9 months ago, I had the privilege of joining a well-known design lab to work on an exciting project for one of the world’s famous museums. The ultimate vision was to integrate cutting-edge technologies to bridge the physical and digital spaces into one connected immersive user journey which users can experience through their phones while they conducting the tour.
As UX/UI design lead, I joined the project after delivering the features list, my role involved bringing a user-centered approach to the project and ensuring to design a seamless user experience.
After studying the features list and learning everything that had been recorded in the user research phase, I proceeded with the team to develop personas, user empathy map, user journey, and information architecture, and create the initial wireframes of the flows.
Once these initial tasks were completed, it was time to present our work to the client.
However, the outcome of that meeting turned out to be challenging, the client dismissed our efforts and left the meeting with several unresolved questions that demanded immediate attention and clarification. These questions revolved around the fundamental aspects of the product such as:
1. What is the product?
2. What is the product metaphor, and what is the narrative that drives the product?
3. How can the product address and alleviate the physical challenges faced by the business and users?
4. What role does the product play in the overall business strategy?
The client’s questions exposed the gaps in our analysis and highlighted the importance of clearly articulating the product vision. It became evident that our focus had been primarily on the user-centric aspects of the project, neglecting these essential questions.
In conclusion, the initial client meeting served as a wake-up call, highlighting the need for a more holistic understanding of the product and its narrative, by embracing these challenges and providing robust answers, we can propel the project forward, delivering a product that not only provides an exceptional user experience but also solves real-world problems and contributes to the client’s business success.
After several rounds of discussions, it became clear that the client had a vague vision that they struggled to articulate clearly and the need for seeking a narrative effectively define the product is a must.
Subsequently, we realized that a different approach was required, it was necessary not only to focus on the technical delivery based on the initial feature list but also to assist the client in identifying the product itself and helping them establish a clear vision and goals.
This realization led us to embrace a lean approach, starting from scratch and reevaluating our direction...
Think in the Product, not in the Features
After several brainstorming sessions, we decide to embrace the product-thinking process to identify the “What”, “Why”, and “How” of the product, which can be immensely valuable in situations where the client’s vision is unclear, and the team needs guidance on strategy and implementation.
The Power of Product Thinking
You might think, “Oh! Another meaningless buzzword” but in reality, the product thinking process wields substantial power in resolving dilemmas.
By adopting product thinking principles, we can transcend a feature-centric approach and delve into the essential elements of the product. This involves gaining clarity on the product’s underlying purpose, identifying the problems it addresses, and understanding the value it brings to both users and the business.
The Definition of Product Thinking
Product thinking is a process that empowers the product team to understand the true value of the product and recognize its significance in the lives of users.
By employing practical methods to address the key questions — What are the problems, Who are the users, Why are we building this product, and How to do it? — the product team gains valuable insights that lead to the establishment of product goals and the development of valid features.
Essentially, product thinking acts as a vital first step before embarking on the product development journey. By answering these fundamental questions, the product team establishes a strong foundation that ultimately provides clear inputs for the required efforts.
1. For whom are we doing this? (Target audience)
2. What are the problems that we need to solve? (User/Bisuness problems)
3. Why we are doing this? (The vision)
4. How we will do this? (Strategy)
5. What are our goals? (Goals)
6. What will we do to reach our goals? (The features list)
1. Who is our audience?
Our client operates a well-known exhibition, with tourists comprising over 50% of the footfall. These tourists face various barriers, such as language constraints and the need for guidance, often traveling in groups. The remaining footfall consists of residents from diverse backgrounds, and the business aims to increase retention within this segment.
2. What are the problems
In the early stages, our design lab conducted a user research activity to identify the issues users were experiencing within the physical exhibition space. Our objective was to pinpoint all aspects that required improvement in both service design and app design, with a specific focus on the visitors’ journey inside the physical space of the exhibitions. One prominent problem that emerged was the visitors’ inability to access sufficient information about exhibits.
3. Why we are doing this? — The Vision
deally, the responsibility of defining the vision of the product lay with the product manager and the creative director from the client’s side. However, since the client lacked a product manager, we took the initiative to conduct multiple one-on-one meetings with all stakeholders to understand and shape a clear vision from the client’s perspective.
Our goal was to align the product with the client’s position and their vision for the future, ensuring it served as a solution tool to achieve their objectives.
Identifying this vision prompted us to determine the essence of the product and the metaphor of the app. We aimed to ensure that the product aligned seamlessly with the client’s future aspirations and offered users the ultimate experience. This journey led us to conduct extensive investigations and create benchmarking decks. We collaborated with two creative directors to shape the metaphor and narrative, ultimately creating an astonishing solution that fulfilled the client’s long-standing dream
4. How we will do this? — Strategy
During this phase, we considered the business inputs that clarified what the product team aimed to achieve from a strategic perspective. As our project focused on providing an immersive experience, the client wanted every visitor to enjoy an engaging journey inside the exhibit. This immersive experience would augment the digital product within the tour, enhancing the learning level and ensuring a delightful journey for visitors in the future. In summary, our strategy revolved around formulating a solution within the journey equation. This approach ensured that our strategy was clear about addressing user problems and positively impacting their overall experience.
5. What are our goals? — Goals
Our goals were a direct outcome of the identified problems and proposed solutions. In essence, our primary objective was to enhance the user journey inside the exhibitions, making it more engaging and enabling visitors to fully comprehend the vision behind the exhibits.
Additionally, we were determined to eliminate all barriers that were identified during the user research phase, such as language barriers, challenges related to group travel, and improving the overall exhibition atmosphere. This approach aimed to create a unique physical journey that seamlessly integrated with our digital tool.
Moreover, we prioritized the aspect of retention, ensuring that our product remained usable even after the visit ended and for subsequent visits. By focusing on user experience beyond the exhibition visit, we aimed to establish a lasting connection with our audience, encouraging them to return for future experiences.
6. What will we do to reach our goals? — Features list
After considering all the previous steps in the process, we ended up with a clear task list that needed to be formulated into concise user stories. Additionally, we gained valuable insights into the priority of each feature and its appropriate placement within our design sprints. As a result, our feature list became more accurate and tailored to meet the needs of both users and the business.
After spending three months in the discovery phase, we successfully defined the product, identified the target audience, recognized the core problems, formulated a comprehensive strategy, and established clear goals.
With this solid foundation in place, we redefined the feature list and compiled new user stories to define the work scope with a clear vision of what we were building and what we aimed to accomplish.
- A product must solve problems to earn its true identity as a product.
- Product thinking empowers both business and design teams to craft meaningful products.
- A feature list is insufficient until it reflects solutions to user and business problems.
- Product thinking initiates a strong foundation for an effective UX strategy.
- Product thinking is a shared responsibility between the product manager and the product owner.
- Product thinking significantly reduces the risks of product failures.
- The results of product thinking enable the product team to prioritize features effectively.