Creating software is a complex matter and its failure is often a failure of understanding.
The software’s complexity is propelled by the complexity of the world we live in – changing business’ needs, competition, users’ needs, market demands, the technology race, etc. Every piece of software, every app you encounter is even more customised and even smarter than the one you’ve used just a short while ago. But how do you deal with this complexity?
The answer may be in introducing the so called ‘Software Product Design’ stage to your software development process, or, to be precise, just before the development starts. Beyond helping with complexity, this is something that can help you save money during subsequent development.
What is Software Product Design?
Software Product Design is a service provided by business and IT specialists which allows you to have your business’ and your potential users’ needs investigated. Experts conduct a thorough analysis of the problem and propose the best solution.
Not all IT companies offer Software Product Design, and the services covered by the term may vary. At Future Processing, for example, the Product Design service contains a number of modules such as, for example usability testing, functional specification, mock-ups and service design – just to name a handful.
The benefits of Software Product Design
Each method of Software Product Design has its own unique benefits, but on the whole, the service can help you reduce costs whether you are about to start software development, or whether you are already in the process. The following list is some of the benefits that Software Product Design gives you.
Define your business model
A common method to create your business model used by Software Product Design experts is conducting different workshops. One type of workshop is a Disovery Workshop which aims to design, or go through a pre-existing business model with representatives of a company. Such workshops allow you and the IT company to define your product’s vision, business objectives and to establish a common understanding of the business goals. Other services provided by our Analysis and Design team make it possible to verify the assumptions and improve the business model to maximise the project’s business value. Ignoring this stage could lead to differences in understanding of business needs which brings the risk of the product not providing expected value and of its subsequent failure.
Discover user needs
Software Product Design employs a number of methods to gather user insight and discover the underlying reasons and motivations of your target group. These methods include: in-depth individual interviews, focus groups, observations, usability testing and quantitative research techniques. All of these aim to get to know your potential end users to ensure that, before designing a piece of software, we understand user needs, their literacy in terms of IT and get to know their habits and pain points. These activities increase the probability of product success and minimise the risk of possible oversight or mishap during development.
Understand the market
Before designing a piece of software, a good step is conducting market research which often forms part of an Analysis and Design team’s work. This is where an analyst uses all existing data such as desk research, literature, reports, statistics, etc. to perform a thorough investigation with an aim of finding similar existing solutions offered by your competition. This serves as preparation for further requirements gathering and is useful for initial decisions about your vision for the future shape of the product. It also verifies assumptions on functionalities and success expectancy, as well as provides answers to questions like “if” and “how” your product would be able to satisfy the needs of your users. Finally, the data gathered allows for recommendations of new functionalities for your product in order to distinguish it from competition, or at least to make it comparable to the best players in your market.
Make it visual from the start
Even if you are following the Agile methodology in your project, thinking things through pays off. Some of the common outputs of Software Product Design are mock-ups and semi-interactive prototypes which are way cheaper than development. These can be presented to your business stakeholder, investor or potential users. When requesting a budget or applying for a grant, you being able to present how the product will look like, can be the difference between getting an ‘approved’ versus a ‘declined’. Beyond gaining stakeholder support, agreement and money, mock-ups and prototypes can also help you verify your assumptions and vision for the product without the need for costly coding.
Agile is a great methodology (and a preferred one at Future Processing) but it has some drawbacks too. When working in iterations and adding new features, it can sometimes be a struggle for developers to make the new feature consistent with functionalities implemented earlier. This is where another solution used by Software Product Design teams comes into play, namely: producing UX guidelines. Such guidelines, typically created by a UX specialist, provide instructions for technical and graphic development of an application and are a great way of ensuring consistency of the application in terms of code, visuals, architecture and user flow. A Business Analyst (BA), on the other hand aims to ensure consistency with the existing business logic. A BA has in-depth knowledge of various parts of the system and is able to ensure that there are no conflicts when it comes to requirements.
How can Software Product Design save money?
What Software Product Design offers is a variety of methods that collectively aim at solving a business problem with the best possible solution. Regardless of whether you already have an idea, or need to clarify your vision, techniques employed help to ensure your final product has been thought through well. Software Product Design should therefore be seen as an investment – the more effort you put into a product, the better the outcomes will be. In essence, the service will save you money by saving you problems at a later stage and by helping to minimise the risk of creating a product which does not work well enough, or does not work at all.