Jun 26, 2024

Product Design:

What It Is and How It Works at Universe Group

Anna Shulyk, Lead Product Designer at Guru Apps by Universe Group

Hello! My name is Anna Shulyk. I've been in design for over 15 years, dedicating the last decade to creating and developing innovative products worldwide. Currently, I am the Lead Product Designer at Guru Apps, part of Universe Group — an ecosystem of iOS applications used by over 60 million users in 180 countries. In this article, I'll share my approach to product design and explain how it operates at Universe Group.

What is Product Design?

In its classical sense, product design is the process of creating, developing, and enhancing products that meet specific market needs and solve user problems. The key to successful product design is understanding the end consumer — the person for whom the product is created.

Product designers employ empathy and knowledge of user habits, behaviors, frustrations, needs, and desires. They explore questions such as:

  1. Is the proposed solution viable from a business perspective?

  2. What are the costs involved in design and development?

  3. Can they find ways to reduce costs or expedite product development?

  4. Will the product meet our business goals?

  5. What is the business impact and return on investment?

Product designers collaborate with cross-functional colleagues such as product managers, UX researchers, and marketers to create products millions of users use. A robust product design process is based on the concept of design thinking, developed by Tim Brown and David Kelley of IDEO. Design thinking involves a pragmatic approach to problem-solving through human-centered design.

Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that uses the designer's toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.

Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO

Let's Dive into the Core Components of Product Design

In essence, five main steps shape the product design process, and we'll explore each of them.

1. Discover

Research and Analysis. This stage involves defining the product vision and business goals, selecting a strategy, analyzing the market, studying user needs and competitors, and conducting primary research. During the Discovery stage, it's crucial to understand:

  • Who your users are.

  • Under what conditions will they use your product?

  • How often will they use it?

  • What problems can they solve with your product?

All of this is necessary to ensure the product's success and market acceptance. One of the research methods could be creating a user persona—an imaginary profile of your user. By understanding the specific needs and pain points of your target users, you can develop features that directly address these issues, ensuring the relevance and usefulness of your product. Personas help create user-friendly interfaces and allow focusing on your users' most critical needs and problems, prioritizing the development of features that will have the greatest impact on user satisfaction and product adoption.

Once we understand the need we want to address and who our users are, we then analyze how other products address similar needs, how they position themselves, and whom we need to compete within the market.

2. Define

Ideation and Conceptual Development — generate ideas and create initial concepts. Once you've learned about your target audience's desires and pain points, you can better focus your product on solving user problems. At the requirements definition stage, we must analyze the competitors we identified in the first stage and determine what functionality they provide to their customers. This will help us understand what we need to do with our product so that, at least not to give way to our competitors.

3. Design

Prototyping. In the third step, when we already developed the solution, we need to understand the current standards on the market and which UI solutions our competitors apply to comply with the requirements defined in the second step.

Create a minimum viable product (MVP) or an approximate version of your potential solutions. Creating a prototype allows you to test your design with users and see if you're on the right track. It also generates additional product ideas or versions you haven't considered.

For example, after creating a prototype, your team can face a design flaw that negatively affects user interaction, even if it was designed taking a user into account. This stage in the design process allows you to resolve issues before the launch.

4. Test

Testing and Validation — check the product's compliance with all necessary standards and user requirements. Test your prototypes with potential users and see how they react. Then, make changes based on user feedback. At this stage, it's also essential to assess how well the UI solutions we've found meet all usability metrics, and in parallel, how well our product works compared to competitors' products.

5. Launch

Launch and Post-launch Analysis — bring the product to market and gather feedback for future improvements.

The Way the Process Built in Universe Group

Now, we will explore how the process is structured in our company. The distinction of this approach lies in meticulous niche analysis and continuous product improvement based on feedback. This allows us to be flexible and adaptive, these are the qualities often lacking in conventional processes of other companies. So, let's move on to the key stages of our process.

1/ Niche Analysis

Choosing the right niche is a critical step in creating a successful business. Defining a worthy niche requires carefully blending ideas and passion, market research, and strategic thinking. By understanding the intersection of interests, market demand, and profitability, we precisely identify a niche that aligns with our values and offers a viable and profitable business opportunity. The path to success begins with selecting a niche that captivates us and meets the target audience's needs.

  1. Understanding the Importance of Niche

    • We start by understanding why niche selection is key to business success. We explore how a clearly defined niche allows us to focus efforts on a specific audience, differentiate our brand, and establish authority in a particular market segment.

  2. Assessing Interests and Expertise

    • We identify preferences and areas of expertise. We consider industries, topics, or activities that genuinely interest us and where we want to excel. By aligning our business with our preferences, we make product development engaging and bold and position ourselves as unique authorities in the chosen niche.

  3. Conducting Marketing Research to Identify the Demand

    • We conduct thorough marketing research to identify niches with existing demand. We explore tools and techniques for analyzing marketing trends, competition, and potential customer needs. We strike a balance between a niche that interests us and one that has market potential.

