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Digital product design best practices: A comprehensive guide

Picture of Mira Melhor, Enterprise Manager

Mira Melhor

Enterprise Manager

22 minutes read

Forbes says that good design is good business, stating that every single dollar invested in UX design results in a return of 100 USD. This is an ROI of 9.9%. Companies can experience two times faster growth with top design practices than the ones without.

Digital product design involves creating and developing digital products like websites, mobile apps, software applications, and other digital interfaces. It encompasses various aspects, from conceptualization and design to implementation and delivery. 

In short, digital product design is a holistic approach that encompasses every aspect of designing digital products. Its goal is to create an optimal user experience and business success. To get there, you must go through steps, like ideation, research, creation, testing, and launch.

A successful digital product design process requires the harmonious collaboration of diverse teams, each bringing specialized skills and expertise to the table.

  1. Analytical Leadership: Analytical leadership consists of individuals responsible for setting the digital product's vision, strategy, and goals. They bridge the gap between the business goals and the technical aspects of the product.
  2. Design Team: The design team is responsible for creating the visual and user experience aspects of the digital product. They focus on understanding user needs, crafting intuitive interfaces, designing wireframes, mockups, and prototypes, and ensuring that the product is aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly.
  3. Frontend Team: The frontend team consists of developers who specialize in implementing the user interface and user experience designs created by the design team. Frontend developers ensure the design is accurately translated into a functional and responsive interface across various devices and browsers.
  4. Backend Team: The backend team comprises developers responsible for the server-side logic, databases, and the overall functionality of the digital product. Backend developers focus on ensuring the product's reliability, security, and scalability.

In this article, we will create a roadmap for you that will offer insights, strategies, and expert advice on navigating the complex landscape of digital product design. The idea is to help you avoid situations that might end up in costly fixes or don’t bring the anticipated outcome.

The digital product design process

The digital product design process consists of several phases, from idea to final product. Let’s break it down.

  1. Ideation – As with any project, digital product design starts with brainstorming and cultivating ideas. This is the moment when you state what you’d like the product to be or to have. It is a crucial stage for defining issues you aim to solve and creating ideas of possible solutions.
  2. Research – While you might generally understand your audience and their desires, ongoing research is essential to steer the design process in later stages. Thorough research is crucial to grasp the needs of your target audience and understand the market landscape. 

    Research acts as your guiding compass, ensuring you're heading in the right direction with your digital product. Specifically important in this phase are:
    • Business requirements
    • User personas
    • Customer journey analysis
    • Contextual inquiry
    • Affinity diagramming
    • Usability heuristics
  3. Conceptualization – This phase turns ideas into actionable concepts. This includes sketching, wireframing, and creating prototypes to visualize the product's structure and functionality. Ideally, it shows you how your product idea will look in practice. This is also the time to give and receive feedback to come as close as possible to your vision.
  4. Proof of concept – In this phase, you align with your target audience's requirements. Engage with the final product's users and assess the results through online testing. This approach enables you to comprehend the audience's needs and challenges.

    Your audience receives conceptual ideas and wireframes for review, while you meticulously listen to their feedback, gathering comprehensive information. You can use tools like clickstream analysis, heatmaps, eye-tracking, and other pertinent methodologies. 
  5. Design and Development: Once the concept is solid, you delve into creating user interfaces. This includes graphics, visual elements, and libraries. Next to the design work, you need to create a clear information structure that links you with the frontend team and aligns with both frontend and backend teams.
  6. Testing: Testing is an essential part of the design validation process. You established key performance indicators (KPIs) during the research and proof-of-concept phase, which define the goals you aim to achieve. The continuous process covers usability testing, gathering user feedback, and refining the design iteratively. Although it may take longer, we suggest conducting testing on personal protective equipment (PPE) to guarantee users consistently experience superior functionality. 
  7. Launch and Post-Launch Analysis: Post-launch analysis is vital to pinpoint further refinement and optimization opportunities. After releasing the product, you should cycle back to the Design and Development phase to enhance and conceptualize new features.

As we've established a foundation in the digital product design process, let's now shift our focus to design thinking—a human-centered approach that further refines our methods and outcomes.

Design Thinking in digital product design

Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer's toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success. 

