5 ways to become a better product designer

If you’re a product designer just starting your career, you might be looking for ways to level up your skills quickly.

Although there isn’t a one-size-fits-all list of tips, the following five things will help you become a better product designer from first principles, building a solid foundation upon which you can grow as a creative.

Let’s look at the five characteristics all product designers should strive for.

1. Be curious

Good product designers start their work with questions. They want to understand the problem they’re trying to solve, what the customer wants, and how they can build a product that meets those needs.

Product designers should continuously dig deeper, trying to get to the root cause for every design decision that could potentially impact their users, but ultimately, the success or failure of a product.

2. Be detail-oriented

The phrase “the devil is in the details” permeates product design culture. And for a good reason.

“The details are not the details. They make the design.” — Charles Eames

Not only should product designers make sure their product is easy to use, looks great, and works as intended, but they should also consider the overall user experience.

Every small decision up the chain flows down to the end result. Make sure you’re dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s.

3. Create prototypes

Creating an MVP (minimum viable product) to test ideas rapidly is one of the best ways to vet changes on a product.

Does this new section break the user experience?
Does the product look and work as intended?
Is this new feature scalable?

The answers to these questions and more can be found by making quick and dirty prototypes.

Remember: Mistakes made during the prototyping phase will cost you much less time and money than finding out something doesn’t work after it’s already shipped.

4. The best product designers are open to change

A lot of budding product designers get emotionally invested in their work. It’s hard not to — you spend a lot of time carefully considering every decision, every word, every section.

But a good product designer is always open to change and feedback.

This makes sense when you realize that a good product is never truly done. It will (and should) adapt to user and market conditions over time.

Try not to take negative feedback personally. See it as a chance to challenge yourself — constraints can be a product designer’s friend. A lot of growth can come from restrictions if you let it.

On the other hand, if you don’t believe the feedback is valid, find a constructive way to continue the conversation without derailing progress. But keep in mind that any good design process is iterative. The only decision that should ever win out is the one that promotes the product’s growth and viability.

5. Be patient

Finally, patience is a big part of becoming a better product designer. You’ll find that a big part of your job is balancing the wants and needs of several decision-makers, and you’ll need to keep your cool to produce the best work possible.

Use your expertise to educate and inform — sometimes, stakeholders can’t articulate what they’re trying to convey because they don’t have the verbal framework.

Work with them and be a guide throughout the process. You’ll likely find that at the end of the lesson, you’ll have a new product design advocate and someone who better understands the value you bring to the table — which is a win for designers everywhere.

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