Every product lifecycle decision should be informed by your business strategy and audience’s expectations. Learn what to consider during the strategy phase.
In the world of product development, there’s plenty of controversy around whether users have a right to repair the items they invest in. Tech companies in particular have come under fire for locking down access to batteries and operating systems as a way to maintain security and control over the products they design and build.
We’re not here to wade into that fray. But we are here to emphasize that every product will eventually need repair and/or reach the end of its useful life. Because of that, questions around issues like right to repair, sustainable design, and planned obsolescence are critically important. Whether you’re researching medical, industrial, or consumer product design services, you need to begin thinking about your product’s middle and end stages long before your project even begins.
To that end, here are the key questions to consider before you turn your germ of an idea into a fully-fledged product.
Sustainable or single-use? Product control or right to repair? There are valid reasons to prioritize one path over the other in product design, but your options aren’t necessarily one or the other. For example, there are many ways to design single-use products with sustainability in mind.
The key is to think about every facet of your lifecycle as early in your product’s strategy phase as possible. Failing to define your goals and make appropriate plans in the beginning will mean losing control of how your product is ultimately decommissioned.
To arrive at the right course of action for your product, it’s important to lay out the journey of your product from cradle-to-grave. To aid in this effort, make sure your development team considers questions like:
Again, the route you ultimately take in response to each of these questions should map back to — and support — your overarching business goals and strategy. As with most things, there are trade-offs to be weighed and decisions to be made.
Decisions about your product’s lifecycle must be made early for two important reasons. First, they inform the literal design of your product. If you want consumers to be able to replace a battery, you have to design the battery to be easily removable. Second, these decisions impact your business model as a whole. If you want customers to send a product back to you for service, you must have the infrastructure in place to support that.
Think about factors like:
Thinking about your business needs prior to designing and launching your product allows you to provide your customers with a predictable and positive user experience, start to finish.
Interactions with your users rarely end at the point of sale. Just as it is important to think about the physical design elements of your product in the strategy phase, it’s also important to think about the customer experience and support interactions post-sale. How will you convey the information your users need to have the optimal product experience?
Truth be told, achieving the lifecycle goals you have for your product will never be entirely in your control. The end user has a role to play, too. If you want them to do their part, you need to provide clear, accessible instructions for how to handle your product.
This could take many forms depending on the product or service, but an important thing to consider is how you may be able to capture your user’s attention and where they habitually go to find more information. Perhaps it’s in the out of box experience, on your app, or on your company website and social media platforms. Perhaps there are third party services or forums where your users go to commune and share information. However you plan to capture their attention, it’s another element that should be considered in the strategy and design phases of product development.
If your end of life goals rely on the user to take action, consider these ways to encourage their cooperation:
Don’t assume your users will automatically know how to manage each stage of your product’s lifecycle. True, some users will not invest the energy to follow through no matter what type of instruction is provided, but by communicating clearly and laying out users’ repair, reuse, and disposal options, you can greatly increase your influence on how your product’s later lifecycle stages will be handled.
Every decision you make about your product’s lifecycle should be firmly rooted in your business strategy and informed by your customer’s needs and expectations. The best time to do it is early in your product’s strategy phase.
By asking the right questions and weighing the design and business implications of each choice you make, you can ensure your product serves your business needs and your customers in every stage of its lifecycle.