Defining a product

Part 3 of 5 in the series Human-centered product design in 2019.

Pusheen watching movie on phone

What is needed to define a digital product, and which are some 2019 job role titles that does the needed work?

My answer is both too limited (there are many things that need to be done that are not part of my answer) and too distinct (one person can take on many roles, many persons should work together and partially take on each other’s work). But my answer is still that the product needs five characteristics…


Product definition is “a human-centered process because it begins with people. We want to listen to the dreams, wants, and desires of others, and then propose a solution that addresses what people need and value.” – from the IDEO U course “From Ideas to Action”. According to Alan Klement what persons desire is to make their lives better – to change something.

Persons’ desires are understood by an ethnographic researcher*. The desired change is made possible with the help of a solution concept by a concept developer.


Products need to be technically created by persons, systems, data, etc. Only some solutions can be created within each product’s context.

An engineer makes sure that the solution is feasible.


Products need to make economic sense. The cost of creating, delivering, and maintaining them must somehow be recouped. Products must also follow laws and policies, be able to be marketed, sold, and supported, and fit with organizational priorities.

A business analyst makes sure the solution is viable, with the help of internal and possibly external subject matter experts.


Products need to both be understood and operated by humans. And a surface that has attractive visuals, motions and sounds is more likely to be operated.

An interaction specialist, an information architect, and an art director ensure this.


A product needs to be just that – A product. The four elements above need to be balanced and the persons involved need to be coördinated in one or more processes.

A product manager ensures that the solution is a whole product.

Pusheen by Claire Belton.

* “In this context, ethnographic research is the study of how people live their lives in order to better understand their behavior, motivations, needs and aspirational wants to inspire new design. This approach is comprised of various methods including interviews, observations, role-playing games and journey mapping.”
– Ovetta Sampson, IDEO Chicago and DePaul University, 2018 EPIC Proceedings, ISSN 1559-8918,

Published and updated in product discovery.

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