Deanna Dial - 3 Experience Design Roadblocks for New Product Development
April 20 - 22, 2020
Austin, TX

3 Experience Design Roadblocks for New Product Development


By: Deanna Dial
03/13/2019

Experience design for new products is distinctly challenging.

When creating a brand new digital product from concept through development, teams consistently face a set of common obstacles that don’t come up when implementing experience design practices for existing products.

Most challenges that are unique to experience design for new products arise from these two realities:

1. The product starts as an abstract concept based on assumptions.

2. There are no real users, and often a somewhat fuzzy understanding of who the target users will be.

This article outlines the three main experience design roadblocks teams face as a result of these two realities. We also list the activities and skills needed to face them and create a better product in the process.


1. User Experience Design for Unknown Users

When designing new digital products, there are often no existing users to study. In fact, you may not even know exactly who your users will be in the future.

An investment in up-front user research will help setup success in the new product development and ultimately product marketing. You must identify with confidence who will be using the product and why.

1. Do you have gut convictions about what value the product will provide and who it will serve? Start there.

2. Based on your convictions, create provisional user personas. Go beyond basic demographics and dig into the nuance of the person’s circumstance, needs and wants.

3. Get out in the field to validate and expand your understanding of these users. Visit them in context of when and where they would use the product.

4. Based on your observations and findings, refine your user personas.

5. Use customer journey maps and mental model diagrams to synthesize and develop the ideal user experience.

6. Develop a design prototype of the user experience, ideally in low-fidelity, as initial concept sketches or storyboards to explain how the product will work.

7. Use the prototype to test the concept with real people who either match the user persona or can emulate their role.

8. Synthesize your findings from initial testing to refine the concept, rinse and repeat as needed until your concept resonates with your target users.


2. Bridging the Gap Between Abstract Concepts & Concrete Solutions

Designing new digital products is augmented by researchers, strategists and designers who are perceptive, deep-thinkers, adept at bridging the gap between abstract and concrete.

1. Learn how to ask the right questions during user research, testing and interviews. Make sure you never “lead the witness” by asking unbiased, open-ended questions to get honest responses.

2. Remain focused during interviews and studies, translating what you learn about user needs and behavior into clear jobs-to-be-done for the product. These are the reasons your users will hire your product, to provide value in a certain job.

3. Work backwards, translating the jobs-to-be-done, into concrete plans for product features.

4. Once you have an abstract list of written features for the product, convert them into working user interface designs.

>> Learn more about clickable digital product prototyping for predictable development.


3. Managing Timeline Responsibly

User research and testing can take a long time because there are so many unknowns, like finding people who match user personas and scheduling interviews with them. Teams concerned with building experience designed products need to invest the right amount of time in user research and testing without slowing down development.

This often means investing in user research and prototyping two months ahead of when you expect to begin development. After that, new features should be designed at least three sprints ahead of development.


Designing three sprints ahead benefits developers, designers, clients and end users.

Developers rejoice when designers research, design, test and refine a product concept before handing it off -- it means they won’t have to make major changes after coding the product or deal with any surprise conflicts, like the design team saying “This product isn’t what we pictured!”

By addressing design kinks ahead of time and providing development teams with a working prototype and a concept that has already been validated, all stakeholders can rest easy knowing there is little room for developers to misunderstand the requirements.

When design problems are solved ahead of development, stakeholders reap the benefit of a predictable timeline and save potentially thousands of dollars avoiding rework (which is far more expensive to execute on an already developed product).

Unbeknownst to them, users enjoy using a product that’s been built with them in mind from the start.

>> Learn more about the process and benefits of designing three sprints ahead.



Interested to hear more from Deanna? See their her speak at Design Thinking 2019 on the 301 Maturity Track!


>> Check out the full-length article for more tips on addressing these experience design challenges.




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