How to Craft Meaningful Seamless Digital Experiences Across an Expanding Product Portfolio

Ward Andrews
By Ward Andrews
Cover Image for How to Craft Meaningful Seamless Digital Experiences Across an Expanding Product Portfolio

Are you looking to expand your business through digital product acquisitions? Expansion can bring exciting new opportunities for your company, but it can also present a huge challenge. How do you integrate your new offerings with your current product line? How can you build a cohesive portfolio that your customers can understand, much less want to buy?

Every new product you introduce can put a new strain on your customer and user experience. You’re no longer only building a holistic and intuitive user experience for one or two products. You now have to map your user needs to a full portfolio of solutions. Not only that, but you’ve inherited a variety of design styles and aesthetics that need to have a holistic brand, look, and feel.

In the high-speed storm of new acquisitions, it can be easy to get swept up and swallowed by the pressure to deliver immediate business results. At times like this, it’s more important than ever to stick to your core UX competencies and principles. The UX mistakes you make now can get embedded into your product portfolio like fossils buried under millennia of sediment and rock.

We know because we’ve been through this several times. Clients come to us desperate to keep up with rapid expansion while not losing sight of customer needs. One client we worked with recently was doubling its product portfolio and going through a complete company re-brand. We became their go-to UX team to think through these big questions.

We realized there’s a right and wrong way to build a seamless digital experience for your customers. Here’s our take on the right way.

Conduct a comprehensive evaluation of your full product portfolio.

In a perfect world, you’d have plenty of time to analyze how your new products fit with your existing offerings before you start merging them. But we all know things move much faster in the real world. That’s why it’s important, no matter how fast things are moving, to make space and time to get to know the functionality and UI of your new products.

Analyze how they’re compatible (or not) with your existing product portfolio. Conduct a thorough analysis and document all the gaps and redundancies. If you’re pressed for time, build UX audits into the beginning of your standard design process (if you haven’t already). Catch as much as you can now to avoid surprises down the line.

It's like a giant puzzle that you have to solve one piece at a time. You're going to be more efficient if you can isolate the corner pieces first. Then group the parts that go in the same section and start to fit the individual pieces together. To get the long-term results you want on the back end, you’re going to have to put in some work on the front end. There's no way around it. An outside perspective from a team like ours can also provide the analysis and insights that your team doesn’t have the time to do on its own.

Stay focused on your core use cases.

One of our recent clients had the challenge of integrating a full suite of products with an already-popular core product. They came to us with the question of how to introduce a new lineup of products, and even a new company name, without alienating their loyal customers. In other words, how do you tell your expansion story in a way that resonates with the reason customers chose you in the first place?

It’s a tricky proposition, for sure, but it always comes back to the basics - stick to your core users. In theory, you chose these new products because on paper they enhanced the value proposition you could offer your customers. Now it's your job to turn that theory into reality. Go back to the core use cases that brought customers to you in the first place. Connect the dots so they can see how the new offerings contribute to those use cases.

In the case of our client, we helped them rethink the entire framework of how they were offering their product to customers. We scrapped their fractured and broken shopping cart experience. We worked with them to create a new marketplace concept that showcased how their new and existing products work together. We also gave customers multiple entry points into the product portfolio based on their various needs and the jobs they needed to get done. The new structure made the purchasing flow easier and allowed space for future product expansion.

Avoid analysis paralysis - get your hands dirty and make it real.

Moving too fast is one problem, but "analysis paralysis" is another problem altogether. Conversations about how to integrate products can go on forever without any real progress. Products get stuck in their silos and remain individual offerings marketed and sold by separate parts of the business.

We often get to a point early on with clients where we need to see something concrete to move the conversation forward. We’ll create clickable prototypes to map out specific user flows and help our internal conversations about how to fill the gaps. We’ll do audits of existing pages to determine what’s missing and needs improvement. We’ll do user research to understand what’s not working today and what holds the best promise as a solution going forward.

Getting your hands dirty can help you figure out which pieces are missing. You can see what is bothering your customers, and what you need to focus on in your integration process. When you have so many complex moving parts, it can help to start somewhere and feel your way to the most important things. With a more concrete understanding of the problem, you can start to develop a long-term roadmap with specific timelines, resource allocations, and milestones.

Develop a consistent and cohesive user-centric design system.

It’s never too early to start documenting your design choices when merging products together. You always want to put users at the center of your design, but you may find that the products you’ve acquired have accomplished this in different ways. They're likely operating at different levels on the Experience Success Ladder. How do you get underperforming products up to par without sacrificing the quality of your best products?

The backbone of any cohesive user experience is a consistent and cohesive design system. It ensures not only that the design components you’re using fit your brand guidelines, but it gives users that feeling that your products fit together.

You’ll need solid design guidelines and standards that blend the best of the old and the new. You'll need to give your team a clear process for how to apply those guidelines to designs going forward. You might need to revisit your design strategy.

Common design patterns, visual elements, and interaction styles are crucial to helping your customers feel comfortable with your new offerings. You need the flexibility to accommodate the unique personality of each of your products and the discipline of a cohesive look and feel.

Test, listen, and iterate.

There's never going to be a day when you're completely done integrating new products with your existing portfolio. Like all good UX design, it’s a constant cycle of creating, testing, and iterating to get better over time. But underlying that process is the crucial skill of listening to feedback.

You need to actually listen to feedback from your customers. Incorporate their requests and ideas into your product portfolio. Use their insights to make iterative improvements and even let them guide you to future product acquisitions. Watch their usage of your products, as well as customer support channels, to find insights into their hidden pains or concerns.

The key to a seamless digital experience is hiding between the lines of user behavior and feedback. It’s in the spaces where your users need something but they can’t quite say exactly what it is. If you can find those opportunities, you’ve discovered the sweet spot. You'll have found the secret to making your entire product portfolio rise to the level of making a meaningful difference in their lives - the ultimate measure of product success.

We’ll help you create meaningful seamless digital experiences.

This is only the beginning of what it takes to create meaningful seamless digital experiences. It’s not easy and it doesn’t come overnight. But we’ve seen for ourselves how doing it the right way can deliver exponential long-term business value.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of combining new products into a seamless digital experience, we can help. Let’s talk about your long-term strategy and how you can position yourself to be the resource your customers need to achieve their goals for years to come.