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Principles of Product Design: Tips and Examples from Linkup Studio’s CDO

Principles of Product Design: Tips and Examples from Linkup Studio’s CDO
Nataliya Sambir
Nataliya Sambir
Chief Design Officer

This is the third part of an article about product design by Nataliya Sambir, Chief Design Officer at Linkup Studio. Here, Nataliya explains the fundamental principles of product design and examples that support the importance of the given points. These insights would be of great value for startup founders, stakeholders, product managers in SMEs, and others engaged in development. They highlight the essential elements that contribute to the exceptional design that influence both business efficiency and customer experience. Here, she shared the principles which are especially prominent for the design work at Linkup Studio, and especially deal with the design realm. 

Nataliya Sambir is a seasoned professional in product design with 11 years of experience in the field. She has worked with 150 projects across various industries in 25 countries during her career. As the chief designer at Linkup Studio since its establishment, she has supervised the creation of digital product designs for well-known brands like Bosch, Porsche, Impactive, and Reverso. Under her leadership, her teams have won the Red Dot Design Award four times in both 2022 and 2023. Additionally, one of Linkup Studio's products was nominated as the App of The Day by the App Store. These are some of the recognitions that reveal her knowledge and expertise. 

Now, let’s get down to the matter! 

Principle 1: Understand Business Objectives

Truly good projects start with a clear understanding of customer needs and business aims you and the design team are going to achieve. In my experience, many businesses often have a vague idea of what their objectives are. At Linkup Studio digital product design agency, our designers and product managers can help the business clarify its objectives before jumping into any design and further development work.

The goal may range from wide-ranging and strategic to narrow and tactical. Both approaches are acceptable, but it's crucial to have a consensus on the objective before beginning any work.

We usually talk to key people in the business, hold workshops to ensure everyone is on the same page, and kick off the project with a well-planned meeting. A business goal needs to be stated clearly and measurably, with strict KPIs and directly formulated goals. For instance, “expanding our app services to Europe” is not a clear goal, while “to get 50,000 app subscribers from Germany, Switzerland, and Austria” is more defined.

Your goals can be more general or small and detailed. What matters here is that you and the team you cooperate with understand and agree on these goals before the work starts.

Here are the top 5 thoughts from our YouTube interview guests on creating a digital solution. 

Principle 2: Focus on Users

The essence and the basis of design is to get to know upside down who the person is who is going to use it. At Linkup Studio, our priority is to keep designs that attract users, meet their demands, and exceed their expectations.

When you collaborate with the design team, make sure they know your product customers perfectly well. You and the designers should know answers to questions like:

  • What do your customers need?
  • Why do customers choose you? Or what is your value proposition, and how does design reveal it?
  • What specific problems does your product address?
  • What are the ways they get their needs covered?

To answer these questions, we at Linkup Studio run focus groups, conduct interviews, collect feedback, and use other ways to evaluate whether we’re really good at making users' lives better and more convenient with our designs.

For example, we had a Toto project. It is an innovative platform that empowers Canadian social activists to effectively tackle pressing issues in their communities. In collaboration with the stakeholders, our team conducted research about Toto's users and defined user personas. For that exact young and active audience, we created a modern-looking interface and gamified experience with features to create the proper customer habits. That increases user engagement and delivers more satisfaction.

To create an engaging user experience tailored to your target audience consider hiring product designers at Linkup Studio

Principle 3: Ease User Effort

In our YouTube podcast episode with the world-known ‘guru’ of product design, Steve Krug, we discussed that the best approach for customers is not to make them think.

In this article, I elaborated on some statistics that reveal why product design is so important. In the resource, it was said that it takes 50 milliseconds for a user to make up their mind and form an opinion about a website. Therefore, it should be simple and appealing in conveying the product’s essence to potential customers. 

Good designers aim to resolve the question, "Is the interface user-friendly enough for people to effortlessly achieve their goals?" They always ask themselves, "In what ways can we simplify the actions users need to take?"

How we at Linkup Studio are trying our best to ease user efforts for our clients is uncovered in this real-life example with our client, Reverso.

Working together with the product team, we added a new feature to the Reverso desktop app. It is called Quick Search (QS), which is a simpler, smaller version of the main app, designed for fast use without a complicated interface.

Here's how it works: when users select text, a small app icon shows up. After clicking on this, the QS window instantly opens. This is great for quick tasks like translations or finding synonyms. It takes a double-click of the mouse to get it going. And if users need more, the full app is still there for them.

