure a smooth design process. This begins with providing your product developer with clear goals and ideas.

This starting point goes hand-in-hand with understanding your audience and what they genuinely want in a digital product. At the end of the day, doing your due diligence will ensure you receive a cohesive, productive product structure and, in turn, witness that product’s success in the market.

Below is a collection of fundamental questions an organization’s marketing or product team needs to answer as the first step in starting a digital product design project:

  1. Who are your customers, or who do you think they are?
  2. What do your customers genuinely care about?
  3. What is your core, underlying business model? What values and fundamentals do you want to pull into a digital product?
  4. Beyond product innovation, what is the niche you’re trying to fill? What edge does your company have that sets it apart?
  5. How are you currently providing the value you want to see in your product? What is the best way to integrate that into the design?
  6. What does the competitive landscape look like in your company’s respective industry? How does the solution you want your product to provide fit in?

While the product development process certainly allows for a significant amount of new research, presenting more information to a product developer will result in compounding returns. Another perk? It helps take the strategic responsibility off of the outside party and helps create a product that can compete in complex markets and industries.

The Planetary Approach

Every digital development agency has a different approach to product construction and design. For our team at Planetary, our process is centered around a thorough understanding of your organization’s fundamentals.

We rely on real-time data to establish pragmatic, assertive strategies and work with newly-formed and long-established businesses to build products that reflect their intentional goals and values.

For companies still in the process of laying their foundation, our vast experience offers a singular source of support. We can make realistic assumptions across industry fields, formulate viable hypotheses, and develop the most productive way to test them.

Wherever your organization’s research may not reach, Planetary’s skillset and industry expertise build the bridge.

More than building products based on our years of experience in the digital development field, Planetary endeavors to integrate with our clients and their teams. Finding that appropriate connection relieves the pressure placed on team leads like you. It gives our developers a deeper understanding of how an organization is set up to move forward and grow.

With this integration built into our approach, we can help you develop a streamlined, holistic digital product to achieve a stronger connection with your audiences while representing your company values.