User , Startups , Scaleups — 02.01.2023

Just Ship It: How Design Systems Help You Move Fast

Digital products move at breakneck speed. New products with different features that solve challenging problems are introduced daily. And at any given time, there are multiple products trying to solve the same problem. 

Speed to market is critical. If you’re the first to market, you’re the first to solve the problem.

It’s easy for founders to cling to perfection. But for most early-stage companies, it’s far more important to get your product in the hands of users quickly. Users provide valuable feedback to help you refine and update your product.

You might be hesitant to put your product out into the world in an imperfect state. But delaying feature launches and updates creates more room for competition. Unless you’re a multi-billion-dollar brand, you can’t afford to wait to “ship” your product. The longer you wait, the less runway you have.

If you hold onto your product, not only are you limiting your access to user feedback, but you’re also burning your most valuable resources — time and money. 

What qualifies as “shipping” your product?

Simply put, shipping product means putting a product or feature in the market to get a reaction. Shipping your product allows users to actually use it. 

Shipping an MVP may be as simple as sharing concept designs with a prospect, investor or user so they can react and provide feedback. 

Find out:

  • What excites them about your product?
  • Is your product helpful?
  • Do they need more information?

Then, use those insights to inform future iterations. It doesn’t always mean your product is fully self-service. It’s acceptable (and advisable) to scale back to garner valuable feedback and reactions.

It starts with your foundational design system.

To be the first to market, you need to establish a foundational design system. Your product team should be aligned on the product’s core components.

A design system helps your team move faster by minimizing time spent on predictable, repeated decisions (like what color or shape to make a button, or the tools available on a data grid).

The quicker and more efficiently your team can design, the faster you can get reactions from users. Real-time user feedback accelerates growth and impact for your entire company.

Most designers, like artists, will agree that no design is ever truly complete, and if it were up to us, we’d be iterating on the same design until we die (and I don’t think I’m alone there). The same goes for products.

To meet the changing needs of your users, your product must continually evolve.

Your customer should determine what your product needs. No, they don’t have to be on your payroll or calling all the shots. But your product exists to solve their problems, so leveraging user feedback becomes your superpower.  When user needs change, you must align your product to match. With established design systems, your design team is equipped to make changes and ship the revised product for faster feedback.

What if it all goes wrong?

What happens when you get something wrong and customers respond negatively? Fix it and forget it. You have to start somewhere, and it’s okay to make mistakes along the way. The bigger mistake — the one you need to avoid — is religiously pursuing perfection and, as a result, not delivering your product to market in time.

Product vulnerability is real. To build a marketable, valuable and usable product, you have to find out what doesn’t work with the same respect as determining what does. Most users will volunteer feedback to help you improve the product from its onset. These users become avid fans and evangelists for your product as you scale. 

Look to users to find out:

  • How much are they willing to pay for certain features?
  • What features are they using more frequently than others?
  • What’s their overall sentiment towards your product? 

Take Instagram for example. When they first launched, the product didn’t include stories or reels — some of today’s most valued features. But they continually updated the product based on user feedback and industry trends and it paid off big time.

What features do I prioritize?

Whether you’re launching your MVP or redesigning an existing product, determining what features to prioritize is like building a house. Certain features like running water and operational toilets are non-negotiable. For your product, non-negotiables may include self-service user signup and core product workflows.

To prioritize getting to market faster, you can sacrifice “nice-to-haves,” like a finished basement, or for your product, a custom report builder. These luxury features can be added later in the process because they’re not critical to the core functionality of your product. 

Align your team to achieve the right goals. 

Your product team needs to be clear about why you’re shipping quickly. Your goal might be to add 50 users in the first week. It’s okay to start with small, attainable goals while you scale your product to a larger audience. This gives you a north star so you can continue what’s working and fix what’s broken. 

Your goals should be feasible based on the time and resources available. Your product roadmap should clearly show what you’re validating.

Pursuing specific and measurable goals maintains internal focus so priorities and backlog items are clear to your product team.

Lean on industry experts. 

In-house teams can get caught in an endless cycle of testing with no tangible outcome in mind. This process delays shipping your product or a feature. 

A digital product agency can shortcut this cycle by identifying design inefficiencies, making decisions and creating design libraries that equip your team to move fast. With hundreds of at-bats designing for B2B SaaS companies, our team knows what works and what doesn’t. Our product experts can increase your design team’s efficiency by acting as your virtual product design team.

Effective product design doesn’t have to be flashy or fancy. The best product design resonates with users in a familiar way.

Learn how our product design experts can help you get your product in front of users quickly and effectively.