Design doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Today’s UI and UX designers don’t just think about visual design: they are problem solvers involved in every stage of the product development process. The Product Development Life Cycle helps us understand how design fits into product development.

The Product Development Life Cycle (PDLC) is a cross-functional, iterative process, usually involving many stakeholders across an organization. The process starts from a problem or pain point to ensure that product development meets a real user need and that the whole team is aligned around the same goals.

Often, a product manager owns this process at a high level. UX designers and researchers can be involved at any stage of the cycle to ensure user needs are taken into account. UI designers are responsible for the visual layer of the product, one of the many outputs of the process.

UI and UX designers can use the stated goals and definitions from the Product Development Life Cycle to ensure their work meets the captured requirements and to facilitate smooth collaboration with other stakeholders.

The Product Development Life Cycle consists of 5 stages:

  1. Brainstorm: Starting from a defined problem or pain point, the team brainstorms all possible solutions. Market or user research can help inspire ideas.
  2. Define: The team aligns on specifications for the product by defining the vision, goals, target users, features, benefits, and success metrics.
  3. Design: The product is designed from low-fidelity to high-fidelity, starting with sketches and wireframes and moving to prototypes and a completed interface.
  4. Test: The product or prototype is tested to ensure it works as intended. Testing can range from informal internal testing of low-fidelity prototypes to usability testing of a high-fidelity prototype or final product by external users.
  5. Launch: The final design is released to the public, but the cycle doesn’t end here. Typically, testing continues even after the product has launched, and the cycle continues.


Think about answers to the following questions to check your understanding of the Product Development Life Cycle.

What are the stages of the Product Development Life Cycle?

Check Answer
There are five stages:
  1. Brainstorm
  2. Define
  3. Design
  4. Test
  5. Launch

When does the Product Development Life Cycle end?

Check Answer
The cycle is continuous—products and interfaces should be continuously tested and improved even after they launch.

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