Product companies need to conceptualize new products for either widening their existing markets or offer newer features and functionalities for their existing products. In either of the cases, design strategists, and designers need to dream of the new functionality or the whole product whichever the case might be.
Ideation for new products or service
There are a variety of ideation tools and techniques that could be used for the conceptualization of new features or new products. Different disciplines of design, historically have been using a variety of ideation techniques, I would like to share and discuss a few techniques those might be extremely useful for conceptualizing Information Technology products. The techniques would be pretty much the same for ‘Products’ and ‘Services’ anyways the difference between the two is thinning day by day for the technology products. Here onwards, I would be using the term ‘Product‘ which could be read as ‘Product or Service‘
Adding new features
Let’s take the case of a successful product, where R&D team is planning for the next version of the product. The focus would be purely on identifying the best features those could be additionally offered within the scope of the existing product. The R&D should (ideally) be taking the following steps for conceptualizing new version
- SWOT analysis of the existing (running) version of the product
- Competitor analysis: Check out what the competition is offering
- User validations of an existing product, to figure out whether users can understand, and are happy with the existing functionality provided?
- Asking the users what additional features would make sense that will make their work easy and enjoyable would be a great idea. This could be done using a predefined list of features, where users could just rate based on the value they see (a 100 $ investment test proves very handy here.)
- Brainstorming: Internal R&D (Product management, Design + Development) and Marketing or other customer-facing teams could do a brainstorming of possible new features. There are multiple techniques of Brainstorming and more importantly, Documenting the ideas that come out of any brainstorming session.
Conceptualization from Scratch
Another scenario where business is looking to ‘widen’ their portfolio of products or offerings, be it in the ‘adjacent’ areas or venture into altogether new areas, The design team will need to explore some additional tools for ideation. Here since this is a journey into the unknown, ideation techniques have to be fast and inexpensive in the beginning supplemented well with intermittent user/market validations.
- Contextual user research: Many times designers need to establish key problem areas the users are facing while performing their daily work. Users sometimes are so used to doing things the way they are doing, that they themselves do not even recognize problem areas. To unearth and establish what pain areas of users are to be established, through user research tools come in handy like watching over the shoulder, Contextual interviews, simple observations etc.
- Tell a Story: After you generate relevant context you can with user research techniques, designers should compile the research into simple stories of the users and their tasks. Immersive storyboarding tools surely come in handy at this stage. It’s a great idea to ‘break down’ the main stories into some fractions so that smaller units of ideas or features lists could be generated.
- User and market validation: Stories at a very raw level (might be represented in quick videos, or interactive or static storyboards) should be showcased to target customers, market experts and most importantly the users of the products. After the market and users feedback, stories could be iterated and tested again if needed.
- Conceptualization and feature prioritization: Involving stakeholders in prioritizing key ideas will ensure your company invests in the right direction. Simple ‘dot voting technique’ or a ‘100 $ bet’ kind of exercises prove to be handy here. Depending on the context, extensive ‘feature priority surveys’ which reach larger stakeholders could be used to get quantitative proof behind the prioritization.
Apart from the tools of structured ideation, Sometimes even designers (stakeholders) ‘Gut feeling’ or ‘This is what I think will work’ is also worth trusting. as I think, there is no ONE method that fits ALL in this world.