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6 creative product design ideas to inspire your next prototype

You’ve empathized with your users’ challenges and defined your insights as pain points. But when it comes to converting these insights into full-fledged product design ideas, you go numb.

You’re not alone. Product design can be overwhelming, especially when it seems like there are hundreds of different ways to build solutions for your users.

Last updated

13 May 2022

This article will dive into six ways successful businesses have developed innovative design ideas and give you actionable strategies to generate your own ideas so you can find the best product solutions for your users.

Use Hotjar to develop user-centric product design ideas

Learn how data-rich user behavior insights can help you design products that delight users

What is the ‘ideate’ phase in the product design process?

Product design is the entire process of defining underlying problems based on understanding your target audience’s needs and gaps in the market—and developing the right solutions to bridge these gaps.

There are 5 stages in the product design process

  1. Empathize

  2. Define 

  3. Ideate

  4. Prototype

  5. Test

Once you've empathized with your users’ most pressing pain points, you define problem statements that help you understand the problem better. This brings you to the third stage: ‘ideate’, where you look for viable ideas to address your users’ needs.

You’ll need to get creative and really innovate to develop unique products that solve your user problems. To see how this translates into action, let’s look at how six companies used design thinking to ideate stunning solutions for their users.

6 product design ideas to inspire your own

Great product design solves user problems in the most convenient and viable way possible, removing friction points and letting them carry out their jobs to be done seamlessly. 

Here are six top product design ideas, with examples of how successful brands ideated brilliantly with incredible results: 

1. Voice of Customer (VoC)-led ideas

Instead of letting your gut lead product decisions, VoC feedback can help you gather qualitative insights about user concerns and tailor your products to their needs. 

This means using product design tools to conduct research like surveys, interviews, customer support tickets, emails, feedback forms, and customer calls to understand user pain points, concerns, and challenges in their own words.

How Verizon used VoC data to find product solutions 

Verizon, an American wireless network operator, is a case in point. They used internal data like customer calls, surveys, online chats, and store visit concerns to empathize with the problems their customers faced. They combined these responses with natural processing to classify large volumes of customer feedback throughout the customer journey and tweak their product design. 

Once they understood the problem, it was time to ideate. The Verizon team brainstormed different solutions, tested out ideas with customers, and decided the best approach was to adjust their product so that customers could keep their original phone number.

This product design modification got them an influx of customers who rushed to sign up to the network, which offered relief to a significant problem.

How to follow their example

Product experience insights tools like Hotjar (👋) can help you understand user pain points to ideate. Use Hotjar Surveys to gather customer feedback without disrupting your users’ browsing experience and Feedback tools to capture real-time VoC data on specific product elements.

Next, conduct a customer complaint audit report every month to assess all customer-facing materials where you capture the customers’ words through support calls, online chat, and email support.

Then, use the VoC data you’ve gathered to generate customer-led product design ideas. Once you’ve got several possible product modifications on the table, experiment further with users to decide which ideas to prioritize.

2. Put yourself in your users’ shoes

What’s even better than deploying observation and research techniques to understand your users’ problems? The answer: being a user yourself and experiencing problems firsthand.

Research gives you access to third-party data, but when you experience the problem yourself, you see things an outsider doesn’t. This information can open your eyes and give you the perspective you need to generate problem-solving product design ideas.

How The Good Kitchen walked in their users’ shoes

The Good Kitchen, a meal delivery service system developed by the design agency Hatch and Bloom, is a great example. In 2007, Denmark had a population of 125,000 elderly citizens and needed a seamless meal delivery service for this segment of the population.

Hatch and Bloom made plans to interview and test prototypes with consumers and chefs in real time to understand their concerns. They created scenarios for both of these audiences to understand how they experienced the service. This user-centric approach helped them generate several ideas based on user needs for a more dignified service system with greater food options.

Once they had concrete product ideas on the table, they moved to validating and testing. They regularly conducted interviews, met with consumers and chefs on their own turf, experienced their concerns, empathized, and started testing out ideas. Hatch and Bloom improved the communication between chefs, delivery staff, and consumers by introducing a chain of comment cards that helped with the back and forth. They reorganized the menu with inputs from professional chefs and brought in a gourmet chef to change the negative culture of the kitchen into a holistic, positive one. Finally, they brought it all together with a fully-functioning website and a rock-solid backend communication system.

The resulting product design gave elderly users more meal options with better service but also ensured greater flexibility for the chefs and other employees who prepared and delivered meals.

#Hatch and Bloom’s design thinking approach with a focus on user problems helped them improve their meal delivery service
Hatch and Bloom’s design thinking approach with a focus on user problems helped them improve their meal delivery service

How to follow their example

Shift your perspective from being a product manager or product designer to a user. Forget the specifics for a while and just focus on empathizing with user problems throughout their journey.

