What Is Concept Design in Product Development?

A great product idea won’t become a reality without research, planning, and expertise. Once an innovator has presented an idea your business wants to explore, product concept design is the next step in a successful project.

Product concept design involves taking a high-level view of a digital product idea. It’s an opportunity to brainstorm, explore possibilities, and predict the product's place in the competitive landscape. The goal is to ensure the final product meets customer needs and solves real-world problems. 

This blog outlines what you need to know about product concept design, how it sets the stage for subsequent product design and development phases, and the tools and techniques for effective concept design. 

Definition of product concept design

Product concept design confirms a product idea will solve a specific problem or meet a need and, in general, how it will do so. Product concept design isn’t the time to focus on product details and minutia. 

At this project stage, designers visualize and test different aspects of the concept design and refine it before advancing the project to development. Designers can also revisit the concept as the project progresses to address issues early. This iterative process helps ensure the final product aligns with the original vision while meeting market demands and user expectations.

Key elements of concept design

When it comes to concept design, there are several key elements that must be taken into consideration to create a successful and impactful design. These elements range from understanding your audience to the functionality and usability of the final product. Let’s explore these in more detail.

Identifying target customers

Innovators may think their ideas are great solutions to pain points or the perfect way to fill a market gap. However, all users may not feel that way. Part of product concept design is determining what types of users would perceive the product as valuable and be willing to pay a price that keeps the company in the black.

Product concept designers can consider various factors, like the demographics, lifestyle or job title, and behaviors of the target audience. It’s also vital to study trends and projections and talk to target audience members to ensure the product aligns with their expectations. 

Understanding the market and competitive landscape

Product concept designers need to take a big-picture view of the place the proposed product would have in the market. Concept designers need to consider existing solutions, if any, with the same goal of the product and how their concept could better help users achieve it. If it’s a unique product, designers need to confirm demand and forecast how it may disrupt the space. 

Aligning product concept with company goals

The design team also needs to take a step back, even beyond looking at the market and the competition, to ask why the company would take this particular product to market in the first place. 

The product should align with the company’s brand, values, and business goals. The design team should take a critical look at any disconnect, such as a product that requires printing when the company professes sustainability, and resolve them before passing the concept to final design and development. 

Defining core features and benefits

Product concept design also needs to define what the product will do in broad terms. 

For example, if it’s an analytics platform based on a large language model (LLM), it’s important to determine whether it can effectively leverage internal data to offer sales teams the most current customer information. 

Alternatively, the team must determine if the platform can provide customers with personalized, conversational experiences via self-service support by utilizing data from a knowledge base and customer relationship management (CRM) system. The concept design team needs to determine the best feature set for the target users it identified and for the best opportunity to succeed in the market. 

The importance of concept design

The research, thought, and innovation during product concept design lays the groundwork for detailed design and development based on creating a viable product for users that recognize its value. Additionally, it allows for the early identification and management of technical, usability, or competitive risks. 

The process of concept design

To create a product that really connects with customers, it's important to take a structured approach to design. This means following a set of clear steps to ensure you create something that's both functional and visually appealing, while meeting your target audience's needs. 

Research

Concept design research involves understanding the market, the competition, and, most importantly, the end users. Knowing their needs, wants, and pain points will help you create a product that truly meets them. By putting the user at the center of your design process, you can create a product that truly resonates with your target audience.

Application of behavioral science

Applying behavioral science involves studying user behaviors, motivations, and pain points. It's about digging deeper into how and why users act as they do when interacting with software. It may involve examining user analytics, conducting user interviews, or building user personas.

Journey mapping

Concept design includes brainstorming sessions about how customers will use the product. Designers imagine how users will complete tasks, including where they begin and what motivates them to take the next step, information crucial to creating the optimal UX. 

Refining concepts

The concept design process isn’t one-and-done. It involves refining the design concept and continual improvement based on feedback from the target audience through surveys or interviews and from the design and development teams. 

Tools and techniques for concept design

Having the right tools and techniques at your disposal will make the product concept design process faster and more efficient. Equip your team with the following tools for the best results. 

