The Digital Product Concept is the first stage in the Concept Development Phase. It precedes User Story, Use Cases, User Flow, Information Architecture, and Wireframe.
The dictionary meaning of the word concept is an accurate, clever idea or design. And this linguistic intuition captures well the meaning given to this term in the User Experience context.
The Digital Product Concept is often compared to a map that defines the way, the distance, and the extent of the territory.
On this peculiar map, we can also see conditions, opportunities, risks, chances, resources, and deficits. And, even more importantly, ways to overcome distances and achieve goals.
An idea, for a digital product, is both a business idea and a way of achieving compatibility between a problem and its solution.
At the same time, the idea is to find the best solutions, not from a business point of view, but a user's point of view.
Business goals should be aligned with the users' goals because the users determine the possibility of achieving them.
What is the Digital Product Concept?
According to Anu Kankainen's definition, published in the article "UCPCD: user-centered product concept design", a Digital Product Concept, specifically created in a user-centered manner, is a representation of designers' hypotheses about the experience a future user of a web or mobile application needs.
In turn, the authors of the article "What is Product Design?" emphasize that conceptualizing a product is a way of combining, and orchestrating business goals with user needs.
The goals of UX/UI designers and UX researchers usually have long-term consequences.
They are sometimes a source of design, business, budget, usability, product, and competitiveness problems.
The importance of the conceptual phase is evident in the consistency of the product and the satisfaction it provides.
The goal of UX is to optimize the user experience so that it is possible to create user-friendly products in the long term.
If we look at the details, at the specifics behind the work carried out as part of product conceptualization, we will understand their relevance.
The Digital Product Concept stage determines:
- the functionality of a web or mobile application
- its business model
- and its place in the market structure - positioning of the brand, product.
Here we are touching on issues related not only to how the product will look, work but also how it will generate costs and profits.
How it will compete with products that meet similar needs and similarly satisfy them.
A lot depends on correctly defining needs and how to meet them. At the same time, it is less about seeking functional or technological innovations. Instead, what is much more important is the experience that occurs when using a digital product.
In other words, User Experience, and thinking in terms of usability, should lie at the heart of the design process and should find their representation as early as the Digital Product Concept phase.
A late implementation will cause many problems - from purely project-based (e.g., it will affect consistency) to business-based (e.g., the product will not achieve the expected market success).
From a purely design standpoint, for which UX/UI designers are responsible, the lack of clear, concrete requirements, definitions, research basis, goals, and functions results in working in the dark. It is just like building sandcastles in the air.
It is a highly uncertain operation, based on intuition, speculation, and unconsidered assumptions.
The main problems in the Digital Product Concept
Design and conception of a digital product always involve the need to determine, estimate:
- its market advantages
- problems that it solves
- values that it can bring to the lives of its users
- functions that if offers
- business goals that it will help achieve.
Hence, it is very important to answer these questions comprehensively:
- what problem does the web or mobile application solve?
- whose problem does it solve?
- what goals are to be achieved through it?
- why would users want to use the product?
The Digital Product Concept is also used to maintain the correct sequence. Solutions should be tailored to problems, never the other way around.
And it is not at all uncommon for web and mobile applications to be developed according to an inverted logic.
First, somebody creates functionalities, then looks for needs they can aptly answer.
Startups, not all of them, of course, are often created in just such a way. Therefore, their short market life, should not surprise anyone.
A huge advantage of the Digital Product Concept is also the inclusion of boundaries within its framework.
The concept primarily introduces all stakeholders to the product:
- which we want to build
- which we do not want to build.
The identification of these two matters makes it possible to vividly and concretely indicate the scope, expectations, ideas, and patterns. Thanks to this, design and research work are much simpler and more reasonable.
Why is User Experience important in a Digital Product Concept?
User Centered Design, according to the definition proposed by the Interaction Design Foundation, is an iterative process in which designers focus on users and their needs at every stage of the design process.
The goal is to create products that are highly useful and accessible.
Paying attention to the experience generated by a user's interaction with a digital product should form the basis of the Product Concept.
They are the most important, or one of the most important factors, of market success.
User Experience provides methods, techniques, and research tools with the help of which it is possible to accurately and reliably diagnose needs and adapt the most appropriate solutions to them.
At the same time, it is worth remembering that UX operations are not only concerned with diagnosing problems (diagnostic function), but also provide patterns of good design practices (optimization function).
With this knowledge, the user becomes the focal point of thinking about the product.
Taking UX into account already in conceptual work is not so much optional as necessary, not to say essential.
Consideration of User Experience makes it possible not to lose the perspective, expectations, feelings, and emotions of a user when planning functions and thinking about usability and value.
It is worth emphasizing that Digital Product Concepts are not mock-ups.
Usually, they are a collection of ideas and metaphors that help understand the operation of a future mobile or web application.
A Product Concept is usually a text document or simply a diagram.
It is also worth noting another characteristic that is significant from the point of view of User Experience.
The consistency of a mobile, web application is a feature highly desired by users. Applications that were created based on a concept that took into account UX requirements are much more consistent products and are easier to develop in the future.
Usability should also be kept in mind at an early stage of product development.
As defined by Jakob Nielsen, one of the founders of the Nielsen Norman Group, usability is expressed in five basic dimensions.
The usability consists of:
- Learnability - the ease with which we learn to operate a product
- Efficiency - performance, a subjective sense of the speed at which tasks are performed
- Memorability - remembering how the product works
- Errors - the number of errors that we make and against which the product protects us
- Satisfaction - describes the subjective feeling of satisfaction from the use of a product.
An important distinction from the point of view of a Concept, a way of thinking about the product, which was also introduced by Jakob Nielsen, is to pay attention to its:
A functional product is a product that offers all the functions that its user expects and needs.
The product will be useful if the use of these functions is simple, fast, and trouble-free.
A product will be perceived as helpful only if it is considered functional and useful.