Last week, we relaunched our website. It was a ton of work – we spent 6 months on it, starting with the exact same processes we bring to our clients. Our team spent weeks on client (and non-client) interviews trying to understand the needs of the market, how we fit in, and what emotions are driving viewers of the site.

One of the biggest changes we made was to define ourselves as a Mobile Product Agency. It has become clear that apps are modern products. Apps (defined largely to include web apps – i.e. anything users interact with on a screen or via voice) will be an ever larger driver of how users interact with every company on the planet – whether buying a ticket, getting their news or sports scores, watching a movie, or interacting with their employer.

As such it’s critical that we move from viewing app design as something that is a UI exercise or even UX exercise, to a product design exercise. What exactly is the difference?

  • UI Designers are focused on how something looks. Should the color be red or blue? What is the style guide and visual language consist of?
  • UX Designers determine how a product works – i.e. what it does and ultimately how it feels.
  • Product Designers combine the above disciplines to work both on the highest-level goals of the project, and down to the most detailed level of execution – constantly testing whether the outcome optimally meets the originally established business and user goals.

What makes great Product Design? In large part, it’s the application of Design Thinking – here’s a favorite quote of mine from Tim Brown in Change by Design:

Design thinking is neither art nor science nor religion. It is the capacity, ultimately, for integrative thinking.

In practice, this means being able to concurrently manage three key drivers of digital product success:

  • User Experience (if it sucks or doesn’t fulfill a need no one will use it)
  • Business ROI (if it has no path to financial or marketing success, no one will build it)
  • Technical Feasibility (if it cannot be built within timelines and budgets, the project is DOA)

Mobile products are the battlegrounds of the early 21st century – where competitors can differentiate themselves to not only their customers but also their employees. McDonald’s and Burger King have similar input costs for their beef, real estate is efficiently priced, and a Super Bowl ad costs what it costs – but the greenfield opportunity is how they use mobile to relate to their customers and employees every day. And winning in mobile requires expertise spanning business goals, user experience and technology – in short, Mobile Product Design.

Never hesitate to reach out to us with any comments or suggestions.