How to evaluate your product and truly understand it
Your idea is not your product. This simple misunderstanding is the cause of much stress, wasted money, and incredible frustration. Your idea influences your product, your idea drives your product, but your idea is NOT your product. This is critical to understand before you decide to develop your product. This post outlines three simple steps to take to help you design, formalize and truly understand product you want to develop.
We encourage our clients to begin with a simple market analysis, start by identifying and defining the category and industry your eventual product will fit into. This is an important exercise because it helps your development team contextualize and review similar products and category norms. The software space is incredibly competitive, if your development team doesn’t understand who their developing for, they have no way of helping you create unique product and competitive advantages.
Your market should be a primary driving force as you evaluate and design your UI, UX, and eventual rollout. Setting this foundation will allow you to refine and tailor your product around what currently works. We have our clients take the following steps to help them contextualize their market and formulate their competitive advantage.
- Identify and download 2-3 applications that you think your eventual product will directly complete against.
- Create a detailed pro/con list for each downloaded application. Pay particular attention to what each product does exceptionally well. Identifying your competition’s strengths will help you elevate and design your product in a way that surpasses what currently exists.
- Take each identified “con” and create a list of ways your eventual product will improve on the negatives of the existing market.
Knowing your market and having a deep understanding of your competition will enable you to carve out your competitive advantage from the start. Don’t develop your product in a vacuum, understand your market, know your competition, and design a product with those competitive advantages in mind.
Define and outline your product’s features
Your product’s features represent the “what” and “how,” in development we refer to them as workflows. These are the processes that your users will go through to accomplish an end goal. In order to execute a complete product, you will need to have a concrete understanding of what your software will do and how it will do it. We lead out clients through a series of steps to help them identify and outline each feature set.
It is essential to consider all inputs and have a 360-degree comprehensive understanding of how each feature connects and operates. We give our clients this example as they begin to think about each feature set:
The core function and product that Uber offers is the ability for a passenger to connect with a driver and get taken to an end destination. 98% of Uber passengers view their product as a simple connection between driver and passenger. In reality its far more than that, they have built a product with a 360-degree perspective. Passengers leave their wallets in cars, passengers vomit in cars, passengers never show up. The core Uber product has features and functions to solve these daily occurrences that aren’t obvious upon initial use.
Your job when defining and outlining your features must take the “Uber” approach. You have to think about the entire platform, not just one core component. The success of your product rests on your ability to understand the 180-degrees that most people neglect. As a starting point you should begin with the following steps:
- Create a list of general features you’d like your product to contain. This should be a high-level categorical list that overviews general functions.
- After you’re happy with your initial feature list, reevaluate the list and begin to fill in the details of each. We encourage our clients to keep it simple and use bullet points.
As a general principal, we’ve found it helpful to keep your initial feature list broad and high-level. Doing so enables you to be specific when you’re filling in the details. It’s common to split the list into more defined categories as you work your way through step 2.
The main take away is ensuring you have a 360-degree understanding of your product’s “what” and “how,” without that foundation, you’ll never be able to communicate your expectations to a development team.
Know your user types
The success of your product will be decided by the users you’re able to attract to the platform. As such, the third leg of understanding your product is identifying the different types of users that will use it. The best way to clarify this concept is through our Uber example:
Uber has a series of user “types” that interact with their application. On the surface, they have passengers and drivers. Both types use the application, but they interact with it in very different ways. Passengers request drivers, and drivers accept passengers. If Uber was to approach user types the same, it wouldn’t work.
Identifying your user types will help solidify your product and assist as you refine each feature set. It is likely that you’ll have a series of user types utilizing the same feature but they’ll interact with it and accomplish different priorities. Understanding these types and assigning them to the outlined features from step 2 will help you design your product in a well rounded fashion. Apart of your 360-degree understanding is your ability to think and design each user type in a way that achieves their specific goal.
We walk our clients through the following steps to help them identify their user types and assign them to specific feature sets.
- What is the main purpose and function of your product/software?
- How many stakeholders need to interact on the software to accomplish the primary function?
- List and categorize each stakeholder type
- Create a brief 2 sentence description of each listed user type and indicate which specific features they’ll interact with.
The exercises covered in this post have been created and refined by helping 100s of our clients better understand their product. We believe that an absence of understanding dramatically impacts the eventual development. Going through this process with your development team is incredibly helpful as it allows both teams to start on the same page.
Establish a 360-degree understanding of your product and communicate that to your dev team. Starting here establishes a firm foundation and enables you to lead development in an effective way.