What's really good about this from our team's perspective is that it was easy for users to get the hang of it without much training. And it paid off – we saw more searches per user each week and better overall engagement with our product.

In collaboration with the product team, we introduced an additional module for the Reverso desktop application. This module, called Quick Search (QS), is a compact version of the desktop application. It allows users to interact quickly without the distraction of a complex interface.

When text is selected, a small app icon appears, enabling users to open the QS window for functions like translation and synonym search. This feature is activated with a quick double-click of the mouse. Users also have the option to access the full version of the program.

One advantage for us as a team was that it didn't require extensive user training, and users quickly adapted to it. In terms of performance, this increased the number of total word searches per user per week and enhanced engagement with the product.

Get to know the full story of our cooperation with Reverso in development and redesign services.

Principle 4: Focus on Value, Not Features

There is sometimes a misconception, even among seasoned startuppers and product managers, in making their stack of features. Sometimes, they may forget or, for some reason, lose sight due to over-believing in their ideas regarding introducing new functionality, to say nothing about working with digital solutions from scratch.

Good designers collaborate with your team and help to define whether this exact new feature you are going to introduce will make a difference for users. The most rational idea is to further test and gather real data with customers' thoughts before diving into work. After all, feature creep may lead to longer page loads and slower product surfing, which may decrease user retention.

I'll share a real story with you. Once, we worked with a very innovative client. She was quite enthusiastic about creating a comprehensive learning platform for educating people about makeup. It was to include integrated AR functionality, step-by-step makeup-creating courses, user cabinets, purchasing features, examinations, and many other functions. The idea was truly revolutionary. However, our product management team advised her to start with a basic version of the digital solution and proceed iteratively. We suggested the client test the market demand first and then refine and adapt the larger ideas based on the data collected.

That is how we introduced GlamdPro, and the client discovered people appreciated and embraced the concept, so now we're continuing to create a full-fledged education platform with various user roles and training programs.

That was the famous approach to creating MVP (Minimum Viable Products). Our CEO, Andriy Sambir, explained it in detail on our YouTube podcast episode.

Principle 5: Base Decisions on Data

In my experience of working with company founders and product managers, it is clear that data facts should be combined with some gut feeling. Relying only on data, the solution may stay not innovative and not unique for users. However, focusing only on gut feeling may lead to the loss of even apparent business opportunities and even pose a threat to the business.

The data works well to define the direction of product development and prevents the misdirection of important resources you have. Essentially, there are two types of data worth considering. The first one is numerical metrics, like traffic, download numbers, subscription purchases, bounce rates, and others. The other type is more about the emotional feedback from users. Let's take vacuum cleaners as an example. One data point is the number of them sold in an exact region, and the other is the user experience regarding how it feels while using, how convenient it is to store in the apartments, and the aesthetics. It is about the satisfaction of users with your digital platform or service.

You and your design team can gather user data through different varieties of targeted feedback from your product, from thematic surveys, user testing when launching new features or improving existing ones, focus groups, user interviews, A/B tests, heatmaps, and other statistical-gathering tools connected to your digital solution.

What I observed during my work and gathering data for Linkup Studio's clients is that users do not always form their ideas in proper words. It may be difficult for some of them to explain what they feel about the product and its design. That's where it is highly relevant to observe how they interact with the product and take notice of their reactions and thoughts during such observation sessions. This will help you and the design team understand the vast user background better.

At our company, after getting information from all kinds of sources about end-users and communicating with product owners and stakeholders, we usually form hypotheses.

Principle 6: Emphasize Consistency and Hierarchy

That is a very vital design principle to follow, as consistency and visual hierarchy attract and increase end customers' usage and attention to your digital solution. Users really like to understand and see clear navigational mechanisms and a defined organizational structure where system parts are located in predictable placements.

I explained it in detail in this article about the product design trends in 2024. The basic point was that, in general, people have some knowledge about user interfaces, and it impacts how they use them. That is called mental models. Therefore, for customers, the problem is twofold: whether the digital platform or solution is in some way "too creative" and tries to invent something over-outstanding and new, or it just lacks some structure and the expected experience – the user perceives it as something unreliable,inconsistent, and difficult to use. The result is the same – people tend to drop and switch to other products that would be more expected for them to use. After all, this solution is likely not to be the only one on the market.

