How to Design a Product People Want: Designing for the Consumer


One of the most important rules of product design is to always remember that you aren’t designing for yourself: you’re designing for the market. What makes a design a product is that it is intended to make it onto store shelves somewhere and be purchased by consumers. There are infinitely many different ways for the product to make it to the eventual consumers, but it is the inevitable point of all product design to sell something to someone somewhere.

Like everything worth doing, it’s easier to say than it is to do. The overwhelming tendency for any designer is to design for themselves. Of course, we’re intelligent, interesting people, and we’re full of great ideas. The problem though is that we aren’t going to be the ones eventually buying the product — at least not in enough quantity to sustain the business! And this means that, while the creative team behind a project is always an invaluable source of inspiration and innovation, ultimately you need to cater your design towards the consumer.

So, here we are with some tips to help you design with the consumer in mind.

Define Your Target Audience

We’ve already said that the most crucial rule of product design is to design for the consumers. That’s true. But everyone is a consumer, and we’re all very different. It goes without saying that you can’t create a product that appeals to literally everybody. If you’ve created a product that gives everybody what they need and want in a thing, then you are an actual wizard. For most of us, it’s far more realistic to target our product at a specific subset or community of consumers who are likely to be receptive to what we’re trying to do.

By identifying and focusing in on a specific identifiable group, you can make well-informed and empirically directed decisions about how to develop your product idea and which features to implement in order to secure a wide enough market share to be successful. When you try to design for everybody, you’re really designing for nobody. Find your target audience, and you can build an actually informative dialogue that will constructively inform your design process.

In order to identify the right target audience, you need to:

1. Understand Your Product. When the ancient Greeks wanted to know the future, they would visit the temple of Apollo at Delphi. Outside the temple was an inscription, which in translation read “Know Thyself”. If you want to know the future, you first need to know yourself. This is true for product design, too. If you want to be able to control the future success of your product and know who will want to buy it, you need to know your product very well.

This means knowing what your product does, what specific problems it addresses, and how it exists in relation to other competing solutions that are already on the market. In other words, it means knowing its strengths and weaknesses. The more you know about your product, the more you know about the kinds of people that might be interested in buying it, and the kinds of things you’ll have to do to get them on board.

For example, perhaps you’ve developed a new sleeping bag that can handle extremely low temperatures and is very light, but that will cost considerably more than alternatives already on the market. What kinds of people will be interested in that product? Your average campers probably won’t care about the incredible thermal qualities. What about low-income or homeless people who live in cold countries? Well, they can’t afford the cost. So you’re going to be marketing this towards the kinds of people who find themselves camping in extreme environments by choice, which means you’re target audience will be explorer types and thrill junkies, and also anyone who wants to identify that way and has the money to do so.

2. Understand Your Geographic Domain. Where you sell your thing will play an important role in who you are able to sell it to. Are you looking at running your own local retail business, or will you be selling online and shipping globally? Are you looking to license your product with national or international distributors, or will you be selling it out of the back of your truck at farmers’ markets? These are important questions that need to be considered in order to identify your target audience.

If you’re selling high-performance sleeping bags, for example, you will be dealing with a relatively small community that is spread all around the world, but largely in affluent countries. So you’ll need to think of how to reach those people, and also how to design a product that will be appealing to folks from all kinds of different cultures who share an interest in the kind of thing you’re selling.

The Internet essentially allows anyone to operate globally. However, this comes with certain challenges, as you still need to think of ways to interact with and communicate to your audience. If your audience speaks 50 different languages and is distributed across four continents, you’ll be presented with a different set of challenges than if you were competing specifically in your local market. product design demographics

3. Understand Your Demographics. The more you can discern about the primary age, income, gender, location, and interests of your target audience, the more you can cater your value proposition to their wants and needs. Demographic indicators can also be extremely informative when it comes to determining the best way to communicate with your consumers. People of different generations, for example, interact differently with various online tools and social media platforms. People with different income levels have generally different priorities and schedules. All of this information can be valuable in informing your product design decisions and in helping you to craft an appealing brand image.

Related to demographics is the concept of psychographics. This is the study and analysis of personality, lifestyle, values, attitudes, and interests. In other words, the kinds of individual identifiers that are more individualistic and fluid than those typically considered by demographic surveys. These characteristics can be just as valuable as the more classical demographic markers when it comes to specifying a particular target audience and designing a product that appeals specifically to them.