Use Session Recordings to get insight into the user’s perspective by seeing what they see and tracking how they navigate your website in real-time by following their clicks and scroll movements. Combine this with Heatmaps to assess popular and unpopular elements on your website that help you identify user pain points.

Then, use these insights to lead full-fledged product design modifications.

3. Build and test creative hypotheses 

Data stands at the heart of innovative product design. But does this mean that you should make crucial product decisions based solely on what the initial data suggests? Not quite.

Rich insights gathered from first-party data, customer interviews, and product experience insights tools help you discover exactly what is missing—but not every idea is worth implementing. You need to develop a creative hypothesis for a possible viable solution, test prototypes or soft-launch possible changes, and review the impact on your business to validate your idea before launching it full scale.

That’s exactly what Airbnb realized—and they leveraged concept testing to ideate toward a billion-dollar company.

How Airbnb built and tested creative hypotheses to ideate product modifications 

This approach toward product design allowed Airbnb to find unique opportunities for product innovation and continuous discovery. For example, the company hired a new designer and gave him the onboarding task of suggesting new features. He re-evaluated the like button, shared as a 'star' on the website that allowed users to add their shortlisted properties to a favorites list. By combining user data with creative ideation, he decided to change the star to a 'heart' and went on to test and ship the idea. 

The result? Airbnb saw a 30% increase in engagement from this simple change!

How to follow their example

Create an environment that supports innovative thinking, hypothesis development, and testing. 

While not every idea is worth shipping, encourage your team to find opportunities for innovation in every part of your product. Try out key ideas to check the payoff and use Hotjar's Session Recordings, Heatmaps, and Feedback tools to test your hypotheses and gather customer feedback from some early users before fully releasing a feature or update.

"I'm not sure how useful data is if you don't have a meaningful scale to test it against because it may be misleading. The way that we do things is that if we have an idea for something, we build it into the culture of this idea that it is okay to do something that doesn't scale. We encourage all our employees to go be a pirate, venture into the world and get a little test nugget, and come back and tell us the story they found."

Joe Gebbia
Co-founder, Airbnb

4. Leverage cutting-edge technology

A few years ago, people might have laughed if you talked about regular companies ideating and developing products through machine-learning and virtual reality tools. Back then, they were only leveraged by million-dollar brands that had the capital and resources to invest in such heavy tech with high-end development teams.

With more accessible solutions available today, teams can create technologically sophisticated product design ideas without needing large sums of capital. 

How ASOS leveraged AR to design innovative product solutions

ASOS is a fantastic example of ideating user-centric solutions using technical innovation.

The online fashion and cosmetics retailer realized that consumers were skeptical while buying products online because they were never quite sure how the clothes they saw on the web would look once the product was actually delivered. Besides, consumers often missed the in-store shopping experience, especially after the pandemic.

So, ASOS developed a solution using augmented reality (AR) that helped them provide an immersive shopping experience to their customers. Their 'Virtual Catwalk' feature allows customers to point their camera on a surface and see a model wearing or using the product as if it were right in front of them.

ASOS also innovated new ideas that help customers shop with their voice alone, and an AI-driven fit assistant, which helps them find the right size in the first go.

#The ASOS Virtual Catwalk feature allows users to see the products they want on a model as if they were walking in front of them in real-time to help make purchase decisions
The ASOS Virtual Catwalk feature allows users to see the products they want on a model as if they were walking in front of them in real-time to help make purchase decisions

How to follow their example

Identify tech-led ideas you can use to solve your users’ most time-consuming concerns or automate a solution that already exists but can be made more efficient. 

The sky’s the limit when you’re at the creative ideation stage. At the same time, once you start prioritizing ideas to implement as solutions, you should also assess your available capital and resources to decide whether your tech design ideas are viable.

5. Create storyboards of user journeys 

Storyboards are an essential tool for the design thinking process. With storyboards, you can visualize sequential scenarios to see how a solution will help a prospective customer or how they’ll use it in their life.

You can use storyboards to generate product ideas by mapping out the entire user journey and tailoring the product to find the solution that best fits across different stages. 

How Spotify used user journey storyboards to design a solution

By using this tactic, Spotify had the idea to create its infamous 'share' button that allows users to share playlists, songs, and artist albums on social media and with friends for better engagement.

They created a user persona and user flows to understand what motivates their customers to click the share button and discover ways to increase its visibility and functionality. They then created storyboards to validate the user flow, depicting how a user would share music with a friend from within the Spotify app by using third-party apps and even with someone who doesn’t use Spotify.

Their ideation was mainly backed by user flows and connecting the dots on how users would respond to a certain action. This process further included wireframing, prototyping, beta testing, and then pushing the feature live. 

