Product architecture refers to the way you organize your product’s functional components and how they interact with each other.
When you’re focused on the details of product development, sometimes you may end up missing out on how your product’s functions mesh together. You may be spending a lot of effort working on a feature or function that isn’t so important to the end goal. Or, you may have redundant features that you could eliminate. Mapping out your product architecture helps you avoid issues like these and make your project more efficient.
In this article, we discuss product architecture, how mapping it out benefits you, and how to create it.
Table of contents
- What is Product Architecture?
- What Are the Types of Product Architecture?
- What Are the Benefits of Creating a Product Architecture?
- How Do You Create a Product Architecture?
- Product Architecture: Bringing You Back Down to Earth
What is Product Architecture?
Product architecture is the process of mapping out and organizing your product’s functions and how they interact with each other. It is separated from the aesthetic design of your product and solely deals with how functions and features work, not how they look.
Product architecture often deals with physical products and demonstrates how their physical functions are connected. For example, the product architecture of a camera might look like a box named “camera”. Connected to the box are physical items, like “lens” and “shutter button,” the latter of which may have an associated function called “take a picture.”
In software development, product architecture has a similar purpose. It elegantly illustrates the functional aspects of your product without considering the interface or design.
What Are the Types of Product Architecture?
There are two principal types of product architecture: Modular and integral.
In modular product architecture, you map out your product’s functions and describe them only briefly, but then focus on how the functions interact with each other in greater detail. This method allows you to identify how each function depends on each other, as well as any redundancies and poor cross-functionalities.
This, in turn, results in a more polished product that requires less maintenance and will last longer overall. And because you understand the relationship between each functional module, you can replace modules that require revision or modification without having to affect a large number of interacting parts.
The second is integral product architecture, where the functionality of your product takes center stage, and the interactions between features are mostly just side notes. Working with an integral architecture can help you improve performance and reduce costs.
What Are the Benefits of Creating a Product Architecture?
Understanding your product architecture helps you recenter your focus on the functional design of your product. This comes with several benefits that can help you identify deficiencies in your product.
Identifying Unneeded Features
One of the most critical benefits is that you’ll be able to identify features that are no longer important to the product’s functional goals. These features could’ve been deemed important in the early stages of development. However, as the product evolved, the features may become vestigial requirements that no longer benefit the end goals.
By identifying these features and deprecating them, you can save time and development resources that would’ve gone to waste.
When you understand the relationships between your product functions, you may also find that some functions overlap with others. Two features may end up attempting to pursue the same objective, for instance. Alternatively, you may find that two features have similar functions and they can be merged into one.
A Stronger Focus on Fulfilling User Requirements
At the end of the day, your product is designed to meet the needs of your users. By going back to basics and looking at how each function serves these requirements, you’ll be able to design a better product. This is important especially when your product has become a highly complex piece of engineering and you may have lost sight of your goals. Getting a simple view of the whole functional architecture can bring that focus back.
How Do You Create a Product Architecture?
1. Design a Schematic of the Product
Your product architecture begins with a schematic of your product. Each element of the schematic or diagram will describe the product’s features. You can do this from scratch, but there are many product architecture schematic templates available.
2. Assign Each Feature and Functional Element to Groups
After that, place each feature of your product into a group that describes what various features have in common, and how they interact together. A single feature or element may belong to multiple groups depending on these interactions and commonalities.
3. Create a Geometric Layout of the Features
This is where the organizational part of product architecture comes in. Here, you arrange all of your features and elements on the schematic in a logical way that represents functional grouping, patterns, and flows.
4. Connect the Features with Lines
Finally, with the geometric layout in place, connect all interacting parts with lines. Each line represents whether and how an element interacts with another. Once you have all of these aspects in place, you’ll have a much clearer idea of what your product’s functional elements are.
Product Architecture: Bringing You Back Down to Earth
Product architectures recenter your approach to development to be more functionality-focused. This can help bring you back down to Earth, so to speak, when your head is in the clouds due to design and other considerations. By mapping out a product architecture, you’ll be able to see how each functional element interacts and brings value. Also, it helps to determine where best to commit your resources in service of user needs.