There is a lot of advice and common wisdom about how passion and vision are key to achieving your dreams with your digital product. This can be great for providing that initial spark to act on a great new idea, but there’s a lot to be learned from the nuanced journey of bringing it to life. The multi-faceted product development process can drive your idea forward and ultimately shape it into its best version for launch.
Here are some great things to focus on before you fall in love with your product:
Don’t get attached to the solution
Getting too attached to your original solution can lead to missed opportunities. Some of the best products can come about when you’re researching your original idea. It’s entirely possible the solution you envisioned wasn’t even the root of the problem. Once you get into market research and defining your business model, it can pay off to have an open mind to new solutions. Or, for example, that there’s a broader underlying problem which needs to be tackled first.
Keep the end-user in mind from Day 1
You want to build something for your current and potential clients – a simple fact that can be easy to lose track of in all the excitement of the ideation stage. Keeping this in mind will better position you to adjust and adapt to new information. This is where understanding the art of the customer journey can keep you on the right track. You can gain insight into how the users will be interacting with your product at each step. What are they really thinking, seeing, and doing? It might not be what you expected and you can use this data to prioritize features and see the product from a new perspective and outside of the technical and design scope.
Absorb feedback from the team on the front lines
Sometimes others in the team will have valuable input based on their unique skill set. A great synergy can be found in the combined perspectives of the product manager, product designer, and tech lead. They will have first hand experience to better understand and make decisions based on data and direct, regular interactions with the customers throughout the development process. The best kind of feedback is based on more than opinions and your team on the ground can provide that. It’s important not to underestimate the combined expertise of your team and their insight into what needs to be built.
Plan ahead to iterate
It’s one thing to stay open minded, but what about the practical elements of giving yourself leeway and margins of error. No matter how exciting your first idea felt, things will almost inevitably change as you learn more about clients and their needs. Make sure you establish working relationships and contracts that will let you fine tune your product. For example, consider working with a flexible scope and see where it can take your idea (if you’re curious to learn more about what it means to develop with a flexible scope, check out this glimpse into the delivery team’s thought process).
Take the tech giant Uber – it’s a popular solution to a common problem, but they are spending millions to fine tune customer journeys within the application. Of course, you can manage it on a smaller budget, but the performance and experience of your app will be quite different. Whatever budget you can spare, it’s important to not skip the iteration process entirely – you need clarity on what features need to be perfected and which features just need to be functional.
Try not to get dogmatic about features
It’s surprisingly easy to end up with a favorite feature, but that doesn’t mean that feature needs to stay. Once you zoom out and see the product as a whole, you can get a better idea of what users want or the most essential cost to include in your budget. This can also save you from pouring hours into polishing “nice to have” features that may ultimately see very little real-world usage or value. For example, it may not be worth it to automate back office processes if they need to be done four times a month. Or adding budgeting functionality into a banking app before your transactions are fast and seamless. It’s better to have a simpler product that solves the problem well, than a complex one that has people ringing your customer service line. Get obsessed with solving your customers actual problems and driving business outcomes, rather than just ticking boxes on features.
Remember why you’re building the product
In other words: have a solid premise and build on that. Take the time to define your mission statement and understand your customer needs with the whole team. As the development process goes on, you’ll be flooded with new information, opportunities, and challenges. One way to keep your grip and prioritize is to keep the foundational idea of your product in mind. Shiny new trends and fun features can be tested out once your product is firmly established.
Don’t rush to the finish line
The simplest and most important part of all: don’t use up your resources and energy by charging ahead at all costs. A lot of the best breakthroughs come from really studying the market and user base your idea is targeting. Building a quality product that makes sense is a marathon runners game. It’s important to pace yourself correctly and plan according to a timeline that involves a deep understanding of your product and the time it deserves to build it.