Isn’t it common sense that to build a great company you need a great product? Yet, too many people think that throwing lots of money into marketing and PR will sell products. But if the product isn’t good, all the storytelling and partnerships in the world will only end in wasted time and money. As David Ogilvy quoted: “Great marketing only makes a bad product fail faster.” We do not read much about product failures as we prefer to celebrate successful startup products but there are countless failed startups that never got the product right and a rivaling number of large company products which were massive flops despite the marketing firepower behind them.
Building great products is a difficult skill. Many believe that because they have great ideas, they can build great products and businesses and have an opinion about them, they can also design and build them. But great product people are scarce. To make matters worse, there is no formal training to become one. The best product people have learned through trial and error, have years of experience, are passionate about design, obsessed with the user experience, and always on top of the latest tools and technologies. However, because anyone can give their point of view on design or functionality without having had formal training unlike in engineering, law, medicine, and most other fields, often the wrong people become responsible for building products.
We worked with over 75 clients in the past 5 years to build great products for the clients in education, healthcare, e-governance, mobile games, transportation, on-demand e-commerce, logistics, and many more business verticals. We have seen a lot of products tumble upon reaching the real users because of issues they were unable to address during the implementation of the product.
In 2019, We, Janaspandana have transformed from a custom software development company to a product consulting firm, because we have understood what it takes to build a great product, We built a stellar team around our existing products and every client was our source of experience and knowledge. We were learning from our setbacks on how to create a product organization, how to empower design, engineering, and usability to work together, how and when to listen to users, how to prototype, iterate quickly, and much more.
There is no hard and fast rule on how to build great products. However there are principles one should follow, questions one must ask, and tools one can use. Below we have described some of the most important principles that we, and our team have worked with, have used when building digital technology products. They are meant to provide a context and framework in the long journey required to build a great product.
- Build the right product before you think of building the product right. Don’t waste time in the details of the product features, on the intricacies of the technology you will be using, or on fixing the small issues before you are certain that what you are building is what the market needs. Use the SMART framework to assess your product idea.
2. Intuition is important but it is not enough. No matter how good your intuition is even when you are an experienced product designer or manager you should seek to take advantage of the data available in the market, provided by customers, and available through your competitors. Define a plan of action to iteratively refine and validate your intuition and thesis. There is always a method and a process behind the genius.
3. Understand your product’s value proposition from the outset. How is it going to be different from what already exists in the market? What are the alternatives? How big is the opportunity for your product in its market? Is the timing for your product right? Marty Cagan, in SVPG’s blog, lays out ten fundamental questions you can ask to do a useful product opportunity assessment.
4. Ask the customer if he or she would use your product not just if he or she could use it. The Lean Startup Methodology recommends that we ask ourselves “should this product be built?” instead of “can this product be built?” We should extend that to the customer. There is a multitude of reasons why someone could use a product but would choose not to because of price, habit, switching costs, or any other reason.
5. Prototype your findings in order to be able to interact with customers as well as with internal stakeholders. Our initial goal should be to build a Minimum Viable Product that is good enough to put in front of your customers. You must then iterate on it based on testing, measurements, and learnings. This is not only a lower cost but also a quicker way of building the right product. Making small measurable changes, testing them quickly, and refining the product accordingly is much more effective than making big changes that are more time consuming to build, more difficult to test, and more challenging to get rid of if they don’t work.
6. Talk to customers. Yes, that means meeting with them, call them and ask them questions about their habits and needs. Observe them using your competitors’ products and yours at various stages of development. This takes time but is extremely valuable as you design your product. There are also many tools available to enable you to continue your customer research in a more systematic way, from surveys to analytics and behavior tracking, as well as smart customer support and feedback tools.
7. What you remove is as important as what you add. It is critical to learn the “power of saying no” as Tony Fadell, the godfather of the iPod and founder of Nest recently said in an interview. Remember the beauty of the iPod was its simplicity. When you go on the Google homepage, the only thing you can do is search. The strength of the Amazon checkout process is its ease of use and speed. It is the power of simplification.
8. To achieve all of the above, you must build a strong product organization. You need the right people in the right roles in order to conduct your user testing, measure the data, define the features, iterate on development, and coordinate the process. Take the time to find these people, train them, and design the right processes to be used.
9. Finally, your product should tell a clear, simple, and compelling story. People engage with stories, not with facts and features. David Rowan, the editor of Wired Magazine in the UK, illustrates the impact of great storytelling across various products very well in his talk on why founders need to be storytellers. Think about Byjus and what they did for the education industry by telling the story that he made practical education accessible for everyone and now they are a unicorn in the digital education sector.
At Janaspandana, we believe in business result orientation powered by a people-centered approach to technology. Tech-intensive lifestyle induces software to be an integral part of the everyday routine in the 21st century. Today, it is hardly possible to imagine any activity not powered by some kind of computer-related processes.
Our team will take your business to the future. We transform your ideas into great products with our out of the box thinking & approach. We let you beat the best in the market — utilizing modern & advanced technologies, our creative & passionate folks craft amazing products for your business.
Work with us to transform your ideas to successful products.