Design thinking offers a structured framework for understanding and pursuing innovation in ways that contribute to organic growth and add real value to your audience. Design Thinking Fundamentals:

  • Empathize: Begin by deeply understanding the needs and challenges of your users. Immerse yourself in their environment through interviews, surveys, and observation to gain meaningful insights.
  • Define: Articulate the problem you're tackling. This clarity guides the design process and sets the stage for devising effective solutions.
  • Ideate: Foster an environment where brainstorming and the generation of diverse ideas are encouraged. At this stage, all ideas are welcome, regardless of how unconventional or simplistic they may seem.
  • Prototype: Develop preliminary models or mockups to visualize your ideas and facilitate rapid testing and iteration.
  • Test: Engage users with your prototypes to collect feedback. This cyclical stage is critical for refining your designs based on real-world input.
  • Iterate: Use the feedback to revisit and refine your ideas. Continue this process until you achieve the most optimal solution.

Adopting design thinking positions you to create digital products that genuinely address user needs and foster innovation. 

With the adaptive and creative strategies of design thinking in our toolkit, we next explore how UX design prioritizes the efficiency and comfort of the user.

UX Design as Digital Ergonomics: The efficiency in your working environment

Ergonomics and User Experience (UX) Design are two disciplines with a shared mission to enhance the way humans interact with environments or products. They each specialize in different areas but are equally crucial in creating functional, user-friendly, and comfortable products.

Consider the way your favorite chair feels—the one that might be at your desk, in your living room, or at your parent's house. It's the chair that seems to effortlessly support your body, providing both comfort and a sense of ease. UX design strives for the same comfort and ease in the digital realm.

UX for digital product design explores how users engage with products to maximize safety, efficiency, and comfort. The goal of UX is to reduce discomfort and the likelihood of errors, such as misclicks, by crafting designs that accommodate human capabilities and constraints. 

Digital product design involves the full spectrum of the user journey and the user’s emotional experience, emphasizing creating effective, pleasurable, and aesthetically pleasing digital interfaces.

The ergonomic principles that guide UX design are complemented by the structure of design systems. These frameworks enable consistency and efficiency across digital products.

Design Systems for Digital Product Design

Design systems consist of reusable components governed by well-defined usage standards. They incorporate pattern libraries, color palettes, and fonts, all aligned with standardized design principles within an organization.

These systems are invaluable in enterprise projects where the sheer number of screens can reach the thousands. They eliminate the need for manual updates across every instance of a component. Instead, like developers use GitHub to manage and merge code changes, designers publish updates to a design system. 

These changes are then automatically propagated, ensuring that every part of the project reflects the latest design standards. You can create your own design system or use one of the following industry leaders.

Data-Driven Design for your Digital Product

While design systems establish a unified aesthetic, data-driven design ensures our creative choices resonate with users and drive business outcomes. Let's examine how data informs and shapes our design process.

Digital product design embraces decision-making that is informed by data rather than guesswork. Regrettably, corporate projects can still fall prey to being shaped by the subjective ideas of a single manager without considering user feedback.

The data-driven design rests on three pillars to guide design choices:

  1. Researching User Experience: User experience research, which involves methods such as user testing and feedback analysis, is indispensable for gathering data that informs design decisions. UX research revolves around meaningful interactions with individuals, whether face-to-face or remotely. Our goal is to collect qualitative data to form informed assumptions and establish a solid foundation for our ideas.
  2. A/B Testing: The implementation of A/B tests empowers us to compare various design variations and select the optimal performance in terms of user engagement and conversions. This encompasses testing features on which different teams may hold varying opinions. Here, the 'I said so!' approach is non-existent. In data-driven design, you should prioritize testing theories over asserting opinions loudly.
  3. User Analytics: By monitoring user behavior within your product, you can gain valuable insights into how users engage with your design. This quantitative data, encompassing millions of anonymous users or visitors to your app, provides a broader perspective, revealing trends, timings, and confirmed events. This comprehensive understanding contributes to continuous design enhancements.

Data-driven design serves as the bridge between design decisions and measurable outcomes, ensuring that your digital product is visually appealing and highly effective, delivering the utmost business value. Our commitment lies in building authentic relationships through innovation, propelling us toward a future where user experience remains at the forefront of our design principles.

Information architecture in Digital Product Design

Armed with data to make informed design decisions, we must also consider how to structure the information our users will interact with. Information architecture is the skeleton of content organization, essential for intuitive navigation. Information architecture (IA) is the art of organizing content, be it on news websites, blogs, online stores, booking apps, downloadable software, and more. 