Consistency in design applies to the overall layouts, icons, fonts, colors, and other elements. What can help you maintain design consistency while modifying or scaling product parts, and save on development costs? The answer is a design system. Our Linkup Studio designer outlined the main principles and busted the popular myths around design systems in this detailed article.

If talking about a real example, Impactive would be a good one. That is a comprehensive all-in-one hub with tools for digital outreach and engagement used for initiatives to revitalize civic society. From inside, the product features were created without a designer in place, which led to chaos and inconsistency. Over time, the company had to grow and faced issues with scaling it up. New staff and clients felt a sort of confusion because the system parts and functionality were scattered throughout the system, and it complicated the whole experience.

That is where our designer stepped in. Our specialist aligned all the system parts and pages into a single logic and introduced an intuitive user flow for the usage of that system so that new people could effortlessly browse all the services and find out what they needed. The special difficulty was taking into account all the development constraints during that comprehensive system review in order to avoid breaking the things that had already worked.

You might also be interested in the article: Digital Product Redesign: All You Need to Know

TOP 4 Questions And Their Answers by Product Design Expert

What are the Main Principles of Good Product Design?

Understanding Business Objectives

You and your design team need to have a clear understanding of the business goals you both want to achieve with the digital solution. For this, it is worth setting clear, measurable goals and aligning the design strategy to meet these objectives.

User-Centric Design

The design cannot be judged by how much designers and product owners like it. The core includes considering the needs, preferences, and behaviors of the end user. It involves understanding the target audience, their pains, needs, and expectations. The design is meant to cater to these exact requirements.

Simplicity and User Effort Reduction

The product should be intuitive and easy for the target audience to use. Product design is judged as great when it simplifies all user interactions and makes the digital solution as straightforward as possible.

Emphasizing Value Over Features

The design should prioritize delivering real value to the user rather than just adding numerous features. At Linkup Studio, we carefully consider and give relevant advice to product stakeholders about the benefits each product part gives to the end users.

Data-Driven Decisions

Data and user feedback should inform product design. This includes both quantitative data, such as user metrics, and qualitative data, such as user feedback and testing results.

Consistency and Hierarchy in Design

The design should be consistent in its visual and functional elements, providing a coherent user experience. A well-structured hierarchy in the design helps users navigate and understand the product more easily.

How do You Integrate Principles of Inclusivity and Accessibility into Your Design Projects?

In our product management and design team, we believe that design should work well for all kinds of audiences that may need Linkup Studio’s clients’ solutions or services. This way, we always check whether our design works well for everyone, including people with different abilities and backgrounds.

For this, we follow WCAG standards (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). We also take into account cases with situational disabilities (e.g., if the app user is at the cash desk with one hand holding a package with the bought goods – it is a partial disability), and thus, icon placements on apps should bear in mind such a use case.

Our texts are, as a rule, legible and as readable as possible, despite how creative or innovative the product is.

How Does the Principle of Simplicity Impact Your Approach to Product Design, and Why Do You Consider it Important?

In essence, when our team makes designs, we are always trying our best to make it as easy for users as possible. That is reflected in every stage of our lean design process, which I outlined in this article. Our goal is to consider how the product's users will use the system interface, what they are expecting to see, how they will look for it or search within the system, and what emotions will arise during product usage.

The goal is to make users not even notice the design. If it is that intuitive that they don’t need to dive deep to get to know how it works – that is what I call a good design. That kind of design can be truly enjoyed by users. Users are changing over time, the market is also changing, and competitors' offerings are also not the same. Therefore, apply user and product data to drive the best decisions in product design stage and in further development. 

How is the Principle of User Feedback Integrated Into Your Design Process?

In our team, we typically gather data through feedback forms, reviews, product ratings, and other statistics related to the product. This approach helps us measure whether the product satisfies users' needs and matches their expectations.

What I would like to add here is that polishing the product is an endless journey if your team and the business really want to succeed.

The key is to keep refining our Linkup Studio's clients' product designs based on this feedback. This way, you make sure your product keeps getting better and stays relevant to your users.


In this article, I mentioned the product design principles we adhere to at Linkup Studio. If you and your design team apply them in your day-to-day practice, you'll raise the stakes for success in your business and boost the usefulness of your digital product for end customers.

If you want to get a free consultation about your current design from me (Chief Designer at Linkup Studio) and discover new opportunities, don't hesitate to leave us a message with your request. May your design journey be successful!

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Nataliya Sambir
Nataliya Sambir
Chief Design Officer
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