Some time ago, we have decided in K2 to change the name of UX department to K2 Product Design. It was not dictated by the fashion: we gave it a lot of thoughts and we were quite disheartened by the way the “user experience” term operates on the market and how it is perceived.
We were struck by the realization that we do not work the way typical UX designers work in Poland. That we are focused on different things and we are fed up with being called just UX designers. We do not want to be asked to simply “do UX”. What does it even mean?! I addressed this subject a year ago in my article titled “2015 — the year the UX has ended”, which became quite popular. One of our main duty, I daresay always, was to create the product’s strategy and to plan the design process instead of designing user interfaces only.
Product Design means more than working on some “experiences” — it is creation of digital products: starting with the strategy through concept and design to implementation, and with ever-present focus on delivery of real business value and not just a positive UX. Simple as that.
The similar change was introduced by the reputable British agency called ustwo and its owner gave such a statement during an interview:
One important change is that we have ditched “visual” or “interactive” designer as terminology, and we now call everyone “product designers.” I know it’s just a label, but philosophically we don’t want anyone to absolve themselves of this wider responsibility. If you say “I’m just a visual designer” then you might allow yourself to just think in terms of visual design constraints, but the reality is that a product touches a human being and product designers are responsible for how the product will work and how humans respond to it. The product designer mentality is our effort to make designers more responsible for the result and part of the wider steps of designers getting a seat at the table with the executive group. Designers need to be able to explain to them how their designs will help with user acquisition and retention, things like that. Because a CFO is not going to want to hear about visual hierarchy.
Jules Ehrhardt, ustwo co-owner
K2 Product Design is managed by me and Magda Bicka. I am dealing mostly with business development while Magda manages the project implementation processes. We have been doing this in K2 for more than 10 years now, so we may freely place ourselves amongst the creators of UX market in Poland. What we do in K2 Product Design? We help our clients to create and improve digital products and services. We can divide it into three main areas:
- Innovation strategy: Design-Driven Innovation.
- Product Strategy & Ideation.
- User Experience & Visual Design.
There is the forth area — development. K2 has the development team (front-end and back-end) of 50+ people, though we also often cooperate with the client’s IT or other development companies. However, I would like to focus on design services and consulting now — to show you how we work and what approach do we have. In order to keep it more interesting, I will start upside down.
UX & Visual Design.
We design mostly user interfaces for websites and web applications, but also quite a lot of mobile apps. Sometimes we are asked to do more untypical projects — for instance interfaces for devices (like ATMs or a machine for servicing automobile air conditioning), chatbots, or service design projects where it is more about processes than interfaces (like the concept of banking branch of the future). We work on both very large and small projects. The first can last a year or longer, while the second no more than a few weeks or less. Some clients are working with us for 5-10+ years already, so their products are partially our products, because we know them very well and often work on them iteratively. We do not use many of UX methods as we find them not of a great use. And we think that post-its are overrated. ;)
We rely closely on Lean and Agile derived approach. Maximizing of work not done: doing more with less.
It is a frequent thing, for example, that we do not prepare wireframes. It is possible if UX designer and graphic designer go along well together and work together from the start. Then simple sketches on paper are enough. Sometimes wireframes are necessary, but in most cases, we don’t like to show them to the client, let alone to accept it with the client. They are no more than auxiliaries for the project. However, there are projects where it looks different and there are hundreds of wireframes. In order to create a good digital product, we believe we need:
- Research — to know the business, client, the industry, the competition;
- Feedback — it is always worth discussing designs with other people in the team, but the opportunity to compare your ideas against ideas of other designers is always the most valuable; in K2 we strive to consult our projects with each other as it always makes them better; sometimes we were asked for such support by the designers working at the client’s, where designing was not our responsibility;
- Big idea/differentiator/advantage — concept, to keep it short. You need to have an idea that emerges from the market gap, that satisfies users’ needs, allows to meet business goals, but also reflects a unique nature of a product and its user experience, good if it's also hard to copy. And NO, an Excel spreadsheet with a list of features copied from competition is not a concept for a product!(Sometimes we receive such documents as briefs from clients, who believe them to be finished concepts – all you have to do is to make some pretty pictures on the base of it.)