August 5, 2021

Product Development – Start with the Problem?

Living through my daughter’s Type1 Diabetes diagnosis and learning curve of diabetes management forced me to revisit my approach to new product development. It made me a better designer. Here are some steps that can help you up your game as well.

Product development starts with the problem. More specifically, it starts with a description of the unmet need plus insight into the intended user and what makes them tick.

This knowledge informs how and why the envisioned product solution will be something that is highly desired by the target customer.

As the principal at a Seattle based Product Development firm (diatomicpd.com), my appreciation for this critical first step in the development of a new product has always been there. Living through my seven-year-old daughter’s diagnosis as a Type 1 Diabetic (T1D) forced me to revisit how well I follow my own dogma. Product development is difficult. Living with diabetes is much harder. My daughter’s diagnosis forced our family to quickly learn the trials and tribulations of diabetes. There are many devices and tools that help, most are cumbersome to use, and they typically don’t work well together. As a product designer, it is one thing to imagine an experience, it is another thing to live it first-hand. Thankfully, there are some steps that we can take to improve our ways.

Diatomic Product Development has had the honor of partnering with a leading supplier of insulin and diabetes management products for many years. This partnership started before my daughter’s diagnosis so my initial introduction into the world of diabetes management was through the lens of a product designer, exclusively. I researched and thusly believed that I understood the challenges faced by a diabetic. Little did I know that diabetes was about to turn my world upside down. Taking my daughter to the ER and receiving the subsequent T1D diagnosis was a gut-punch! Learning how to use diabetes management tools firsthand was frustrating. This experience was a painful reminder of how critically important it is for us product designers to understand the user, their needs and use scenarios when developing a new product. Start with the user!

User-centered design is a product development process where design and engineering teams focus on developing a deep understanding

of the users of the envisioned product and repeatedly validate their ideas with those users (e.g. prototypes). Here are a few steps that will help you succeed with your next product:

  • Focus on the user and use case – As engineers and designers we sometimes focus on the technology and implementation risks. Rather we should always put the user and use case scenarios first and foremost in our approach. The best user experience might necessitate a step-back from implementing the latest technology.
  • Conduct user studies and document findings – Who are the primary and secondary users? What jobs are they trying to get done? Where and how is product used? What is the gap (problem), and the opportunity (solution)? These are the questions that we should be asking ourselves as we define the product concept and requirements. Be careful to listen and observe, don’t assume.
  • Create a prioritized set of product requirements – A useful exercise is to rank requirements and features in must haves, nice to haves and could haves. A key goal of prioritizing requirements is to avoid over or undershooting the target user’s needs.
  • Early and rapid prototyping to validate ideas and concepts – Foam models, 3D printing and digital UI prototyping are indispensable tools. They permit rapid prototyping to test and validate concepts with users. Quick iterations enable rapid design evolution towards a viable product solution.

These steps, along with a well thought out business case and go to market plan will put you on the path to a successful product launch. Remember, user-centered design must be a mindset held by the entire product development team. Focusing on the end-user when developing a new product gives you the best chance of creating something that people will find easy and enjoyable to use. Diabetes forced me to revisit how I approach this critical facet of product development. I hope my experience and these recommendations will help you achieve your product vision. I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to contact me at www.diatomicpd.com with any questions. Remember, Start with the User.

T1D Heroes – There are some amazing people and organizations doing great things for kids with T1D. My personal favorite is Jordan Morris with the Seattle Sounders. Jordan is T1D and contributes a ton of his own time and energy to his foundation (www.jordanmorrisfoundation.com) and helping children with T1D. Jordan is a real hero, please check out his foundation and consider donating to the cause.

User-centered design is a product development process where design and engineering teams focus on developing a deep understanding of the users of the envisioned product and repeatedly validate their ideas with those users (e.g. prototypes). Here are a few steps that will help you succeed with your next product:
Focus on the user and use case – As engineers and designers we sometimes focus on the technology and implementation risks. Rather we should always put the user and use case scenarios first and foremost in our approach. The best user experience might necessitate a step-back from implementing the latest technology.
Conduct user studies and document findings – Who are the primary and secondary users? What jobs are they trying to get done? Where and how is product used? What is the gap (problem), and the opportunity (solution)? These are the questions that we should be asking ourselves as we define the product concept and requirements. Be careful to listen and observe, don’t assume.
Create a prioritized set of product requirements – A useful exercise is to rank requirements and features in must haves, nice to haves and could haves. A key goal of prioritizing requirements is to avoid over or undershooting the target user’s needs.
Early and rapid prototyping to validate ideas and concepts – Foam models, 3D printing and digital UI prototyping are indispensable tools. They permit rapid prototyping to test and validate concepts with users. Quick iterations enable rapid design evolution towards a viable product solution.
These steps, along with a well thought out business case and go to market plan will put you on the path to a successful product launch. Remember, user-centered design must be a mindset held by the entire product development team. Focusing on the end-user when developing a new product gives you the best chance of creating something that people will find easy and enjoyable to use. Diabetes forced me to revisit how I approach this critical facet of product development. I hope my experience and these recommendations will help you achieve your product vision. I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to contact me at www.diatomicpd.com with any questions. Remember, Start with the User.
T1D Heroes – There are some amazing people and organizations doing great things for kids with T1D. My personal favorite is Jordan Morris with the Seattle Sounders. Jordan is T1D and contributes a ton of his own time and energy to his foundation (www.jordanmorrisfoundation.com) and helping children with T1D. Jordan is a real hero, please check out his foundation and consider donating to the cause.

Diatomic Product Development is a team of talented engineers, designers and business professionals with years of experience designing, developing and commercializing innovative and exciting new technology-based products. We can help your team achieve your technical and business goals. LETS TALK

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