Insight Hero illustration


Design Strategy


7 Common Product Design Problems and How to Solve Them

Abby Milan

January 28, 2022

Lost momentum happens to the best of us. For months your team may have been humming along, racking up conversions, and getting new interest from investors. Then, suddenly…

One too many negative reviews.

High bounce rates.

A busted product design budget.

So where do you start improving? How do you get back to — and beyond — your previous kick-butt state?

And more importantly, what can you do to not let lost momentum thwart your success again

First, you need to identify your problems and find out what may be causing them. Only then can you move forward in finding and implementing the just-right foolproof course of action. Illustration in blues, purples and oranges of woman holding a pen and clipboard, magnifying glass with eye in the middle, chart, heart, thumbs up sign and stars inside a conversation box

Problem 1: Your Digital Product is Getting Negative Reviews

Solution: Make sure you understand what your users want and need.

Your product simply will not resonate with your users if it’s not built around their wants and needs. Here’s how to make sure you’re designing and iterating with your users in mind.

  1. Track your customer journey. How do your users get introduced to your product, and what is their experience along the way? Get in their heads by creating a customer journey map. From discovery and awareness to bond and loyalty, there are critical steps in a user’s journey with your product that can influence a positive or negative experience.

  2. Talk to customers through user interviews. Go straight to the source and find out what your users think. Ask open-ended questions to find out the details that make you go “a-ha!” and know exactly what needs to be done.

    Some great sample questions include:

    • What do you wish the product experience offered that it doesn’t already?

    • In what ways is the product challenging or frustrating to use?

    • Have you come across anything unnecessary or overcomplicated as you’ve used the product?

    • What would you change about the product to best support your motivation for using it?

  3. Perform user testing. Get this: 55% of companies don’t do user testing. Crazy, right? If you’ve been putting it off, don’t wait any longer! User testing is one of the best ways to get direct feedback from those you want to please the most.

Illustration in blues, purples and oranges of a man using a laptop while pointing at a board with a woman's face on top and surrounded by various shapes and clouds

Problem 2: Your Bounce Rate is High and Users are Dropping Like Flies

Solution: Button up everything from onboarding to accessibility standards.

Your product simply will not resonate with your users if it’s not built around their wants and needs. Here’s how to make sure you’re designing and iterating with your users in mind.

  1. Make sure your product quality is meeting expectations. Sure, that seems easy on the surface. But are you just assuming your quality is top-notch? Ask these five questions. From there, conduct some user testing. And finally, to keep the streamlined party going, build a design system.

  2. Make your UI memorable. There is so much competition out there. How do you compete? Easy: Build a solid brand and own your position. Make your brand story known. And don’t forget about the smaller details. Use animation to create a delightful experience.

  3. Double-check your accessibility standards. 15% of digital product users experience a disability. Is your product’s design inclusive of those users? Everyone deserves to have the same great interaction with your product, so check that you’re meeting all the recommended accessibility guidelines.

  4. ABI: Always be iterating. Never rest on your laurels! Be in constant pursuit of improvement with A/B tests. Run experiments to see if, for example, changing a page layout or changing the flow of a certain process will decrease the bounce rate and increase conversion.

  5. Optimize onboarding. Your onboarding is the first impression of your product. It exists to welcome new users, orient them to who you are and what you’re all about. Make your onboarding experience flawless.

Illustration in blues, purples and oranges of a hand holding a bucket filled with gear icons and water going out from the holes

Problem 3: You’re Not Gaining or Retaining Enough Users

Solution: Tackle your passive and active churn.

Gaining new users means squat if you can’t keep them hooked. To entice them to stay engaged with your product, you have to address the cancellation inferno that is your churn rate. Get creative with your features, stay competitive, and obsess over how you deliver value. These are just a few ways to show churn who’s boss.

After you’ve slashed your passive and active churn rates there are plenty of things you can do to make sure they stay in check. For example, you should:

  • Embrace elements of product-led growth like freemium subscriptions and encourage networking.

  • Reduce friction by offering free trials and delayed required sign-up.

  • Refine your onboarding so it’s not complicated or boring.

  • Add social proof to help convince other users your product works.

  • Conduct a competitive analysis to see if you’re hitting key important features, but also separating yourself from the pack.

Illustration in blues, purples and oranges of a woman using a laptop surrounded by clipboard, gear icons, bell inside a conversation box, warning and question mark sign

Problem 4: Product Scope Creep is Getting Worse

Solution: Go back to basics.

