What is a digital product? A digital product could be anything, for example, a SaaS tool that helps to design database models online, a mobile application that helps one lose weight, or a messaging feature through Facebook. These examples are all classified as products because they create specific value for its users, customers, and the company that develops and delivers these products. In order for a product to be built, a company needs to identify a business opportunity by finding an existing problem within a particular segment of customers. Once the problem is clearly defined, a product needs to be developed to provide a perfectly suitable solution for this problem.
Product Development Process
The product will undergo different stages throughout its lifecycle. These stages are part of the Product Development Process, in which the idea evolves from concept to a fully functional product.
There are seven stages in the product development process:
– Conceive: identifying problems and finding solutions. Defining the idea for the product.
– Plan: marketing and comparative analysis of the idea defined in the Conceive stage. Interviewing customers.
– Develop: creating a roadmap for the product. Defining features and requirements for the product. Identifying MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and timelines for the product.
– Iterate: completing and testing prototype on users to ensure that the product is moving in the right direction. Analyzing feedback from the users and adjusting the product if needed.
– Launch: ensuring that the product is properly positioned for public launch from various aspects such as technical, marketing, legal, PR, sales, etc. Launching the product and observe how the users are reacting to the product.
– Steady: collecting and analyzing metrics. Continue marketing and selling the product. Asses the current stage of the product and identify the potential of the product.
– Maintain or Discontinue: analyzing the data to understand how competitive the product is, and the likelihood of the product to move forward to return the investment. If it is decided to discontinue the product, then the users should be given a notice that the product will be discontinued in the near future. If the product stays afloat, then it should be constantly analyzed and improved with the new set of features based on the feedback from the users.
Digital Product Creation
One of the most important stages in the product development process is the planning stage, where the idea of the product is qualitatively validated by establishing a continuous communication with the customers. This process is called Customer Development and it is primarily used for risk mitigation and opportunity recognition. By interviewing customers, a company can gain more insight as to whether or not the problem that the product claims to solve really exists. If the idea is validated by the customers, then Customer Development Process will be later used to prioritize the features for MVP. The customers will identify the primary features that they desire to be in the first version of the product. The MVP is the smallest amount of a proposed product that is released to real users in order for companies to validate the hypotheses and assumptions they have about their ideas. The concept of releasing MVP first to the public enables companies to save resources before the idea of their product is validated by the users.
When the MVP features of the product have been identified, a company will start building the product by first conceptualizing it. It will be implemented by using wireframing, which in turn serves as a guide for a website or mobile app that determines a general structure and layout for where the content of the product will be positioned and how the users will see it. The process of wireframing is very iterative and can impact the features that were proposed for MVP. Potentially, the MVP can change multiple times due to the fact that many new ideas can be discovered during wireframing. Once the process of wireframing is deemed complete, the next step in conceptualizing of the product will be mockuping. Mockuping allows a product team to see the statistic displays of what the final product should visually look like. The final step would be a delicate transition from static screens to more high-fidelity screens, namely, a fully functional prototype with all five User Interface states: blank state, loading state, partial state, error state, and ideal state.The prototype is an interactive representation of wireframes and mockups allowing the product team to see their product in action by observing how users interact from screen to screen with their website, SaaS or mobile application.
Along with wireframes, mockups, and prototypes the product team will create software requirement specifications that will describe how the product will work and how it should be developed by the engineering team. The specification will be broken down into multiple parts, each part signifying a feature of the software application. A feature must have acceptance criteria that should be followed by the Engineering Department who develop the product and the Quality Assurance department who test the features provided by the engineers. These practices enable the company to fully meet the requirements that are set in the specifications and deliver the best quality results.
Building a product is a difficult endeavor for any company. It is uncertain to predict that a product will be successful after its launch, however, it is clear that if a company concentrates its efforts on a problem-solution space and a product-market fit, it has a greater chance to release a product that is accepted and needed by the market. Simply, a product that provides positive emotions to the users and to the team, which has created that product, has a greater chance of success.