To sum it all up: the more information you have at your disposal, the better equipped you are to design a product that the market will respond to.

Identify the Wants and Needs of the Consumer

Once you have got a reasonably good idea of exactly who your customer base is, you can start identifying exactly what it is they need that isn’t currently being provided by your competitors. Your product needs to have some characteristics or features which distinguish it from the alternatives already on the market. Your best strategy, if you want to be successful, is to focus on features and characteristics that your clearly defined customer base wants. It’s a lot easier to sell someone something they want than to convince someone they should want something.

This takes research. A lot of people feel like they know what consumers want. Well, you can’t know that unless you find out, and the way you find out is by actually doing the research. As we talked about earlier, you can’t just assume that other people want the same things that you want.

There are a number of different ways to approach the empirical task of identifying market demands. Some are free, others cost a bit of money. All of them take time and require some degree of thoughtfulness and diligence, but the payoff is worth it. If you don’t take the time to get it right from the beginning, you can spend a lot of time and money refocusing a floundering product later on.

Here are a number of strategies that can be employed when figuring out what your potential customers want to see in a product.

1. Online Research: This one won’t cost you anything but time. There are online communities for everything these days. Whatever field you’re designing for, odds are you can find a forum of one kind or another where people talk about it. These forums can be a great place for you to observe your audience in their natural environment. You can see what their likes and dislikes are regarding competing products. They might even talk about what they wish they had. Heck, you can even ask them directly.

You can also check out the websites of the competition. If they have forums, you can take a look in there to see what kinds of things their customers aren’t happy with. Compare their products to yours and figure out what angle you can take in order to bring a better product to the table.

2. Keyword Research: Okay, so this is technically also a form of online research, but it is important enough to deserve its own numbered entry. This is actually something you should be doing for marketing purposes, too, so you’re killing two birds with one stone (no matter what you’re selling, you should have a website, and that means you should care about keywords). Looking at the keywords that people are searching for that relate to your product is a good way to put your finger on the pulse of market demand.

There are two basic kinds of keywords: long tail keywords, and fat head keywords. If those seem like weird terms, take a look at this graph:



Fat heat keywords are those on the left side of the graph. These are the keywords that get tens or hundreds of thousands or even millions of search engine hits per month. These are terms that are very difficult to rank for when working on your SEO.

Long tail terms, on the other hand, are those you would see in the more right side of the graph. These are terms with much fewer searches. Long tail terms tend to be a lot more specific than the fat head keywords. While “sleeping bag” would be a fat head term, “cold weather sleeping bag” is more long tail, and “lightweight cold weather sleeping bag” is extremely long tail.

But we aren’t talking about SEO, so what are why are we discussing keywords? Well, if you take a look at the long tail keywords associated with your product, you’ll get a window into some of the more specific, niche interests and concerns that your target audience has. This can be a valuable source of information.

3. Direct Consumer Interaction: Otherwise known as ‘the old fashioned way’. You can figure out what people want by asking them. We already mentioned doing this through participation in forums and online communities. There are also the more classical methods of surveys and focus groups.

Asking people what they want from a product is, unsurprisingly, a pretty good way to analyze market demand. The limitations of this strategy will always be your sample size. You can’t ask anybody, and the larger the sample size, the more time, energy, and money will be required to administer the surveys or run the focus groups.

Combining direct customer interaction with the other tools mentioned here is a good strategy. Budget what you can towards focus testing and consumer surveys, and take advantage of the lower-intensity methods of online research and keyword analysis to help supplement what you learn from direct consumer interaction.

Work With Experienced Designers

Teaming up with experienced industrial designers and product developers is a great way to create a desirable product. Professional consumer product designers have a wealth of knowledge and expertise when it comes to creating products with a high-quality user experience and manufacturability built in.

That’s where we come in. Cad Crowd’s goal is to make it easier for entrepreneurs and innovators to connect with the product design and development services they need to bring the optimum version of their product to market. We love working with entrepreneurs and inventors, and we understand that budgets can be right. Our services are completely flexible to accommodate any kind of project, whether you’re looking for a quick solution to a design problem or you’re looking to partner up with a designer more long term. We’ve got world-class design talent ready to work with you on your project.

Tell us about your project and get a free quote. There’s no obligation. We’ll review your requirements and connect you with one of our leading designers based on the needs you’ve identified. Give us a shot today!