Have you ever had a new product delivered to your home that you couldn’t wait to open? You opened the package to find the product box.
It’s immaculate, sleek, and beautiful. You can’t wait to see the product inside. You fell in love with the brand and the product in that instant.
That’s the power of product design. Apple is a company that understands that and works to align this part of the customer experience with the brand.
It’s different with a digital product. You get the product instantly, and you want to maintain that excitement.
How can you design digital products in a way that has the same impact as physical products?
Keep reading to find out.
What is a Digital Product Design?
Design is an incredibly broad term. It can apply to everything that we see and touch. Your eyeglasses were designed for functionality and style.
Same with your home. An architect designs the exterior of your home and an interior designer works to bring a sense of style and color to it.
The design applies to the digital world, too. Think of every interaction that you have online. You interact with websites, social media, videos, images, online games, and apps every single day.
These things required a designer to conceptualize the digital product, how it will be used, and how it can be part of the brand.
How to Design a Digital Product vs. Physical Product
Fortunately, the principles of design don’t change, whether you’re designing a shoe, physical package, a cloud-based accounting solution, or a website.
In all of these instances, you’re still designing a customer experience. If you keep that front and center of your design, you’ll make an impact.
Here are the required elements you need for good product design, whether you’re designing for a physical or digital product.
Everything about your brand begins and ends with your customer. You have to think about their position when they will use your product.
Steve Jobs famously did this with the iPad. He knew that people wouldn’t use the product all the time. They had the iPhone for that.
The iPad is bigger, and you can relax and play with it. He visualized people using the iPad on the couch or sitting in a lounge chair. The product was designed that way.
With a digital product, you can design with your customers in mind. What kind of environment will they be in when they use it?
For example, if you’re designing a CRM app for an outside sales team, they’re going to be on the road looking for information. You have to design your product with speed and mobility as they’re going to look for information on their phones.
Most people, at least younger people, will look for information on their phone using one hand. Older people will use a phone like they’re using an old typewriter, using the hunt and peck technique.
You have to design a digital product with this in mind. You need to make sure that both audiences can find the most important information easily, whether using one hand to two to use the device.
Write down everything that you know about your customers. You’ll want to know who they are, why they use the product, where they are, and what they’re doing when they use it.
As Apple has taught us, the best products are aligned with the brand. Brand design is so important to this process because a brand is the essence of your company.
Apple’s brand is about elegance, simplicity, and luxury. It’s the reason why people are willing to spend three times more on an Apple computer than a Windows machine.
There are a few main elements of your brand, which can be summed up in a brand triangle. The three elements of a brand triangle are the table stake, differentiation, and spike.
Table stake is the basis of your product category. It could be a shampoo or a digital product like an ebook.
Differentiation is the element of the product attributes that are only found in your brand. A brand spike is the part of the brand that reflects the most important differentiation points.
A brand triangle exercise will help you create the foundation of the brand. That will allow your company and your products make an emotional connection with your customers.
The Design Process
You’re designing an experience, which can be very difficult to conceptualize in your head. Where do you begin?
Start by deciding what problem you seek to solve? That’s the essence of a product. It’s supposed to solve a problem for someone.
You already know who the user is and what your brand is about. Now you can start thinking about how a specific product solves the problem.
When designing physical products, you’ll come up with prototypes of the product and carry it around for a while.
Digital products require more planning and development before you can play with a prototype. This step requires more front end planning. The reason why is the cost.
Imagine investing a ton of money to develop a website, only to find that the design doesn’t work and you have to start over. You just lost thousands of dollars.
Physical product prototypes could be a simple as a wooden block. They’re inexpensive and easy to do.
Package design is the other area where you need to create a different experience for digital and physical products.
With digital products, the entire product is the package. When designing physical products, you have two parts: the package and the product.
You need to design digital products like they’re one seamless experience, from the purchase to delivery.
When you design physical products, you need to get people excited about their purchase again. You also have to make a product stand out on the shelf from other similar products.
Product Design that Makes an Impact
Design encompasses a wide range of products that we interact with every day, from our clothes to websites.
Whether you’re designing a digital product or a physical product, there are principles that apply. You’re still designing an experience that is aligned with the brand.
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