Feedback and idea validation tools

Collecting feedback and validating the product concept at an early design stage is essential, but it can take time that slows the project. Determine the best methods for collecting feedback, such as online surveys, phone surveys, and user interviews, and implement solutions that automate and streamline tasks. 

Sketching and mockup tools

Sketching in the context of software design often takes the form of wireframes or low-fidelity prototypes. These are basic, schematic representations of how the software's user interface (UI) might look and mind mapping that connects concepts to represent how users interact.

After refining the initial sketches or wireframes, the next step is to make more detailed and realistic mockups. Adobe XD, Sketch, or Figma are frequently used tools to create sketches and mockups.

Rapid prototyping

Rapid prototyping tools help validate the software concept's functionality and usability. These tools enable the design team to build a detailed interactive product version that provides users with a realistic experience. Moreover, they provide immediate user feedback that allows early improvements on the concept design based on that feedback.

Teams can use no-code tools, such as Bubble, and open-source tools, like Vue.js and Tailwind, which Patent 355 uses for rapid prototyping. 

Successful concept design examples

The success of these companies highlights how effective concept design can lead to innovative products, services, experiences, and business growth. 

Uber

Uber’s original idea of “push a button, get a ride” has been extremely successful. But that in itself has led to challenges. The company decided to redesign its rider app to better address the needs of the millions of users in its growing user base across the country. 

The company had added features like UberPool, scheduled rides, and promotional vehicle views, which introduced complexity for riders and engineers. The new design had to be as simple as possible and more available—with a goal of 99.99% availability, and more easily scaled and adapted to evolving user behaviors and preferences. 

Through its concept design process, Uber found that using the best patterns and practices across both iOS and Android platforms enables better collaboration and more easily adds features for all users. Uber tested its ideas with prototypes to ensure its vision for its new app architecture delivered the desired experiences. 

Netflix

Netflix had a vision to be a leader in the streaming industry.  Through research into consumer trends and feedback, it was the first to capitalize on the binge-watching phenomenon, dropping all episodes of its original series as soon as they were launched. Netflix also was an early adopter of artificial intelligence (AI) to make personalized recommendations based on individual viewing habits to provide the experiences their viewers wanted. 

The results of listening to consumers and delivering entertainment on their terms have been dramatic. Netflix has captured and held market share in a space that was previously dominated by cable television.

Airbnb

Launched in 2008, Airbnb filled a market gap by connecting travelers seeking affordable, unique accommodations with hosts willing to rent out their spaces. The idea was innovative and held great potential, but concept design helped make it a successful venture. 

After a period of limited growth, the company’s founders discovered that quality imagery of the properties influenced decisions to book rooms—in short, consumers wanted to see what they were paying for. A better understanding of users’ behaviors and perceptions (and better imagery) helped put Airbnb on a growth track to become a $100 billion-dollar company. 

Challenges and considerations in concept design

Striking the right balance during a project's product concept design phase can be difficult. Designers must create innovative and unique product concepts, which must also be practical and achievable within production capabilities and cost constraints. 

To achieve a balanced design, it's crucial to collaborate with all members of the development team. An iterative approach that welcomes feedback and critique is necessary to continually adapt and improve the concept design. This helps the team address issues early on, before significant investments are made in the project.

Integration of concept design in product development

As a part of the overall product development process, product concept design provides the foundation upon which all subsequent stages are built. Based on the concept, design engineers work on the detailed aspects of the product, including its specifications and features. Design engineers’ decisions at the concept design stage significantly impact these details, dictating the product's functionality, usability, and appeal. 

Product concept design also informs successful marketing and commercialization, providing insights into user behaviors and motivations and the product’s value proposition. Building a go-to-market strategy and marketing campaigns around this data lead to greater visibility, sales, and revenues. 

Bring successful products to market

A well-executed concept design can make all the difference in creating a successful product that resonates with its target audience and stands out in a competitive market.

To leverage the power of product concept design and enhance your entire product development cycle, choose Patent355 as your digital product development partner

Contact us today to find out how we can accelerate product growth and help you achieve success.

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