A product is a single component of a more elaborate system that all needs to move in the same direction to ensure that the product succeeds in the marketplace.
It's easy for a team of developers to develop an idea, create an application, and launch it in any mobile marketplace. But for the product to succeed, you need to build an end-user mindset into your product development process. This means conducting research, getting customer feedback, testing the product, adopting appropriate marketing tactics, hiring the right people, understanding your competition, and much more.
Factoring all these components into your product development process produces a solid foundation for scaling your product and adding value to your end users.
Building an end-user mindset
Before technology and data became central to decision making, users did not have much say on the product experience, and they worked with what was available. It was a one-way relationship with little customer input. Fast forward to the present day, where the UK registered 19,500 new tech companies in 2020 alone, indicating a tough competitive landscape.
Success in such a competitive environment requires companies to adopt an end-user mindset where developers create products aligned with customer needs.
This means prioritizing data-driven development, continuous improvement, and customer satisfaction.
Unfortunately, it's common for developers to focus on releasing new features to fulfill their job responsibilities with little consideration for end user needs. So how can developers adopt an end-user mindset and build products that add value to customers and the company? We propose a six-pronged approach.
Adopt user-centered design principles
The user-centered design (UCD) approach prioritizes human interactions, needs, and behaviors while developing software solutions. This means creating innovative solutions that solve user problems instead of arbitrarily adding features to optimize the system.
Great products also prioritize user feedback throughout the development process. Having continuous conversations with your target audience will give you fresh insights that you may not encounter since you've already interacted with the product.
Test new products
Checking the viability of your idea before full software development saves you the headache of launching a product no one wants. Sure, the idea looked brilliant on paper, but you still need to test it with real users to ensure your team works on a market-viable product.
There are multiple cost-effective ways to test a product.
For example, you can get a handful of people to use the software to see how they interact with different features. Interviews are also suitable testing methods for customers' discussions to understand their pain points and improvement areas.
Testing new products early in the development process helps you determine their actual value. That way, you'll hit the market with an already viable product that consumers want.
Create well-defined requirements
Establishing product requirements gives you a solid foundation for creating market-centric solutions. You'll determine your product's vision, goals, scope, target, costs, and project timelines — this ensures all features are included in the final product without needing extensive reworks.
Failure to explicitly define product requirements also leads to communication breakdown, poorly structured workflows, and eventually, a product that fails to meet the needs of its target audience.
Have a continuously-evolving product strategy
Companies often define their product strategy but fail to continuously refine it as time goes on and new factors come into play.
Therefore, it's essential to have an evolving plan that can provide direction in the face of new competition, market uncertainties, and limited resources.
Such a strategy adopts an outside-looking-in approach where you continuously scan the market and refine your products to match the market's needs.
Manage product complexity
Developers spend plenty of time writing and maintaining code. This is both a good and challenging practice and it improves product quality. However, excessively adding new features often results in unnecessary complexity that produces many bugs, leading to more downtime and complex software that fails to deliver on usefulness.
To reduce software complexity, always test new tools before adding them to your development process to avoid overburdening your development team.
Also, ensure developers interact with end users (or user feedback) to understand their perspective and avoid misguided software development practices.
Create scalable software
Too often, companies prioritize the needs at hand while ignoring scalability because it seems to be a future priority. But when traffic and end-user activity increases, the company faces software downtime, maintenance issues, and even security breaches.
Baking scalability into your product future proofs your platform and prepares you when workloads increase. That way, you can easily accommodate new users and give them a seamless experience when they first interact with your product.
How do you start developing products for your market and not for developers?
Creating products that your market wants can be complicated, especially when developers believe their current idea is viable. The best way to manage expectations is to engage potential end users then work around their feedback. Plus, it's easier to demonstrate the viability of a new product idea when you already have concrete customer feedback.