On this page, you’ll find resources to walk you through a user-centered design process, to come up with new ideas for products and services, and then to implement them.  These resources all support a design process that generally follows this five step path.

Design Process and types - by margaret hagan-07We will be adding resources on the general process, as well as walk-throughs of each of these five steps.  Stay tuned as we build up this page with tools & guides to go through this process.

Notes on the Product/Service Design Process

You have an idea for a new product to build. Now you need to get from this idea — this possible way to solve a problem — and discern how (and if) you can get it to have impact.

Going through a  design process can lead you from an idea, or even just a problem area, to a strong, vetted, grounded concept of what product you should build.
DESIGN notes - basic design process
It will lead you from idea to a well-planned idea that you can enlist a developer to actually code or build, and then return to you to implement.
Design Process notes and deliverables

This part of the toolbox provides you with methods, props, and guides to take you from idea to a pilot of your project. Scroll through to go step-by-step, or jump to a section now!

Knowing Your Users

The first step of nearly any design process is understanding who ‘the user’ of your design will be. The user is the person who is the main target of your product, service, organization, information, or system.  She is the person whose problem your design will be addressing.

To know your user, you must engage in user research inside the problem area you’ve scoped.

Defining Personas

After you’ve interviewed, observed, and gathered information about the people involved in the problem area — then it’s time to start defining who your users are.

To unpack what you’ve heard, one exercise is value-mapping.  Document beliefs, preferences, priorities, frustrations, loves, hates, and other values that you’ve heard from your user — and that you can infer from what you’ve heard & observed.

Design Process - Value Mapping exercise

Another unpacking tool is a Needs pyramid. Looking at the user research you’ve gathered, map out the needs inside this pyramid.  The most peripheral & passing go into the bottom-most section of the pyramid. The most important one or two go in the top section. This should help you prioritize among the needs you’ve heard.

Design process - Needs mapping

Now you should know who might be using your design, what they value, and what they need. Then you need to start creating ‘user archetypes’ or ‘personas’. These generalizations of actual people will guide the rest of your design process.

Persona and Use Case Doc

Of course, there could be multiple users — not all products will have just one user.  Your design could apply to multiple different types of users — use this document above to identify & characterize these main user personas.

This document also guides you through defining ‘Use Cases’.  Use cases are how your user will engage and use your design, step by step.

Brainstorming Solutions

Here are some general rules for how and why we brainstorm a multitude of ways to solve the problem for the user you’ve defined.

Design Process Notes - Get it Out of Your Head

Design Process - notes - improv

Design Process - steal steal steal


A key and exhilarating step of the design process is prototyping. At early stages, you should generate lots of low-fidelity prototypes of what your idea will be.

Design ProcessPrototyping Design sketch

At first the prototypes you build will be a continuation of your brainstorming.  As you try to build stuff, it will help you come up with more ideas & make them more concrete.  After some rounds of these low-resolution, brainstorming prototypes, you’ll be moving on to prototypes that will be closer to a final-ish design that can actually solve the problem you’ve scoped.

Design process action driven 2

An easy way to generate low-fidelity prototypes is to sketch your idea in 8 scenes.  It could be 8 screens of your app or website — from when your user finds the product, through how they use it, and how the product resolves their situation.

Eight Main Scenes of your project - a prototype one page doc

You can also map out your user’s journey from problem to resolution using a journey map.  Identify who your user is before — with notes on their problem situation. Then note what ‘touchpoints’ your user will have with your design. Finally note who your user is after engaging with your design — what is different now?   Design Process Prop - Your Users Journey template

Now think about situating your design in your user’s life. When will she use it — at what time of the day? What point in a week? When during a month? What season of the year? And what point in her entire lifetime. This exercise — even if it’s just zones and not precise points — will force you to situate your design in specific contexts.    Design Process - Opportunity Moments


You’ve vetted a design with user testing — you know that there is promise to pursue. Now it’s time to think of what scale and scope your first implementation should be.

Try this exercise: put all your ideal features and functions in the right-side box of “Then”.  Now scale back to the three, limited features that you can and should implement in the “Now”.  Constraints are healthy for your pilot, to help you get to an implementation sooner, and to force you to prioritize what’s core to the value you’re providing.

Design Process Props - Now vs Then plan

You should continually be asking yourself — and your users — if this product or service is worth developing.  There are three main areas for user testing to investigate.  You cannot start this testing soon enough.

Design Process - User Testing - As a USER, is this a well-designed product? copy

More resources to use

TAPoR, the Text Analysis Portal for Research has a very useful overview of tools to ...
The article 10 Heuristics for User Interface Design by Jakob Nielsen provides a convenient checklist ...
Piktochart is an online, paid tool to create your own infographics easily, by plugging in ...
Here's an excellent article from Rachel Banning-Lover on The Guardian, intended particularly for NGOs and ...
An article from Jim Babbage on Adobe's Blog, via Creating Static and Interactive Infographics with ...
The Pencil Project is an open-source software for all operating systems, that lets you quickly ...
Gliffy is a brows-er based piece of software that lets you create diagrams, organization charts, ...
The product design sprint: prototype with Keynote | Google Ventures. The product design sprint: prototype (day 4) ...
Story-centered design: how to make a prototype in PowerPoint | Google Ventures. Story-centered design: how ...
Set up your own text-messaging service for free. « SMS 411. If your legal design project ...
A Periodic Table of Visualization Methods. from Ralph Lengler & Martin J. Eppler at www.visual-literacy.org This ...
InVision is a great (and free) tool to use to go from sketches or mockups ...
Welcome! This Visualization for Lawyers page will be a running resource for lawyers, law students, ...
Data For Radicals has a great tutorial for making searchable, filterable tables of your data. ...
  5 Infographics to Teach You How to Easily Create Infographics in PowerPoint [+ TEMPLATES].
Visual.ly has a very easy tool for you to create venn diagrams, compose them beautifully, ...
A Beginner’s Guide to Wireframing from Webdesigntuts+. Here is an excellent step-by-step tutorial on how to ...
Collected from: 21 very important diagrams that you must save on your computer | naijaPOSE.  
via How to Prototype an App in 1 hour: meet POP | Board of Innovation. How ...
Awwwards has collected together a whole set of free elements for you to lay out, ...
So you want to build a website? I know it is tempting to jump into just ...
Here is a five-part free tutorial from Skillshare, taught by the Noun Project, on how ...
This website is full of examples of great free icons, symbols, vectors, and pictograms to ...
This is a free set of beautiful, sharp icons to use in your designs from ...
  Designmodo provides this User Interface Kit for you, if you want to develop very clean ...
The Stanford d.school has made an online resourcethe Virtual Crash Course in Design Thinking to ...
Visualizing.org is a site that collects together a community of people who are visualizing complex ...

21 Comments on “Develop a New Product or Service”

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  2. sam

    I stumbled across this page as I was searching for design process information. Thank you so much for it. It is just wonderful. It breaks things down into manageable, understandable pieces. And it provides tools and thought processes for working through a project. It is really quite good. Thank you!

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  12. Jake

    This type of thought process really helped myself underline key aspects of designing and marketing a product, it is a very detailed way in which to think critically and ultimately succesfully about how to make you idea a reality.

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