Product development tools are valuable, and can help simplify the entire process of building products.
At the end of the day, though, there's not many tools needed during the development process. I've certainly fallen into the trap of thinking I'd need expensive software to really improve how my team worked, when in reality we'd end up using the same handful of tools.
The tools listed below are my go-tos that I've culled from starting and developing many different projects over the last 10 years. These tools are common and easy to use, and they may help improve how you and your team work going forward.
Market Research and Validation
Products have to start on a firm bed of validation. In order to do that, you'll need some tools to help with market research and validation.
SimilarWeb allows you to find a baseline for a website or app's popularity based on third-party data partners. This is helpful for understanding how much traffic a website receives and where the traffic comes from.
The data isn't perfect and is merely a quick snapshot of the top performers in a market. Quantcast is another alternative, but I find SimilarWeb more accessible.
Google Keyword Planner
The Google Keyword Planner tool is helpful for getting a generic look at how much it would cost to advertise for specific keywords, but also how popular certain keyword phrases are.
Now that you've validated your product, you can start thinking about how the product should look and operate.
Wireframing tools like Balsamiq allow you to quickly sketch the different aspects of a product's website. This is an important step that can help get everyone on board before the designers and developers start working on the website.
If you're using Adobe Creative Cloud then Adobe's XD is a less expensive alternative.
Now we're getting down to the nitty gritty of deciding who's going to do what and when on the product.
There are a lot of project management tools out there, but I consider many to be too fidgety for my tastes. I like to stick with the simpler services when it comes to project management that perform the basics well and get out of the way.
Basecamp is the Godfather of project management teams, and the platform seems to have just enough powerful functionality to corral teams, yet enough simplicity to have anyone use in the team.
Many of the above project management tools have communication features built in (it is helpful to lump communication with the tasks that need to happen).
But sometimes an email or comment on a task won't cut it, and you need a reply a little quicker. Real-time communication platforms are helpful for this kind of quick interactions between teams.
Slack is a widely used chat program. One downside to Slack is that messages stop being archived in the free version, so you'll have to pay a monthly fee for each user to search the archives.
If your company uses Microsoft products, then consider giving Microsoft Teams a shot.
Tools for Analysis and Improvement
Even if you're developing a physical product, you'll likely have a website to drive sales. Testing and tracking this website can help with creating more efficient landing pages and will give insights into how to improve the product going forward.
Google's A/B testing tool Optimize is free and works nicely with their Analytics and Adwords tools as well, which many businesses already use.
You can set up tests for free to make sure that calls to action, imagery, copy and any other aspect of your website design is performing at an optimal level.
Other Useful Product Development Tools
There are a handful of other tools that teams use for product development that I've used on a consistent basis. These apps aren't strictly for business applications, but I've found them to be quite helpful.
There is a surprising amount of writing that happens during the product development stage (there's copy and project outlines among other things). I prefer to use Ulysses for this, as it organizes everything I've written. Another alternative is Typora, a minimal editor.
If you ask me, applications that allow you to collect information in a database are worth their weight in gold. These apps allow you to collect images, thoughts, voice recordings and text in a searchable database. I think Evernote and Apple Notes are fantastic and both free.
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