Product development is one of the more challenging aspects of running a business. Having an offering that is already so perfect you don't need to improve or evolve with the market is very rare.
1. Put yourself in your customers' shoes.
Product development can be at its most successful when it is directly connected to an unmet customer need.
"If you can create a smooth, flawless experience with no interference or frustrations, it's likely that people will enjoy using your product. Solve a problem and make lives easier," says Ali Mahvan, CEO of social shopping company Sharebert.
—Ali Mahvan, CEO, Sharebert
“You're not starting a company to build a product for yourself," she continues. "You're starting a company to build a product for your customers. Customer feedback has driven every major design and experience decision throughout the building of the Sharebert app, and is our number one metric for design."
2. Iron out your process.
Torrey Tayenaka, CEO of video production company Sparkhouse, wanted to create animated explainer videos to market customers' businesses, products and services. Explainer videos are useful because you can produce them without actors and multiple cameras, and while a product is still in the concepting stage.
However, Tayenaka needed to build a process that could be easily understood and followed by his team and customers alike.
“We took our time in developing a 12-step animation process that we always strive to communicate clearly," Tayenaka says.
3. Take the "airplane window" view....
To tackle product development, try taking a step back and looking around you, even as you have the urge to charge forward.
“We are constantly looking at the big picture, asking ourselves: Do we know what we are creating, who we are creating it for and why we are creating it?" says Tayenaka.
“If we understand those key points, we can always make sure the ship is headed in the right direction," he continues. "But on the other hand, if we get too excited about features and specifics, we can lose sight of what's really important."
4. ...but try not to forget subtasks and details.
Try to balance your product development focus, or you run the risk of having critical elements fall through the cracks.
“Building our platform as a whole was a massive undertaking," says Mahvan. “To execute effectively at this scale, we needed to break down the project into smaller sub-tasks. For example, one aspect was to zero in on the small pain points customers experience between finding a single product that they want, and then getting to the site or online store that sells it quickly."
And, with any product that is customer-facing, the little things can make a big difference.
“Consider every detail during the development stage, from price and design to packaging and smell, if your product is a physical object, and initial interaction if it's an experience," adds Mahvan.
5. Trust your own intuition.
Product development involves a lot of moving parts, and input from many stakeholders. Nevertheless, there is no substitute for your own instinct as a business owner.
“Get input in the development process when trying to validate your features and offerings, but at the same time, people often don't know what they want until you tell them," says Tayenaka. “Sometimes, you need to develop your products isolated from input so that you can come out of the process with something truly innovative."
Entering the product development process with solid knowledge of your market and a concrete process, and then taking both macro and micro perspectives, can help you derive the most from your innovation efforts.
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