Product Design Ideas for Success

by Sanjay Mishra

Here are some product design ideas that we have distilled from many years of experience. Hopefully they will help you avoid common mistakes.

It is very important to understand the customer and the true requirements for the product. Although you can take the view that whatever the customer says are the true requirements for the product, they rarely are. You are the true expert in the field and only you know the true requirements.

What the customer does know are his intentions. Prepare a customer intent sheet . How does the client aim to money or leverage the project for long term growth? As the project progresses you will be taking many decisions big and small, once you know the customer's intent you will be able to take these decisions in the best interest of the customer.

Know as much as possible about the environment in which the product will be used.

Design from first principles

Design for flexibility Requirements WILL change often 2 days before the project is due to be delivered.

Design for new features while maintaining maximum backward compatibility

User training costs money and time

Validate the design Show the customer and the customer's customers 3d models, prototypes, mock ups as soon as they are ready to avoid surprises.

Just do it! It is possible to spend years studying and refining requirements. Some people make a career out of it. There are projects where excessive system requirements is necessary. Most projects do not involve landing a man on the moon.

Have the right amount of requirements down.

Have an acceptance test plan

Have as few people involved as possible Experience and ability count. Design is best done by a single person or a small team. For initial system architecture designs, I have found 2 person teams to be most effective. One that really knows the customer, can anticipate their needs and gauge their reaction to possibilities. The other person really knows the technical possibilities occurring from system design.

Do it fast. Life is unpredictable. Projects get canceled, budgets axed, people transferred. Once you have the green signal, design and deliver the first version of the system as soon as possible.

Make the schedule for each individual activity tight. When people have lax schedules they tend to relax till the schedule becomes tight again. Keep a global safety margin for the project and keep it a secret.

You cannot plan a Research project. Before laying down a schedule make sure all elements that require research have been accomplished.

Have the best talent for project design . Design is the most important part of the project and has long term implications. Best talent is often costs more money but works out much cheaper for the project as a whole. Once the design phase is over you can switch over to cheaper, run of the mill talent with reviews and help from your A team.

Never gouge the customer Once the project has started the customer is locked in for the duration of the project with you. There There will be changes in customer requirements as the project progresses. Always give the customer a fair price and schedule for these changes (this is unheard of in the construction industry :-) ).

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