However, storyboarding helped Spotify visualize the user journey and validate their ideas for this specific feature.

#Spotify used storyboards to map out user journeys and understand how a user would use their 'share' button to develop the right solution
Spotify used storyboards to map out user journeys and understand how a user would use their 'share' button to develop the right solution

How to follow their example

After you empathize with your users’ challenges and define problem statements—map out your user personas, list out touchpoints and channels, and start validating your hypotheses through storyboards. This will help you understand which of your ideas are viable to help you solve your users’ problems and improve their product experience.

Use Session Recordings to evaluate how users navigate your website to help you inform your user journey maps and test your concepts.

6. Use immersive prototyping to refine your ideas

Most products don’t target a single set of customers: you’re likely focusing on different user groups.

That means you’ll need to try out different designs to learn which of your ideas will satisfy your multiple audiences. Explore different scenarios to understand what different users need, what they’re struggling with, and which product design ideas will make their problems disappear and improve their experience.

How UberEats used immersive prototyping to refine and validate their product design ideas

UberEats, an online food ordering and delivery platform, uses a one-of-a-kind technique called immersive prototyping to cater to three different audiences—delivery partners, restaurants, and consumers. Since they operate in over 80 cities, they’re not just dealing with three audiences but also with diverse cultures, languages, values, and ways of doing business.

To make sure their product and feature ideas are tailored to these audiences in different cities, UberEats uses immersive prototyping. They visit these cities, experience the culture, and observe how people use the products they designed to generate new ideas for improvements. Here’s how:

  • The Walkabout program: UberEats designers visit different cities, where they eat, find information on delivery logistics, consumer eating patterns, and buying habits. Then, they use the data they collected to create a detailed analysis of different markets and customers and generate new ideas.

  • Order shadowing: Designers follow delivery partners, visit restaurants during festivals or rush hour and sit in people’s homes as they order to understand how their product functions in action and refine their ideas based on data.

  • Fireside chats: Customers, restaurant managers, and delivery partners are invited to the office to share their feedback and experiences.

How to follow their example

Instead of observing your users from the sidelines, become an active part of their product experience to understand their friction points, frustration, and potential bottlenecks.

Becoming an active participant in your users’ surroundings will help you get first-hand information you can use to guide your product design and develop empathy that will inform brilliant, customer-centric ideation. 

How to come up with product design ideas

Excellent product design operates at the intersection of cognitive and creative approaches to enhancing the user experience. The ideation process is about striking a balance between unique ideas and relevant product positioning—that’s the tricky part. 

Here are five ways to come up with stellar product design ideas while balancing both angles:

  • Brainstorm: leverage your team's collective creativity to produce innovative ideas. Conduct time-bound brainstorming sessions focused on one problem statement and goal. Use these sessions to get the maximum number of verbal and written ideas that you can build on later. 

  • Use mind maps: structure your thoughts visually through mind maps and draw concrete ideas from them. Start with one central idea and factor in the varying views of everyone on your team. Then, build contextual links between diverse ideas to consolidate them into a unique, feature-packed product.

  • Practice brain dump activities: brain dumping is another way to release creative ideas and encourage lateral thinking. There are no fixed rules for a brain dump session. It can be in a setting that is formal or informal, timed or untimed, virtual or offline, and moderated or unmoderated. It’s a flexible approach that helps bring out the best of your team by removing all the pressure.

  • Leverage the 6-3-5 method: a widely popular creativity exercise, the 6-3-5 method proposes that six people come together to solve a common problem. They create three unique ideas and pass these ideas to the next person every five minutes. This exercise promotes collective brainstorming and a free flow of thoughts that you can eventually narrow down to find that one epic idea. 

  • Find out what your customers want: a proven way to ideate and improve your product design is to spend time identifying what your users need. You can use Hotjar’s Survey and Feedback tools to get unbiased feedback about possible improvements. The Hotjar platform also zeroes in on user pain points by analyzing their behavior through heatmaps and recording their sessions. 

Ideating for product design is a problem-solving process that thrives on out-of-the-box thinking. For successful idea generation, spell out critical product problems you want to solve, keep your users at the center, and produce innovative solutions through free thinking. 

Constantly improve your product design ideas

You don’t just develop your product idea and call it a day. Idea-driven product designing is an ongoing process based on getting inside your customers’ heads at a granular level to understand how you can create solutions to solve their biggest challenges.

Ideation is a key stage in the design thinking process that can make or break your product's success. Use product design examples to inform your design strategy and develop unique solutions for your audience. With ongoing customer feedback and discovery techniques, you can continuously develop new product design ideas that delight your customers with every iteration.

Use Hotjar to develop user-centric product design ideas

Learn how data-rich user behavior insights can help you design products that delight users

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