Sun, 6 June 2021

Exo on the Couch

Understanding Product Debt

Join David as he chats with our senior designer extraordinaire, Pierce O’Brien on a recent project and product debt.

Pierce is heading up the product design process with a number of our projects.

Product debt typically refers to anything that either ruins the product experience or internal productivity. Each time we have a key team member not across vital information, our internal efficiency is at stake, costing the project time and decreasing profitability. Sooner or later this debt must be repaid!

The client in question was keen to get input on existing product flow as well as design an additional component. From the start, it was evident that this client didn’t have any of the foundational assets that Pierce would need to really get his teeth stuck in.

The process of building up a product baseline goes into the detail of the research, documenting and sharing the research, then moving into the information architecture and user flows. It’s not just designers who need these user flows, but everyone in the team who wants and needs to have an understanding of the product.

As the product changes and evolves, it then becomes really simple to change and amend the flow, giving huge amounts of clarity to the design team and the client.

Without doing this, it was evident that the client had a lot of gaps, and were relying on a lot of assumptions without the data to understand the goals of the users. It was hard to understand user goals and subsequently, what the client's product should really look like.

There’s a cost associated with creating these foundational design elements, but if not done, the potential to accrue product debt is increased.

One way that Pierce really recommends understanding the concept of debt is acknowledging the problem and putting it on a wall (digital or real!).

Every time, anyone across the team comes across a problem where it causes the business to spend money, a dollar sign is added to that item. Over time, you get a really clear idea as to how much money your product debt is really costing your business.

The first step to getting rid of your product debt is getting your high level product elements aligned. The work you are putting in at the beginning is highly important for efficiency. There are plenty of tools you can use, from spreadsheets to something like miro. Or you can get someone like Pierce onboard to really get stuck in and do this for you.

Need to reduce your product debt? Chat to us!

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