The Dedesign: A method for redesigning more focused products

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As digital products become oversaturated with features, here’s a look at how we can refine products to improve user experience.

8 min read

Product redesign using the dedesign approach

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We live in a time where products are shipped at an incredibly fast rate. With the internet democratizing access to information, new innovations are constantly being churned out and competition has grown fierce. While there is a need to remain efficient and constantly launch new updates, many companies have neglected to align their new features with their user and business needs. Products have become oversaturated.

When trying to keep our product relevant, our first instinct is to build out new features. However, as more features are added, the complexity of our product increases and its initial purpose becomes diluted.

Products can quickly become oversaturated with functions that don’t promote the company’s bottom line or the user’s needs; we are incorrectly conflating more features with good user experience, when in reality, a good user experience is derived from cultivating a focused product.

Cultivating a focused product is the act of refining the core user experience. It ensures that designers are building an intuitive and highly focused product rather than just adding new features on top of a product journey that is already misaligned: in essence building a quality feature over a quantity of features.

Dedesigns give us a new framework for polishing the central user experience. The act of reviewing existing features and questioning their pertinence to the core user journey allows us to become more cognizant of what features may be hindering a user to reach their goals.

If you are currently a designer that delivers products or softwares, this framework is integral in better understanding your key deliverables to users. We can become so acclimated to our products that we forget some things may not be essential. Use this as a refresher for understanding which features contribute to your value proposition.

Dedesigns are also useful for service-based and freelance UX designers as it shows prospective employers you have a deep understanding of product thinking. Adding a dedesign to your portfolio demonstrates that you not only can build new features, but are also able to deliver the right features.

Two concepts for product redesign for media app

A case for cultivating intentional products

Pareto Principle

For many events, 80% of effects are derived from only 20% of our actions: this includes how we build our products. For example, many of us have dozens of apps on our phones, but generally only use a handful to accomplish our tasks. It is far more important to make the 20% most essential features of our product robust, rather than work on adding new features.

Feature Creep

Feature creep occurs when we continually add new features to our project scope. New and oftentimes unnecessary features, take time and energy away from the core features of your product and place a burden on the development team. By spreading our product team thinner across many features we, in turn, hurt the quality of the experience we are providing to our users.

Tesler’s Law

As designers, we want to make sure our products are as intuitive as possible. This starts by reducing complexity and mitigating confusing features in our applications. All products have an inherent amount of irreducible complexity and it is up to us as designers to figure out how we are going to distribute that complexity. We need to do the hard thinking upfront so our users won’t have to. This means making the tough decision of prioritizing and developing the most essential features to ensure our application is as user friendly and streamlined as possible. Less is more.

The Dedesign: A new way to evaluate and redesign products

While there is a common trend for designers to redesign and add new features to some of their favorite applications, little is done to mitigate excess features in products. Now that we understand how important it is to cultivate a focused product, it is time to remove excess complexity in our applications.

As more features are added, the complexity of our product increases and its initial purpose becomes diluted.

The dedesign is a redesign strategy that evaluates the key value proposition of our product and tries to reduce digital complexity to the user. The goal of a dedesign is to deconstruct existing apps and remove unnecessary features that do not contribute to the core user experience.

Dedesigns force designers to stop looking ahead and instead think about what we can do to make the already existing feature set more successful. They are a great way to show product thinking to possible employers as you demonstrate an ability to understand the core product purpose and the basic user needs. It is also a great way to reframe the common belief that adding new features leads to a successful user experience.

The key question in dedesigns is how might we streamline existing features to render more intentional products?

Although there hasn’t been a formal word to describe this UX process in the past, the dedesign is a common trend in most major tech companies. Many companies utilize A/B testing to see how variations in existing features will promote the product experience. Similarly, major companies have divided up some of their apps (think Messenger and Facebook), when they realized they were serving two very different product purposes.

Dedesigns don’t always need to be as complex as dividing an app into two separate products. It can be as simple as changing a style guide as Slack did when they reduced the total amount of colors in their branding guide or Apple removing their headphone jack on the iPhone. Slack realized that the excess colors were not necessary to the overall playful message that the brand tries to promote, so they reduced the complexity. Similarly, Apple wanted to reduce the clutter and minimal listening distance associated with headphone wires so they removed the cords and changed to a wireless system.