Digital product development is new to many organizations and requires a dynamic approach to be successful. Digital products must to be viewed as organic entities that should constantly evolve and adapt to user needs.
You have to develop a clear vision of “What is right for digital” in order to build winning digital products. This vision has to be woven through the various stages of your digital product development process to create an experience that resonates with your users.
So, what are some of the common challenges you may encounter when developing a digital product?
Discovery and Definition: The Why
Solving the Right Problems for the Right People
A strong and objective discovery/definition phase is required to set your digital product up for success and therefore is the most important phase of the digital product lifecycle. Many stakeholders, being very close to their ideas, sometimes allow subjectivity to bleed into early stage decision making.
It is important to clearly identify your segments, the problems you are facing, and the solutions that need to be applied to those problems. To help define these crucial pieces of the puzzle, we recommend using a product canvas that can help you organize and articulate the unique value proposition of your digital product.
While many organizations have clearly defined business goals, they sometimes miss the step of aligning the digital product user’s needs to their vision. Don’t make the same mistake. Conducting highly structured user and stakeholder interviews can help you define the foundational elements of your digital product.
The output of this phase is a well-defined product direction that aligns with what will meet your user’s needs.
Design: The What
Creating the Right Experience
With a clear understanding of the user, their challenges, and a method to address them, you can begin to outline the overall experience for your digital product. Low friction, seamless, and intuitive user flows help users stay engaged and captivated.
Organizations are often tempted to translate their branding direction from conventional media directly into digital products. While branding language is significant, it’s imperative to employ human-centered design tactics that allow users to directly connect with your product - using empathy and emotion as tools to welcome and engage users.
It’s equally important to recognize that your user’s journey through this new digital experience is inherently connected with existing digital brand experiences - from social media to current web applications. You must have a thorough understanding of the full digital user journey in order to position this new product for success.
The output of this phase are well-crafted wireframes and digital assets that will form the building blocks of your digital product.
Development: The How
Building a Solid Foundation
Having outlined your new digital experience, it’s time to begin laying the foundation and building your product. The first, and often overlooked, step is selecting systems, frameworks, and platforms that allow for future growth based on your unique business requirements and roadmap.
Thinking too far in the future may lead to inaction due to over planning, being short-sighted could prove costly later on when new features are added. It’s a careful balance of being both cognizant and aware of future use cases, while being grounded enough in the present to build, test, and iterate.
Building on that mindset, it’s important to be agile and nimble during the development phase and make minor course corrections as needed to arrive at the completion of the ETP (Earliest Testable Product). This is when the digital product comes to life and becomes an organic entity - the digital product journey has just begun.
Sometimes, organizations move towards a public release immediately, but it is always prudent to put it in the hands of a select group of users and understand how the product is addressing their needs. We then continue to shape it based on user feedback and arrive at a validated MVP (Minimum Viable Product). Both the ETP and MVP are stages along the larger digital product journey, and the only constant throughout is evolution and innovation.
Continued Iteration and Maintenance
Positioning for Future Growth
Many believe the the digital product journey is complete once your new product has launched, but it’s just the beginning. All the upfront research, planning, and development will be meaningless unless you continue to iterate and push your product forward.
As stated earlier, a digital product must continue to grow and transform to match user needs. You will begin to receive feedback, comments, new feature requests, defect reports and more. It may feel overwhelming, but it’s crucial to intake this new information and feed the development process with prioritized tasks which align with your larger product roadmap - working every day for continuous product evolution and improvement.