Having similarities to reference architecture within cloud technology, information architecture systematically helps to organize content in a clear and comprehensible manner. This involves categorizing content based on inherent relationships between different pieces, ultimately improving navigation and findability for users.

This strategic approach enables users to locate desired information with minimal effort. Breaking the confinement of the creation of a product from inception, IA plays a pivotal role in redesign initiatives, underscoring its enduring significance in optimizing user experiences. Pragmatic IA ensures a user's smooth interaction with a digital product.

Understanding that proper information architecture paves the way for seamless user experiences, it's time to delve into the management of design assets—ensuring consistency across every touchpoint.

Assets management in Digital Product Design

A well-structured library of design components and assets is essential when working with Design Systems. You can choose an already prepared Design system as we have already talked about, or you can create everything from scratch. Let’s take a look at all the assets to manage.

Design Library

A design library serves as a centralized repository for design components, encompassing elements like buttons, forms, typography, and color palettes. A well-organized library is instrumental in ensuring design consistency throughout the entire product. 

While tools like Tetrisly streamline creation, we continue leveraging familiar tools such as Figma or Zeplin for older projects, integrating seamlessly into our client's ecosystem. 

In scenarios involving multiple design teams, maintaining a separate file with the library as the core, synchronized with the frontend Storybook implementation, and other segmented files for daily tasks becomes essential.

Design Tokens

Design tokens are the translation of design decisions into variables, defining values for colors, typography, spacing, and more. They play a pivotal role in facilitating communication between designers and front-end developers. 

For instance, using terms like 'SapphireBlue400' or 'MediumSpacing' instead of hexadecimal codes or pixel values fosters clarity and consistency.


Comprehensive documentation emerges as the unsung hero of design systems. It plays a crucial role in fostering successful collaboration and scalability. Particularly for enterprise projects enduring decades and witnessing multiple generations of engineers, thorough documentation is indispensable. Proper documentation should encompass:

  1. Design Guidelines—Clear, detailed guidelines for using design components, with open discussions and comments alongside components.
  2. Usage Examples—Real-world applications demonstrating how design components should be used, often integrated into a Storybook.
  3. Version Control—An organized system managing updates and changes to the design system, including decisions and relevant data. This aspect proves to be the most critical and challenging in design documentation.

Offering a well-documented design system empowers teams to work efficiently and maintain a cohesive design language, representing a significant investment in the success of your design team.

Challenges of Documentation

Despite the myriad benefits, one of the common challenges in implementing a design system lies in garnering widespread adoption across the organization. To ensure that your design documentation overcomes becoming a mere shelf ornament, consider the following factors:

  1. Buy-In from Stakeholders—Garner support from key stakeholders, including executives, product managers, and development teams, clarifies a design system's benefits early in the project.
  2. Education and Training—Provide comprehensive training for team members across leadership, frontend, and backend categories, ensuring effective utilization of the design system.
  3. Continuous Support—Regularly maintain and update the design system, promptly addressing issues and encouraging feedback for ongoing improvement. Promote collaboration between design and development teams to avoid silos and independent screen creation.

A well-implemented design system promises a more efficient design and development process, ultimately saving valuable time and resources. Embracing these principles positions us authentically, forward-looking, and committed to fostering strong relationships through innovation in our design practices.

Audit Process in Digital Product Design

Quality assurance stands as a cornerstone in the digital product design journey. This involves a meticulous process of testing and evaluation, ensuring the final product aligns with your organization’s and industry quality standards. Key facets of quality assurance encompass:

  1. Functional Testing—Rigorous checks to confirm that all features and functionalities within the digital product operate as intended.
  2. Performance Testing—Evaluate the product's performance under diverse conditions, pinpointing bottlenecks and optimizing speed for an enhanced user experience.
  3. Usability Testing—Gather valuable user feedback through testing to evaluate user-friendliness and overall user experience, fostering a human-centric approach.
  4. Accessibility Testing—Ensure that the digital product is accessible to users of all abilities, reflecting a commitment to inclusivity.
  5. Security Testing—Verify the digital product's security measures and make it resilient against potential threats. Notably, recognizing that the human factor contributes to approximately 80% of security attacks, as stated by Capitol Technology University. This means that collaboration with UX designers is paramount to avoid human error.

Quality assurance, beyond identifying and addressing issues, plays a pivotal role in fortifying the overall reliability and trustworthiness of your digital product. 

High-quality assurance standards lead us to the handoff stage, where effective communication and collaboration culminate in the successful launch of a product. This transition is crucial to align the visions of design and development.

