Five Levels of Web-based Product Design


Anyone who has been involved with launching a website knows that there are lots of design factors to consider. Even a marginally sophisticated website will require development and coordination of multiple web page layouts, graphics (visual assets), text (marcomm or copy), server code, maybe some browser-side code (javascript), database tables, etc.

It can be a lot of stuff to consider and anyone responsible for launch of a product (e.g., product manager, product marketing manager, or a business unit lead) needs to think about “product design” from multiple levels.

Personally, as a product manager, I like to think about “product design” as the sum of five design perspectives:

  1. service design
    • what user objectives are we trying to achieve?
    • and therefore, what features/functions do we need to support?
  2. interaction design
    • what (minimum number of) logical steps do we need to lead the user thru in order to achieve their objective(s)?
    • how is a user going to navigate (link to) those steps?
  3. page layout design
    • what information does the user need and how to present it?
    • what does the user see in their browser window at each “step” in the interaction?
    • what visual assets and marcomm/copy do we need to provide at each step to drive the actions that we want?
  4. database design
    • what data do we need to collect from the user during the interaction?
    • how are these data going to be efficiently stored and retrieved (queried)?
  5. technical architecture design
    • what software components (either 3rd party or homegrown) will be needed to deliver this service?
    • how will the code be organized to deliver this service?
    • what hardware will be needed?
    • how will the hardware be physically arranged and connected?

That’s what I would consider to be the bare minimum set of design perspectives to cover just to ship a website that isn’t fundamentally broken. E.g., if all these designs simply do not conflict with each other, then you’ve got a site that basically works. To set a higher bar, then all these designs should mesh and reinforce each other to achieve some highly valuable customer objective in a way that really captivates and delights the user.
I’m sure we could add more to the list above (e.g., brand design, design for testability, etc.) and we could sub-divide each perspective into finer sub-categories. Or we could chunk them up differently, too (e.g., Frank Spiller’s 10 Types of Design).

And if we expand the scope of design to include hardware products, then that also opens up all sorts of other perspectives:

  • industrial design
  • design for manufacturability
  • design for assembly
  • design for serviceability
  • materials design


Point being that successful product design requires looking at a product from multiple perspectives!

2 Comments on “Five Levels of Web-based Product Design”

  1. […] Five Levels of Web-based Product Design […]

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