What's a Digital Product: An Introduction to the World of Product Development
What is a Digital Product and How Does it Work?
Products are often targeted at solving customer problems, which could either be classified loosely as a user “need” or “want.” Products can be broken down into multiple pieces to form a giant conglomerate, or be as simple as a single page experience solving one problem (like a checkout flow).
For example, Walmart likely is composed of hundreds of products working together simultaneously to solve a variety of customer needs. A website might solve how a customer can find items to purchase. An app might solve the problem of delivering items to customers who don’t want to shop in person. A data aggregation platform might solve how the company does not know what to do with their data. Each of these products accomplish goals, have teams that are actively working on them to grow in ways that help their businesses.
The Key Players on a Digital Product Team
In the technical world, products are usually run by a team, often referred to as a pod. Normally the pod is run by a product manager, hence the title.
Product Managers: The Visionaries Behind Digital Products
Leads and adapts the product to customer and business requirements. Crucial to all product teams.
Several Engineers: The Technical Wizards Who Build Digital Products
Brings the product manager & UX designer’s visions to life. Crucial to all product teams.
UX Designers: The Creative Minds Behind the Look and Feel of Digital Products
Collaborates with the product manager on the best customer experience. Sometimes a shared resource between teams, but crucial for all teams.
UX Researchers: The Inquisitive Minds Who Uncover User Insights
Helps inform the UX designer & product manager’s decisions around customer problems. Usually a luxury addition that only big and medium companies have the resources for.
Product Analysts: The Data-Driven Problem Solvers of the Product Pod
Gathers and uses data to direct the product’s strategy. Usually a luxury addition that only big and medium companies have the resources for.
Project Managers / Scrum Masters: The Organizers and Coordinators of the Product Pod
Keeps the entire team on track, manages the team budget if there is one, and makes sure all due dates are met. Often is in charge of running team meetings. This is more of a luxury role a pod has if they're on the larger side or at a big company.
Do You Need a Degree or Experience to Work in Digital Product Development?
While degrees are sometimes listed as requirements on tech jobs, there are not a lot of 1:1 degrees that match with the individual roles. At this point, a degree is more of a stamp of achievement and proof you're willing to work, which can also be accomplished with a bootcamp or stack of micro-certifications. That may seem counterintuitive for "tech" roles, but people in these jobs come from all backgrounds and degree-types.
Sometimes job descriptions will mention a requirement of something STEM related, but often this is not a hurdle if you fit the other key requirements.
The short answer is, absolutely not. In fact, a lot of product jobs, including UX Designer, UX Researcher, and Project Managers are great entry-level roles.
Ultimately, Experience is Key.
While this might seem obvious, learning on the job is one of the fastest ways to get familiar with new topics, and showing is much better than telling. After spending time exploring different job types and requirements, set your sights on 1-2 job paths to pursue. Set a timeline for yourself to achieve skills by a certain date.
Depending on the role, there are different ways you can go about getting experience. We recommend browsing our job pages and seeing which roles match your lifestyle and values, and starting there!