If you haven’t defined your minimum lovable product (MLP), now’s the time. You’ve probably heard about an MVP (minimum viable product) but we prefer to use “lovable” because it distills your product to its essence.

  • Why did you first create your product?

  • What need are you trying to fulfill for your users?

  • What is core to your product’s experience?

Once you’ve defined your MLP, make sure you’re still on the right track by talking to your users. Get them to do user interviews, and hear about their likes and dislikes. Ask them which features are solving their needs and which ones aren’t.

This brings us to our next piece of advice: Cut superfluous, non-value-adding features. Yep! We said it. Evaluate which features are essential to your product and which ones aren’t pulling their weight anymore.

Finally, dream up your future state product. Map out what your pie-in-the-sky product would look like in 5 years and use it as your North Star to guide you in your designs and offerings. From there, pare down your features and offerings to what’s possible to make happen today. Illustration in blues, purples and oranges of a man and woman using a laptop and a woman holding a clipboard surrounded by pencil, question mark and conversation boxes with check marks

Problem 5: Your Teams Can’t Agree on Which Features to Keep or Retire

Solution: Talk it out, and back up your decisions with research.

When your builders can’t align with your designers on a feature to include, or your customer service team wants to add a certain feature that no one else supports, it can be a mess.

Who gets the final say in what features stay or go?

Every stakeholder has a worthy opinion and their voices need to be heard. Get everyone together to talk it out.

Once everyone has had a chance to voice their thoughts and you’re nearing a decision, do some research.

You can’t argue with facts! Illustration in blues, purples and oranges of gear icon, tip of a pen, figma logo, boxes with x mark in the middle and various shapes including hand icon

Problem 6: Designing and Building Your Product is Taking Longer Than Anticipated

Solution: Use the right tools and implement efficient systems.

In today’s market, getting your product to market fast is the key to success. But if you don’t have the right systems and tools at your disposal, you could be dealing with a lot of unnecessary friction.

Lean into these systems and processes so you can ship a better product with fantastic features faster:

  1. Create a design system. Design systems are magic — a unifier, guide, and lifesaver. Beloved so much by product teams, they’re often given a pet name. They’re a library of all your brand’s unique elements, processes, systems, and more — all housed in one place. If you don’t have a design system yet, know that it’s one of the best investments you will make for your product.

  2. Implement iterative design. Think of iterative design as a relentless pursuit of improvement. It’s going back to the drawing board time and time again with the sole goal of building upon what you’ve already found to work. Certain tricks (like designing with the end in mind, and building as many prototypes as you can stand) will save your team time and money — and win the attention of investors.

  3. Use collaborative tools like Figma. There are some digital products out there we can’t get enough of, like Figma. It’s hands-down the best tool for teams to design and collaborate in real-time. It’s fast and frictionless, is celebrated by a robust community of designers, and is web-based so it works anywhere.

  4. Work in two-week design sprints. Keep confusion, distractions, and mistakes to a minimum by working in design sprints. Working in two-week sprints allows everyone to get on the same page and focus on the goal at hand. Design sprints are also great for dedicating time to reflect on what’s working and what’s not so you can fix it fast.

  5. Pair a designer with a developer. Miscommunication between teams is extremely common. Mitigate this by using a buddy system of sorts. Pair a designer with a developer so they can keep each other in the loop and answer each other’s questions when something comes up. Collaboration and communication like this should happen as early in your process as possible, but it’s never too late to start!

Illustration in blues, purples and oranges of a calculator surrounded by chart, clipboard, bar graph, pie graph, arrow and man’s head and body inside a circle

Problem 7: Your Design Budget is Sabotaging Your Product’s Success

Solution: Learn the right way to allocate your product design budget.

Whether you’re pre-seed or Series B, there are right ways and wrong ways to think about and plan for your product design budget. And the difference could mean moving on to the next stage or asking a lot of what-ifs.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all budget guide for all startups, knowing where your product is in its journey can guide you on where to focus your efforts for maximum cost efficiency.

For example, spend more time designing if you’re in the pre-seed stages. In post-seed, focus on user testing and iterating.

Beyond your budget, know that a good project manager is worth their weight in Bitcoin. Get one for your team who keeps an eye on the budget and can hold all teams accountable.

Hey, designing a buzzworthy, sticky, loveable, necessary, and all-around awesome product is hard work. You’re doing a great job! And when you feel like you aren’t, just know that there are plenty of things you can do to change it. Happy iterating!

Learn From Us

Sign up to receive our monthly insights directly in your inbox!