Nathalie Stratton - Mission Driven Product Design


Do you have a product idea that you are confident will help people? Before you do too much work on it, listen to Nathalie's advice on building a product from scratch and her approach to the challenges of physical product design versus digital product design. Read the article below for her advice on these topics, and listen to the full episode for more of Nathalie's insightful advice.

🎯 Get proof the problem exists!

When launching a new digital or physical product, dig into the research to confirm there is a problem to be solved and your product will solve it. You will spend a lot of time convincing people there is a problem, so collecting data points before you start building will ensure you aren’t wasting your time on a product that will fail.

💡 Physical and digital products require different approaches!

Iteration is not possible with physical products like software, so consider the time, effort, and money needed to work through a physical product design. Since you can’t just add new features on the fly with physical products, you must think through all of the details upfront and complete extensive pre-testing of your product.

Mission-Driven Product Design

In episode 52 of The Product Design Podcast, Seth Coelen interviews Nathalie Stratton, Co-founder and Head of Product Design and Engineering at Hearth. Hearth is a digital touchscreen for family management and productivity, made to lighten the load of organization for busy families.

During our chat, Nathalie discusses her early transition from architecture to product design. Nathalie shares how she was inspired to create Hearth, the challenges she faced during the product design and launch process, and what she feels is the most valuable skill set for anyone looking to launch their product into the world. This episode is filled with great advice and learnings on bringing a product to market!

Nathalie Stratton & Seth Coelen on The Product Design Podcast

This article will focus on Nathalie’s advice on what to consider when getting started and the challenges you may face when building your product.

Things to Consider When You Start Building a Product From Scratch

You have decided to build your product idea. Now what? Nathalie has learned so much along her journey to launching Hearth.

From how to set yourself up for success from the start and continuing to challenge yourself to figuring out how to convince people that your product can help them with their problems. Here are a few tips she shared with us about the advice she would give anyone who has decided to launch their product!

📢 Build your hype team first!

Surround yourself with people that believe in you and that have a complementary skill set to your own. They will help to challenge you in ways that will improve your product. It also helps if they believe in the pain point you are trying to solve, so they can support your product design journey.

📊 Dig into the research.

Before you go too far down the road, do your research. Find the data points to ensure a problem needs to be solved, and your product idea will be able to do that. When you can convince people that the pain point exists and you have the data to support it, your product becomes mission-driven and solidifies your commitment to your product.

“If you want to build a product from scratch, surround yourself with people who believe in you and have complementary skills. Then really dig into the research and find data points for the problem that you're solving. To be like, this really is a problem that exists in the market and is a design challenge that needs a solution.”

🧠 Never stop learning.

Nathalie has caught herself trying to become an expert in different topics, but she stops herself when she reaches an understanding of 80% for that topic. At that point, she hands it off to an expert to finish or moves on to learn something else. By stepping away from learning at that 80% mark, she can keep up speed and momentum in her learning process, which allows her to continue to be well-rounded in product design and development.

How to Approach the Challenges of Building a Physical Product

Hearth offers a physical display screen with specific software to help families organize and work together. Nathalie dives deep into the difference between launching a physical product with a digital element versus software alone. Here are a few things to think about if your product has a physical component associated with it!

Building a physical product takes more time.

When considering a physical element for your product, remember that your timeline needs to be extended because it simply takes much longer. There is more pressure to get it right quickly from supply chain issues to creating prototypes.

💡 Do extensive pre-testing.

Getting the product right the first time is vital with a physical product. Extensive pre-testing can be done relatively cheaply through imagery, asking people questions, and physically putting the prototype in people's hands (or, in this case, homes) for feedback about size, design, etc. For Hearth, they created 3 sizes for their prototypes to test what size was preferred by their audience.

🧠 Be prepared to think forward.

Nathalie explained how more thought must be put into a physical product because you have to consider all of the features you want in the hardware upfront. Iteration is not possible with physical products like it is with software, so you can’t just add another feature as you think of it down the road.

Nathalie Stratton
“Doing something that has never been done before is always gonna be a huge challenge. So it has both its lows and highs. When you get to create something beautiful that people are using and people love, that's the high. But when it takes longer or you don't feel like you have the resources to do it, that’s the low.”

Thank you so much, Nathalie!

Thank you, Nathalie, for joining us on the show and walking us through launching a mission-driven physical product with a digital component. It was fascinating to hear how Nathalie came up with the idea for Hearth and how she brought it to life with her co-founders, even through the challenges. Nathalie's advice on starting a product from scratch and things to keep in mind when adding a physical component to your product is extremely insightful. It will help our listeners who have aspirations of following in her footsteps!

Listen to the complete episode on The Product Design Podcast, which includes Nathalies take on the red flags to watch out for when interviewing for a job and the skillset she thinks is the most important to finding success in product design. Don’t forget to follow Nathalie on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and the Hearth website for more information on the Hearth Display. If you listened to the whole episode or read this far into the blog 😉, you can also grab this link to jump the line for your Hearth Display!

Where to find Nathalie

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