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April 8, 2022

  

 mins to read

Designer’s Role in Product Development: Things You Must Know  

Just started building a startup or a digital product? You don’t need to invent a fifth element, you need a product designer in the team!

As a design agency that provides product design services, we know quite a lot about product design and development. And we are absolutely sure that such broad-scale professionals as product designers can take your design and sometimes whole your product to another level.

When writing this article, I interviewed several designers from Eleken team. All of them are skilled UX/UI designers, no doubt (otherwise we wouldn’t have hired them). But it’s not just design skills that make them a great asset for product teams. The most valuable thing about them is that product designers care not only about design, but also about the products they are building.

Every once in a while our product designers come up with brilliant solutions that help clients.
To prove this point, here's a story that happened recently. Our product designers worked on the redesign of an ed-tech product consisting of three different apps. Designers noticed that such a structure caused some data duplication and unnecessary complexity. Designers suggested that the admin processes of three existing apps can be united in one admin center. Product owners loved he idea and creating an admin center became one of the main priorities.

And this is just a recent example, we can tell you many others from the past. But that’s not the point. What we’re saying is that product designers are able to see the bigger picture and they have a trained eye for optimizing and improving digital products.

Ready to find out what is the role of a designer in the product development process and their main responsibilities? Let’s dive in!

Who is a product designer? 

A product designer description is pretty straightforward- it is a professional responsible for designing products - digital or physical. Product designers work on a variety of products, from the web and mobile apps to physical devices like thermostats and toasters.

But these days we mostly apply the term product designer in tech to describe people who design digital products. That means they design user experiences and interfaces for websites, apps, digital devices, and so on.

Product designers use their understanding of user needs, technological possibilities, business constraints, and design principles to create new products. They think in terms of both the big picture and tiny details. Product designers are masters of storytelling, idea generation, sketching, prototyping, user research, usability testing and code. So when you see a truly awesome product - there are probably product designers as creative leads behind it.

Thanks to the qualities mentioned, product designers influence the process of product development. The role of the designer in product development is all-encompassing, including research, product design strategy, interaction design, visual design, prototyping, user testing, and more. Let’s look closer at what it takes to be a product designer.

Skills and responsibilities of product designers

Unlike designers with narrower specializations, product designers are typically skilled in a variety of disciplines that let them design products from start to finish. They're fluent in visual/graphic design, interaction design, user research, and prototyping software.

Five key qualities of a product designer:

  • A broad understanding of business
  • A detailed knowledge of technology
  • A human-centered research mindset. 
  • A deep knowledge of design practices
  • The ability to work in multidisciplinary teams

Here’s what our designers say:

“Product designers should be strategic thinkers” - Roman, product designer at Eleken

“A product designer is someone who is both creative and analytical” - Mila, product designer at Eleken

Not to mention strong communication skills and being a team player is a must. Product designers really do communicate a lot, and often are curious and sharp-minded people as it would be impossible to cope otherwise. 

Product designers have to be able to adapt to the ever-evolving design world. It is a field that requires constant learning and creativity so that your designs are always up-to-date and great-looking.

Still, the role of a product designer varies from company to company. The main responsibilities of product designers may include:

  • Formulate innovative ideas and concepts based on client briefs, research and strategy.
  • Define, develop and communicate design solutions that address business goals while meeting user needs.
  • Conduct research in order to learn about existing products or any problems with them before starting to design new ones.
  • Develop prototypes based on product concepts,  and test their usability together with the team. 
  • Create designs that are visually appealing, functional, and appropriate to the audience being targeted.
  • Identify design patterns and craft pixel-perfect designs. For this reason, product designers must be highly skilled in the latest design tools.
  • Write design documentation and create design systems.
  • Collaborate with other designers, developers, copywriters, user experience experts, and marketers to deliver high-quality work.
  • Guide junior designers through the creative process if needed.
  • Once a product has been created, product designers will maintain the product, test how it works, and make adjustments when necessary.

Product designers' scope is linked to the product development process.

Role of designers in the product development process

Image source: Asana.com

At first glance, it may seem that the designer would be involved only in the design stage. But of course, prototyping is a part of a designer's work too. More than that, when we take a closer look, a product designer is involved in each step of product development. In well-built product teams, there are specialists performing each development stage, but it does not mean product designers won’t be involved along with the rest of the team. 

Idea generation. Involving a product designer in the brainstorming process can help the rest of the team to look at the idea from the designer's perspective. Involve your product designer early on to get design ideas for the future product. 

Product definition. Such a broad specialist as a product designer sees the bigger picture and can help to define the concept and scope of what the team is building.
Prototyping. No one will build a prototype except a designer. But a product designer usually has more experience in this field. There’s a good chance that prototypes built by a product-focused designer will deliver more precisely how the product will work and look.
Mockup design. This is work that requires the precision of a surgeon, as well as a high level of skills and experience. Product designers are usually vetted UX/UI designers so you can trust them fully here.
Testing can be done by other members of the product team, but the product designer monitors the test results closely to make necessary changes to the design.
Development and commercialization of the product do not seem like a designers' field of responsibility. But designers hand off designs to developers and a product designer will stay involved until the product is deployed, working along with the rest of the team to make sure the product is reaching its goals.  

Product designer and the product team

In the past, the designer's role was more limited to visual design and more standalone too. But today it is no longer possible for a designer to work without being involved in the entire product development process. This means that designers have to work closely with other team members from the beginning of product creation. 

A product designer works with:

Stakeholders to understand business goals better and create designs that meet their expectations. 

Product owners to align design work with the product vision. 

Product managers to define the scope and deadlines of the task.
The design team (for example graphic or fashion designers, other UX/UI designers) to collaborate and exchange project details.
Development team to implement the design into the ready-to-use product.

UX team - working closely with UX researchers and UX writers is very important for better product design.
Marketing team to support marketing and sales efforts.

Image source: Thiga. co
Marked in green we see the role of the designer in product development


Who the product designer works with depends a lot on the product team size. In smaller teams, product designers sometimes take over the responsibilities of other product design roles. In bigger teams, on the other hand, product designers always work closely with the whole team to push the product’s success together.

Conclusion

For product design and development, the best fit is product designer. Product designers turn ideas into reality, they envision the way people interact with products. A good product designer is a multi-skilled professional who designs a solution with a product vision in mind, takes into account users and business goals, and can even bring new ideas on how to improve your product.  

If you’re looking for a product designer for your business, you’re welcome to read our article on how to hire a perfect candidate. And when you’d like to get a trial with our designers and find out whether a product designer is what you need to build a successful product - drop us a line.

Mariia Kasymova

Author

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