How to build digital products or applications and get it right first time
We bet you have the experience of downloading a promising mobile APP and deleting it after the first try. New digital products or applications are launched all the time, with the primary aim of meeting a need or resolving a problem people are facing. There are 2.9 million APPs available in the Google Play Store and 4.4 million in the Apple Apps Store(Statista).
Customers are getting impatient and they are comparing every digital experience to their last best experience. They want valuable solutions answering their needs and solving their problems. Personalised content in the right context is a must.
Companies struggle with the internal adoption of newly introduced digital products and tools. Employees stick with the old ones, complain about the new ones and business processes have changed by the time the solution is out on the desktops.
So how to get it right for the first time?
Is there market demand for your idea?
To start, whether a bright idea suddenly hits you or there isn’t an ‘app for that’ in the market for the issue in hand, whatever the concept is, it needs to be validated and deemed to be commercially viable.
An analysis is required to determine the validity of the product or application - conduct market research, define the potential users, consider the possible revenue streams, both internal and external stakeholders etc. The key is to gather enough information to be able to extract and prioritise the vital insights and create a detailed plan using frameworks such as the Value Proposition and Business Model Canvas.
Value Proposition Canvas helps you identify your customer's major Jobs-to-be-done, the pains they face when trying to accomplish their Jobs-to-be-done and the gains they perceive by getting their jobs done. The visualisation enables you to define the most important components of your digital product offering, how you relieve pain and create gains for your customers. Adjust your Value Proposition based on the insights you gained from customer evidence and achieve Product-Market fit.
Watch a short video on how it works: Strategyzer's Value Proposition Canvas Explained
Business Model Canvas is a strategic management template first introduced by Alex Osterwalder. It provides a visual representation, helping businesses align their activities while accessing the potential trade-offs. It sets out what the organisation is trying to create, deliver and the value it could provide. Using the combination of research, analysis and the Business Model Canvas, the digital product or application idea and value proposition can be defined and redefined based on the findings.
You might want to watch this short video on this one as well: Business Model Canvas Explained
Validate your assumptions with a prototype
With the digital product or application idea validated, use the insights found in the research stage to create the concept of the application via visualisation by wireframes. A wireframe is essentially a mock-up of the layout of your proposed application and will consist of primarily boxes and labels.
When the wireframe is signed-off, a prototype is created based on this demonstrating the concept and the main value propositions of the solution. The stakeholders or potential users can interact with the digital product prototype - during this step, the basic functionality and usability can be evaluated.
The goal is not the prototype itself, but the learnings which help you to
- uncover problems
- discover opportunities
- learn about your users/customers
If the product prototype has passed this initial testing, the product design can commence.
Build your digital product strategy and roadmap
Now that you have validated your business idea and solution, you are in the position to build your long term product strategy. In order to make the strategy actionable, define your product roadmap as a high-level plan that describes how the product is likely to grow in line with your budget, market opportunities, time and resource constraints. It allows you to express where you want to take your product, and why it’s worthwhile investing in it. An agile product roadmap also facilitates learning and change. You might start with a Minimum Marketable Product at first.
A product roadmap can provide the following benefits:
- Provides a continuity of purpose and communicates how you see the product develop over the coming months.
- Facilitates stakeholder collaboration and helps the individuals understand how they can contribute to make the product a success.
- Define the Key Performance Indicators connected to your business goals and you expect the product to deliver or support.
- Helps with prioritisation; allows you to state if and when a benefit will be provided or a feature implemented.
- Unburdens the product backlog; you can focus the backlog on the next major release / product version, as I explain in more detail below. Helps acquire a budget by stating the benefits the product is likely to create.
- Supports portfolio management and makes it easier to coordinate related products.
It is very important that all digital products or applications also have connected services. You need to think not only about the customer facing elements but also those features that enable the maintenance and support of the business processes behind. For example if your business model is subscription based, you would need subscription management and invoicing in the background. In all cases you need to manage complaints or customer service. Service Design gives you the framework to design outstanding customer experiences and enable employees to deliver those. Think in the end-to-end journey and consider both the front and backstage activities.
The devil is in the details
The next step is to transform user and business goals into a set of beautiful, easy-to-use and accessible designs, such as a set of screens. It is the role of the user interface designer to:
- create and/or maintain a library of icons, colours and fonts that will be used throughout the product in line with branding guidelines
- define detailed user flows supporting the user’s goals and objectives, including edge cases
- use typography, colour theory, Gestalt principles and other design concepts to create pleasant graphical user interfaces
- maintain the mental model of the product
- defining the user and behavioural analytics you will need to implement to have actionable insights on KPIs
Iterative design can be used at any phase of the design process, including when the digital product or application has already been launched in the market and you are looking to create improvements in that product. However, it’s worth noting that the earlier in a product’s lifecycle that you implement iterative design with reviews, usability tests the more cost-effective the approach will be.
Fine-tuning, feedback loop, troubleshooting
It is advised to deliver incrementally and often so you have the opportunity to learn and adapt to change.
During the product development stage, regular checks against the initial specification and detailed designs should be carried out. Although steps have been taken during prototyping and the design process to review the digital product or application, meticulous testing for quality assurance is even more important once the build is completed.
Testing from a functional and value proposition point of view should be a firm part of the digital product or application development. These actions will provide opportunities to fine-tune, troubleshoot and a feedback loop to the developers – as ultimately, developers often will not have the level of deep understanding of the value proposition compared to a stakeholder.
Once launched, the process does not stop there as building a new digital product or service is continuous as change is constant. An application lifespan is typically between 6 - 8 years, and this would only become shorter as technology and consumer habits change. From shifts in consumer demands, market trends, competitor activities or even technology changes can all affect the usability and customer retention of the application - therefore, proactive management of the product roadmaps is essential. By listening to the voice of the customer and using the analytics will help you measure and indicate if there is a need for change or a new opportunity you need to discover.
Zoosh are Cloud Venture builders, with a Product Studio that provides an innovative and dynamic range of services to start-ups to established brands. If you would like to discuss how our cloud product development services can help your business contact us, or if you would like more information on the process behind creating a new digital product or application watch our on-demand webinar.