The Digital Product Design Handoff

Efficient communication and collaboration between design and development teams are pivotal for a seamless product launch. The communication between the two teams doesn't merely commence with a Jira task for developers; it concludes there. Our design team operates on its Jira board, intricately connected with epic stories and the frontend Kanban board. 

Developers actively participate in the early stages of design tasks, contributing insights on the most efficient flows and engaging in discussions about feasibility. This collaborative approach results in tasks appearing on the developers' Jira board, where they comprehensively understand the functionality and a designated space for its implementation.

The feedback loop between designers and developers, aimed at swiftly addressing queries or concerns, fosters a project environment characterized by smooth collaboration and support at every stage. It's not a dichotomy of design versus development; rather, it's a recognition that design is an integral part of the development process.

A successful handoff isn't just a transfer of tasks—it propels a more efficient development process, ensuring the final product aligns with the vision of business value and user needs. This commitment to authentic collaboration and innovation guarantees that every aspect of the project is faithfully brought to life.

The cooperation with the frontend team when designing digital products

Frontend developers wield a crucial influence in faithfully translating the visual design of a digital product into its final form. Vital considerations encompass:

  • Responsive Design: Enact responsive design principles to guarantee optimal performance across diverse devices and screen dimensions.
  • Interactivity: Elevate the design by infusing it with interactivity through animations, transitions, and micro-interactions.
  • Cross-Browser Compatibility: Assure consistent performance by validating that the product functions seamlessly across various web browsers.

By cultivating robust collaboration between design and front-end teams, you pave the way for a final product that boasts an impressive visual aesthetic and operates seamlessly. 

Looking ahead, this collaborative synergy positions you at the forefront of innovative and user-centric digital experiences. In our experience, striving for an authentic relationship between the design and frontend teams fuels a dynamic partnership that ensures visual appeal and functional excellence in every project you undertake.

As we ensure our technical teams are aligned, it's equally critical to maintain open channels of communication with stakeholders. Their input and engagement are invaluable to a project's direction and success.

Communicating with your stakeholders

Ensuring effective communication with stakeholders is paramount for aligning design efforts with the overarching vision of the product. To cultivate a collaborative and supportive environment, keep the following in mind:

  • Regular Updates: Provide stakeholders with consistent updates on the ongoing progress of both design and development phases.
  • Feedback Incorporation: Actively encourage and incorporate feedback from stakeholders throughout the design and development journey.
  • Clear Expectations: Set clear expectations and project goals upfront to mitigate potential misunderstandings and align everyone on the intended outcomes.
  • Conflict Resolution: Be prepared to address conflicts and navigate differing opinions among stakeholders in a constructive manner.

Maintaining transparent and open communication with stakeholders not only builds trust but also ensures a collective focus on shared objectives. As we look ahead, our commitment to authentic relationships and innovative practices positions us to lead in creating dynamic, user-centric digital experiences that resonate with stakeholders and users alike.

Digital Product Design: the conclusion

In this comprehensive guide, we've delved into the best practices of digital product design, encompassing the entire process, from the significance of design thinking to the collaborative synergy between design and front-end teams.

Designers are the architects of user experiences. They play a critical role in ensuring that your digital product features a visually striking appearance and operates seamlessly. They are the first wave of developing a product, focusing on:

  • User-centered Solutions: Designers prioritize the user, tailoring your product to meet their needs and preferences.
  • Innovation: Designers inject creativity and innovative thinking, enabling your product to stand out in a competitive market.
  • Consistency: Designers uphold design consistency, aligning with your brand and contributing to a cohesive user experience.
  • Efficiency: Designers streamline the design process, resulting in time and resource savings in the long run.
  • Collaboration: Designers foster collaboration among design, development, and other teams, promoting a harmonious product development process.

Incorporating a designer into your digital product design process bridges the gap between your vision and the user's experience, ensuring that your product exceeds expectations.

Digital product design is integral to achieving innovation and business success. By adhering to the best practices outlined in this guide, you embark on a journey to create digital products that fulfill user needs, drive innovation in your industry, and stand out remarkably in your product portfolio.

Whether you're a seasoned top manager or someone new to the world of digital product design, remember that innovation is within reach. Initiate your digital product design journey today, witnessing your ideas transform into user-centric, effective digital solutions that people genuinely adore.

Curated by

Sebastian Synowiec

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