  4. Analyzing the Competitive Environment

    • We examine the competitive landscape within potential niches. We identify successful businesses in our field of interest and analyze their strategies. We understand their successes, identify gaps, and determine how our unique approach can fill them.

  5. Identifying the Target Audience

    • We define the target audience within the niche. We understand the demographic characteristics, preferences, and issues of the potential audience. We tailor our proposition to meet the specific needs of a clearly defined audience, enhancing attractiveness and strengthening connection.

  6. Testing and Verification

    • Before finalizing the niche, we conduct tests and verifications. We launch prototypes, conduct surveys, and create MVPs to gather real feedback. We validate assumptions and ensure genuine interest and demand for our offerings.

  7. Assessing Profitability

    • We evaluate the profitability potential of each niche. We consider the purchasing power of the target audience, pricing dynamics within each niche, and scalability of the business model. Balancing passion and profit is crucial for further perspective.

  8. Considering Long-Term Niche Viability

    • We consider how trends, new technologies, and potential changes in consumer behavior may evolve. A worthy niche does not limit itself to instant success but ensures sustainable growth over time.

After completing all stages of niche analysis, we can confidently choose a direction for development and ensure the long-term success of our business.

2/ Developing MVP (Minimum Viable Product)

After identifying the niche, we proceed to develop the Minimum Viable Product (MVP). MVP is a product development strategy and management concept where a new product is developed with the minimum necessary features to satisfy early adopters or the target audience. The primary goal of MVP is to quickly bring the product to market, gather feedback, and learn from user interactions. This iterative approach allows adjustments and improvements based on user insights.

For a comprehensive consideration of all aspects of MVP, we conduct a detailed analysis of competitors, the market, and our users, which further validates hypotheses and progresses through the following key steps:

  1. Minimum Features

    • MVP includes only the necessary features to function and provide value. Non-essential features are omitted to optimize development.

  2. Rapid Development

    • Emphasis is placed on swift development and market release. This allows the team to test product hypotheses and gather user feedback as quickly as possible.

  3. Feedback Loop

    • The release of MVP initiates a feedback loop where real users provide feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of the product, as well as areas for improvement.

  4. Iterative Development

    • Based on the received feedback, the team makes adjustments to the product, adds features, improves user interaction, and deals with identified issues.

  5. Cost-Effectiveness

    • Focusing on minimal necessary features helps manage development costs and reduces the risk of investing significant resources into a product that may not meet market demand.

  6. Learning Opportunity

    • The primary goal of MVP is learning through real-world use and user feedback. This provides information for further development decisions and increases the chance of product success.


Deep dives into research, competitor analysis, niche analysis, testing, and development are crucial for product designers. Product design is not merely about creating screen mock-ups but a comprehensive approach that considers user demands, business goals, and profitability.

Recalling Donald Norman's stool analogy, we note the importance of a comprehensive approach to design. The stool consists of three legs, each symbolizing a key aspect of successful products: utility, usability, and desirability. The absence of any leg makes the stool unstable and the product unsuccessful.

  1. Utility. The product must have practical value and solve real user problems. It will not be necessary without utility, even if it is convenient and attractive.

  2. Usability. The product should be simple and intuitively understandable in use. Users will not use it if it is complex or inconvenient, even if it solves their problems and looks beautiful.

  3. Desirability. The product must be attractive to users. Visual aesthetics, emotional impact, and brand value are important for creating a desired product. If it does not cause a desire to use it, it will not find its place in the market, even if it is useful and convenient.

A similar concept also considers three key aspects of successful products: business, users, and technologies. This concept is often used in product design and development.

  1. Business
    The goals, needs, and limitations of the business are considered. The product must be profitable and comply with the business strategy.

  2. Users
    Focus on the needs, problems, and behavior of users. The product should satisfy users and be useful to them.

  3. Technologies
    Capabilities and limitations of the technologies used to create the product are considered. It must be technically feasible and reliable.

Both concepts emphasize the importance of a comprehensive approach to product design, considering various aspects to ensure success in the market.

Product design is a process that covers various stages, from analysis and research to testing and improvement. This allows us to create products that look good and solve user problems effectively, support business goals, and have a high potential for profitability.

At Universe Group, we understand that true product design goes beyond creating beautiful interfaces. We focus on an in-depth understanding of the market, user needs, and business goals. This enables us to create products that are functional and successful in the market, ensuring their long-term sustainability and competitiveness.

Be with us, become our Universe!

Send CV or contact us at hello@uni.tech

For product-related questions — support@uni.tech

Be with us, become our Universe!

Send CV or contact us at hello@uni.tech

For product-related questions — support@uni.tech

Be with us, become our Universe!

Send CV or contact us at hello@uni.tech

For product-related questions — support@uni.tech