Choose a blank sheet of white paper. Put a black dot in the center. Give it to someone and ask what they see. I bet all they’ll see is the black dot. No one sees the beautiful texture, immaculate whiteness, or shape of the paper. All they see is the black dot. Everything else is invisible. That’s how thankless developing a product can be. Nobody notices anything until something goes wrong. Then all hell breaks loose.
Every day, CEOs, project managers, product managers, brand managers, UX designers, developers, and digital marketers work hard developing new products and improving on existing ones. What users see are the shiny Web sites and colorful apps. But a lot happens behind the scenes, and the process is not as sleek as the outcomes.
But people often appreciate the results better when they know how much work went into achieving them. In this article, I’ll walk through the product-development process so you can better understand what makes it easy or complex.
The Product-Development Process
Products don’t just happen. An ecommerce store doesn’t just spring up. A fintech app doesn’t just appear on the Apple store. A scholarship Web site doesn’t just show up on the Internet. People make these products, and product teams follow a process. Developing a product follows a series of steps from product conception to launch.
Of course, this process can vary somewhat from team to team, but the core steps are the same, and the role of user experience is paramount. The process of research, design, and development is iterative and, therefore, nonlinear. A product team can repeat the steps of the process as often as necessary, as they keep refining the idea, then the product. At any point, based on research and user feedback, a product team can refine their problem definition and challenge their assumptions.
The product team should embed User Experience throughout the product-development lifecycle. When designing an app, Web site, or other software, most UX teams employ the design-thinking approach. This framework is all about creating a product that satisfies users’ needs. The team identifies the problem to solve from the user’s perspective, and meeting the needs of the user must be their top priority.
Now, let’s look at the steps that developing a product involves.
Every product stems from an idea. It’s the starting point. As easy as this sounds, ideation is the toughest part of developing a product. A lot of teams get stuck here because they want to create the perfect product. So, they keep brainstorming and discarding ideas until they arrive at one they think can work.
If a product team is creating a new version of an existing product, the process can be a bit easier because there’s already a clear starting point. Market analysis and insights from user research or prior usability testing can help during this idea-generation stage. Plus, the team can use the SCAMPER method to come up with ideas for products. SCAMPER stands for the following:
Putting to another use
This is a time-tested approach that product teams often use to come up with great ideas.
The next step in software development is research. This step is essential because it either validates or invalidates your product idea. Once you’ve come up with a brilliant idea, the temptation to jump right into development is high. You’re excited and feel like you’re about to create the next best thing since sliced bread. Why wait?
As thrilling as it might be to take that leap, this is the time to chill and test your idea first. You might find out that it’s not as hot as you thought or needs some modification. Feeling the pulse of the market and listening to feedback from users and stakeholders makes a world of difference at this stage. You don’t want to create a product that no one needs or is willing to pay for.
Here are some ways you can test your product idea:
Use search engines to discover whether it’s a need that people are talking about.
Send out an online survey to your target audience to see whether it’s something they need.
Ask relevant online forums for their opinions on the idea.
Analyze the product’s potential strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats by conducting a SWOT analysis.
Talk to people in the industry and get their views on your product idea.
Do a competitive analysis of the market for the product.
After conducting research, you have a better understanding and firmer grasp on what you want to create. Research is an illuminating stage that opens your eyes to whatever you haven’t seen during ideation. Then you’ll apply what you’ve learned by defining the product you want to design and build.
With the knowledge you’ve gained through research and analysis, you now have the clarity to refine your idea and properly describe your product. This is when you define your value proposition: the special capability your product would offer or bring to the marketplace.
A value proposition is a promise that you make to your intended customers. Communicating your product’s value proposition is a way of persuading your target audience to do business with you instead of your competitors. It should be the competitive edge that you have over your rivals in the marketplace.
At this stage, you start planning how to bring your product to life. Nothing good happens without planning. During this phase, list everything you need for the project, including materials, processes, human capital, tools, and the necessary timeframe. Identify all the specialties and professionals you need on the team to make the project successful and what they can bring to the table.
Defining your marketing strategy is also part of planning. Now that you have a viable idea, how do you intend to market the product when it’s ready? You can’t wait till the product is ready to launch to determine this. You must strategize from the beginning.
Compliance with Privacy Regulations
The California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) is an act that protects consumer data. It helps users control how companies can collect and distribute their personal information. Often, product teams jump into launching without ticking the box for CPRA and other privacy regulations. This oversight has landed many companies in trouble. These laws and regulations guide data collection, and every organization playing in the data field must comply with them. The failure to abide by these rules accrues penalties, fines, and reputational harm. As you plan your product, ensure that you incorporate compliance with relevant laws into your process.
This is the phase when you create a mockup of the product so you can test the market before launching. Also known as a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), a prototype lets you test and get feedback on the product so you can identify which areas are good and which need improvement. Often, building prototypes is an iterative process, incorporating feedback as you learn more about your users’ needs.
Early detection of imperfections is one of the benefits of prototyping, which helps you to know whether your product is working well and actually solves a problem as intended. Having a prototype also saves you a lot of time and money. If you launch a product without prototyping it first, you won’t be able to make corrections early on, when it’s easier to do so. Prototyping enables you to create a more satisfying product for the user.
During usability or A/B testing, you’ll give a sample population of your users access to your prototype so they can try using it and provide feedback. You’ll conduct testing and use their feedback to improve the prototype, as often as necessary. This is a compulsory step in developing any product.
During software development, you build your Web site, app, or other software for public use. At this point, you’ve already scaled several hurdles to arrive at your MVP and thoroughly test it. Now, it’s time to build a real product. The design team hands over the prototype to the development team, and the developers begin their work.
The final stage of product development is announcing your product to the world and releasing it to the marketplace. You can now showcase the result of all your months or years of hard work to the world. Your product should be ready for people to successfully use it. The marketing team takes over from here and begins executing its marketing strategies.
The Product-Development Process: Complex Yet Simple
To answer my original question: how complex is the product-development process? It’s both complex and simple. It is complex because there are so many aspects to it, and each must achieve the desired goals. On the other hand, it is simple because one step in the process leads naturally to the other steps and, if well managed, these well-established steps are relatively easy to execute. All in all, the process is intensive yet exciting. Of course, there is a lot of work to do, and every step comes with its challenges and successes. But at the end of the process, a product team has a beautiful product to show off.
As a content strategist, UX writer, and editor, Moyofade, or Mo as her friends call her, is fascinated by all things tech. She is witty and loves personal development and helping people to grow. Mo holds a Masters in Publishing and Copyright Studies/Editorial Procedures and a BA in Philosophy from the University of Ibadan. Read More