September 27, 2022
Design Principles for Logistics Software
When building products, arguably the most important aspect is to have a solid product vision. This paves the strategy for years until necessary revision. With the product vision you can easily communicate to a broader audience, especially the tech team, the problem of "what" needs to be done.
Then comes the second question, "how" are we going to build this?
The prioritization and triage of workloads are part of the product strategy, of how to build the product. However, when it comes to actual development, you need guiding principles so that you ensure a complete, reliable, and valuable customer experience.
This post will outline principles that guide how we design our product offering. This is especially useful as we grow because we need to have an efficient framework for building innovative transport and logistics software. These design principles stem naturally from asking: What do we pay attention to when building new technology and tools? We developed a few answers based on what our users, shippers and supply chain professionals, would value in managing their cargo.
We want our products and features to look seamless and connected, not like they are built by different companies. This can be a challenge when different teams or people work on separate tasks because they tend to use their own style. Personalization comes with good intentions - we want to foster creativity and originality, but combining uniformity and originality gets tricky with solving complex supply chain problems. If you see teams using components that don’t fit together - different colors, font sizes, icons, wording - it affects how the product and company get perceived. Therefore, we adhere to particular design standards by sticking to our brand guidelines.
User experience gets special attention through documenting common user behavior and optimizing accordingly. As we iterate on our product, we constantly monitor the user behavior. A very good example is our Free CO2 Calculator. We saw that users had trouble understanding the form and filling it in appropriately. So, we focused on our validation, which changes the form elements whenever information is missing or entered incorrectly. Design fixes include changing the text box border colors, adding a warning sign next to the transport modes, and using more directive text like “please fill all the required fields correctly”. And we will continue to iterate. This whole process helps us to discover, analyze, and fix the pain points in our UI and UX.
A big part of product work is doing experiments. We make hypotheses about the ideal UX, we quickly build an MVP around it, and we release it. Only then can we prove or disprove our hypotheses and gather learnings from the experiments.
This is a subset of UX. We always prioritize simple over fancy. Fancy can work, but mostly in flashy consumer products like Snapchat or TikTok. But our B2B software users, logistics professionals, usually work with large sets of data. For this, we want to make sure that they have easy-to-use and smooth technology since they will use our tools for long stretches. Think of a road trip: would you rather be in Mercedes S-class or a Lamborghini? You would prefer the comfort of the former.
Last but not least. Flexibility can be a curse if overused, but if managed properly, it is truly a blessing and a unique selling point for our product. We understand that every company runs their supply chain in different ways, and we don't want to impose a random standard that will just get internal resistance. Instead, we let people work with data structures that make sense to them. This exemplifies how our logistics expertise blends with our technical creativity. Our implementation managers set up products as solutions through diagnosing the precise problems that each customer faces. This happens through configuring the TMS, defining all transport data fields to be used, importing the data quickly, building tailor-made dashboards, discussing the ERP integration options, etc. Then, our product management team enhances the user lovability factor by building this immense customizability.
These principles work best for us because our logistics technology products serve a multitude of use cases across many types of shippers, and these problems have complex solutions. We work to build products that make their lives easier, but depending on your industry and business strategy, different principles might serve your organization best.
The main point is the importance of product principles as essential tools for scalable software development. As a product leader, you can only do so much. You must communicate in a simple and understandable way in order to motivate teams and to ensure alignment. If you understand the vision, then you can convey it efficiently and strengthen the strategy with the principles. Exceptional product development will follow.
Hope this brings a bit more clarity in how we develop our product and I hope it helps in your project.
Logward is a Hamburg & Bangalore based logistics technology company.
We build software, move containers, and change mindsets.
If you have any questions or just want to say hi, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can book time with one of our logistics experts here.