How to Create the Right Strategy for Product Development to Improve Digital Product Design?
In today’s competitive digital landscape, success is a stream of fresh ideas. Innovative thinking. Audience-led and data-driven product design that meets the needs of your business and your customer – whether they knew they wanted it or not.
But for every iPod, there’s a Zune. For every static, stifled Myspace or Friends Reunited, there’s a Facebook; creative, agile, and willing to adapt and improve to meet users’ constantly shifting digital demands.
Whether you’re entering the marketplace with a creative new take or improving on an existing product, you can’t just jump in head-first and hope for the best. Success, however you define it, depends on a clear product design strategy.
In this article, we’re going to discuss what a digital product design strategy is and what it takes to create a successful one.
What is a strategy for product development?
Product development strategy is the plan implemented by companies on their way towards successfully launching a new or modified product. Creating a successful digital product comes down to a number of methods and carefully planned steps. Just think of it – you wouldn’t build a house on a plot of land without a blueprint and the right foundations, and that’s what a strategy offers for businesses: stable foundations.
Each stage of digital product design – from initial idea to final roll-out – should follow a roadmap with clear steps, objectives, and vision to keep the project focused and on track.
A successful product design strategy will show an understanding of:
- Your customers
- Your business and teams
- Your industry and competitors
- The current marketplace
- The risks
- The opportunities.
With the above in mind, let’s answer another question:
Why do you need a product development strategy?
There are several actions that a product development strategy empowers you to do. Here are some of them:
Develop a vision
You have a vision. A new product, a new way of doing things. The exact details might be vague and hazy, but the idea itself is crystal clear – and it takes skilled teams to deliver it.
Your product design strategy is a communication tool. A means to share your vision, and with the help of others, research it, refine it, and make it ready for market’s launch.
Here’s where the ‘design thinking’ mindset comes into play. Defined by David Kelley and Tim Brown, it’s ‘a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.’ It encourages collaboration and the exchange of ideas between business, design, and development teams, which are all closely aligned and play towards a common objective.
A common vision will also lower the risk of poor communication among team members, which is estimated to cost businesses $524,569 every year.
Identify and prepare for risk
If the last two years have shown us anything, it’s that we never know what life’s going to throw at us. But at least with a strategy for product development, you have the opportunity to:
- Examine potential threats – know what to expect
- Minimise risks – know how to prevent it
- Prepare for recovery – know what to do if the worst happens.
Assess major threats:
- Can your IT systems cope with a new service?
- What data security compliance standards will your new app have to meet?
Also, take into account smaller threats and those that, left unchecked, might derail the whole project, including processes or team member availability.
At the end of it all (and, even, at every step of the way) you and your teams should have a clear idea of what worked and what didn’t. During the initial stages, loosely define what success looks like. Depending on the project, prepare to adapt if the goal is unrealistic or simply impossible.
Once the project develops beyond the discovery stage, begin setting Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and milestones to measure the success of your product. All teams should understand the goals that are being set, to facilitate collaboration and propel the product to a successful launch.
Tips to building a product development strategy
Your response to building a product design strategy hinges on whether you’re building a product from scratch or adding new features to your current one. With your approach in mind…
1. Gain a deep understanding of the problem you’re solving
During the early stages, you should be focusing on why you want to introduce or improve a product, and who it’s really for. A question Google Glass still appears to be struggling with. Is there a business need for your idea? Is there already a solution out there that achieves the same results?
Best-selling author and marketer Neil Patel highlights five tools and techniques to understand your customers, which include creating buyer personas and engaging in customer journey mapping.
Remember to dig into your existing data, drawn from website traffic, social media channels, and the likes. Build a clear picture of who your customers are and what they want. This should be data-driven and data-rich – avoid using broad, fictional personas. Ask yourself: why would a target user buy your solution instead of someone else’s?
That being said, alongside customer analysis, research competitors. Find their strengths and weaknesses to identify your own product’s unique value proposition.
When adding new features to your product, customer research lets you reassess your market positioning and current assumptions about what your product offers. Meanwhile, competitor analysis lets you see how developing new features and integrations can add value and make your product unique amongst rivals.
2. Define your product
You’ve identified the problem. Now, you need a solution. A real, precise, exact roadmap for solving the problem is required, detailing what features you’re going to include and how you’re going to achieve that.
You should address:
- Functionality – your solution should do what it sets out to do, and genuinely solve the problem. Imagine if Facebook didn’t let you connect with friends, or Google scuppered its own search engine.
- Usability – your product should be intuitive and easy to use. That’s what made both of the above companies so successful. Even if these sites aren’t your direct competitors, they’ve set user expectations on function and navigation.
- Desirability – your idea should appeal to users, but it should also be desirable from a business standpoint. Consider performance, UI, costs, and resources.
If you’re modifying an existing product, look at each of these areas to discover which ones are under-performing.
It’s not easy to get your product right the first time. For this reason, it’s worth investing time in minimum viable product (MVP) research. You will be able to see how your target audience responds to new ideas and modify them based on their feedback.
3. Visualize the product
This is where the fun begins. You and your team should now have a pretty good idea of what to create, so you can start the design process. There are four stages:
During ideation, your team will be running on concept drawings, prototypes, and concept revisions to test a product’s strengths and weaknesses. This stage is defined by innovation and creation. Encourage a stream of ideas (there are no bad ones, remember) and nurture the best, i.e., the ones that fulfill a need.
Show there’s a business case for your solution. Gather user feedback across all channels and mediums – from surveys and social media conversations to face-to-face interviews and your own experience and observations. The trick is to find the right audience. Especially, if you’re modifying a product and have built up a user-base that may not be the target for any new features. Look to any past feedback for any valuable insights or recurring issues you may have already collected.
Armed with actionable insights from your target audience, you can begin to tweak your product based on the responses. For example, simplifying the user interface, or adding quick actions and links to popular spaces within an app. Again, beware of project creep as you balance the desires of the user with business needs. Teamwork is important here, as changes and refinements must be communicated. To modify the product, it’s best to use a tool like UXPin Merge – and if you haven’t used a DesignOps tool like this before, you’ll be introducing a better way to collaborate on digital product designs with developers.
It’s time to bring your digital product design together. Whether it’s a fresh product or a cool, new update, achieving the best results depends on having the right teams, following the right strategy and using the right tools. In addition to using components you’ve already developed, you can take advantage of open-source UI libraries like Material Design and Fluent UI to build the best product without breaking the bank.
4. Measure your product’s success
The no. 1 question any digital product development team will ask themselves is: was it worth it? The only way to really know is by measuring performance against KPIs. As briefly mentioned above, KPIs help you track outcomes at every stage, monitoring the performance of staff, but it’s especially critical once your product is rolled out.
Now you can begin to learn why (or why not) the project was a success. You can also find out where you can improve in a future launch or update. At a minimum, KPIs should be realistic and measurable. Avoid so-called ‘vanity’ metrics that make you and your team look great, but tell you little about how a product has been received.
When modifying your product, analyze previous KPIs and compare them over time for significant or avoidable changes. So, for instance, if you noticed your NPS is lower, or your app retention rate has decreased, it’s worth further investigating it to get feedback and take action.
A full product design strategy gives you an advantage in the competitive digital space. Not only should it result in an unmissable new product or a wildly creative update, but it’ll also help you explore your market and those operating within it.
That being said, it’s worth recognizing that digital product design will only be as good as the tactics and tools you use. To create truly cross-functional teams, it’s essential to create the right communication guidelines and use powerful collaborative tools like UXPin Merge. It will help you achieve full consistency from design to development of the final product.
Interested in learning more?