My 2023 product design manifesto

Jan 2023

As stated on the front page of this website, I believe that the purpose of the design function is to live in the future and regularly return to the present to help the rest of the business plot a course towards it (I’ve borrowed this concept from futurist Ben Hammersley. Thanks Ben).

On the face of it, that is quite an arrogant take (for anyone that isn’t known as a futurist). However, I honestly believe it to be both true and remarkably achievable.

Covid shifted a lot of paradigms, both at work and in our personal lives.

Businesses and employees have adapted to a hybrid, asynchronous working pattern with two extremes; solitary focused work at your own desk in your own home and intense in-person collaboration with heavy agendas. The tools that we use to do our jobs are collaborative spaces that, in the best examples, enable anyone in the team to express and document ideas.

For businesses with well-defined design patterns and UI component libraries (and even those without them), the lines between product manager and designer have continued to blur. The barrier for entry to design a few screens for an idea and test them with users has disappeared. Within the right guard rails, this behvaiour change has the potential to increase the speed at which an organisation can learn.

Therefore, the role of the designer needs to adapt to meet the needs of this new world. The question that businesses are asking of product designers has changed from “how should this thing work” to “what should we do next”.

Herein lies the challenge.

How do product design teams adapt their processes and tools to ensure the track being laid in front of the organisational train is headed in the right direction?

Desired outcomes

  • Efficiently maximise the shared understanding of the problem-space
  • Enable

I’ve set out a number of borrowed frameworks (below) that I combine, every day, to design effective solutions and convince myself and the business I work for that the investment is worth the payoff.

The Frameworks

Defining customer personas nd their jobs-to-be-done

High-level list of the tasks that relate to each persona

Practical application

Building a job map

  • Defining the problem space by mapping the user’s true needs and motivations, crystalising them as user stories

Practical application

Practicing outcome-driven innovation to define the right incentive(s)

Outcome-driven innovation involves defining the desired outcomes (of the job(s)-to-be-done) that have the highest value to the customer, then using that as a lens through which we can assess all proposed solutions.

If a Spotify user wants to put together a queue of music, the outcome might be “minimise the time it takes to get the songs in the desired order for listening”.

If the Spotify team then design a solution that takes longer than before, however novel, it will fail and leave

How to define intentional outcomes that maximise customer value

  • When to use
  • Syntax to follow
  • Working example of that compares the different incentives of two outcome statements

Practical application

Continuous, legacy-free reinvention

I’ve borrowed this concept from futurist Ben Hammersley

In most cases,

Simple concept that can be applied to anything, involves asking two questions

  • Why do we do this thing?
    • If there is no clear outcome, then stop. That’s the easiest way to innovate.
  • If we were to start doing this today, with all modern solutions, how would we do it differently?
    • If the answer is “I wouldn’t”, great - keep doing the thing.
    • Otherwise

Using the job map to audit yourself and competitors

Other notes on practical application

Notion is my preferred tool,