- Ensure your idea is viable and solves a real problem
- Plan, in detail, your entire project so your tech team will know exactly what to do
- Find the tech team that will help turn your idea into a reality
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We all think our ideas are great. After all we thought of them! And the more we think about them and invest in them, the better they seem to us in our mind.
The first step to a successful product is to validate the problem you are solving to ensure your idea is viable and solves a real problem in the market. You need to go out and talk to as many potential customers as you can to make sure that your idea is as great to them as it is in your head. The key in the validation process is to not push your idea to your potential customers, it’s about asking them questions so you can understand and be able to articulate what problem your idea is solving.
This is an important step in the process to ensure that you really understand the problem and need in the market and build a product that directly solves this issue.
Once you understand the problem you are solving well enough, you need to prototype a possible solution. There are many different ways to build a prototype. Simply put, a prototype is a visual guide that represents the blueprint of a web application or mobile app and shows what it does. A prototype contains the layout of the content, page elements and website navigation system and shows how they work together.
Anyone can build a prototype and no coding skills are required! This is an essential step in the product development process.
After your prototype is ready, the next step is to show it to potential customers and confirm that the solution you came up with is clear and intuitive. The protypes you will create will be very realistic and will allow the user to actually use the application as though it was real! As a result, prototypes can also help you uncover potential usability issues with your solution.
Often, entrepreneurs skip this step but it is a very important one. It is a lot cheaper to rapidly change prototypes than re-writing code.
The last startup I was consulting with, our first two versions of the solution didn’t resonate with the users…we collected their feedback and we went back to the drawing board and got it right on the third try. Had we jumped into coding after creating the first prototype, we would have to re-architect the entire site later and re-write a lot of code.
Hiring the right person or people to execute the idea can be the difference between success and failure for any project. But it’s not only about skill, to achieve success you need to make sure that the people you’re hiring fit the culture of your company, even if you’re a startup of one.
Are drive, determination, persistence, curiosity, important to you culture? Or, are you more low-key and relaxed about time management and deadlines? Whatever characteristics make up your culture, hire people that will fit in... regardless of whether they are a consultant, agency, independent contractor, or a full time employee and whether they will work in the same office or across the world.
You also need to define what expertise you need for the different stages of your idea development: tech advisor, CTO, information architect, designer, user experience designer, developer, system administrator, database administrator, and the list goes on. Make sure you hire the right expert for each of the different tasks in your project and you will save a lot of money and ensure that the job will get done right, the first time.
There are a lot of technology tools and solutions out there to help you bring your idea to life. The key is to pick the right solution for the problem you are trying to solve and the stage of the “validation” of idea or feature you are in.
For example, if you are at the beginning of the “validation” stage, your goal should be to figure out what is the fastest way to build the solution so you can launch it and start to get real customers using your product, learning what works and what doesn’t and optimize your path to building a product that people want without a lot of waste.
With your development team, determine exactly what features in the prototype will be coded and how it will be implemented based on your time and cost constraints. All projects are performed and delivered under certain constraints: quality, time and cost - and you can’t have all three. You must pick the two that are important to you for each part of the project.
For most startups, time and cost is of the essence, so when determining what and how to build focus on the following:
This step in the development process will help you deliver projects faster and within your budget and timeline.
There is a common misconception that if you’re trying to build products using the “Lean” methodology that you don’t launch quality products. I think that the design and the user experience of your app is super important and can make a huge difference in user adoption. There is a lot of competion for web and mobile apps, make sure that yours stands out and easy to use.
Once you pick the features of your MVP, you will need to work with a designer to design your MVP. The design will breathe life into your the prototype. The Colors, shapes, fonts, style that you choose will define your brand.
Agile project management is a development philosophy and one that you should adopt for your business. It allows you to take smaller, more manageable steps throughout your development process. The steps are usually called sprints and they are smaller and achievable chunks of your project that can be completed quickly (daily, weekly or within two weeks maximum). Upon completion of the sprint, the team can review this smaller deliverable and ensure that it is working and is exactly what you wanted to develop.
If it is not working how it was intended to, then at least you caught it early and can now make the correction necessary. Additionally, the mistake didn’t cost you too much time or money and you can get back on track fast. This code, review, and analyze approach is the best way to determine the next steps.
Agile project management allows you to respond to issues as they arise – coding can be expensive, re-coding is even more expensive.
Continuous delivery and deployment are a set of processes that help you automate the testing of the new code that is being developed and ensuring that as your team can introduce that new code efficiently into the production environment without “breaking” the site.
These set of processes allow developers introduce small and frequent changes to the production environment without having to waste time testing everything manually...allowing you to be able to scale your startup as you grow.
There are lots of different steps to automating code testing and launch and each one of these steps can be introduced at different stages of your business. Implementing continuous deployment will allow you to be more agile and efficient.
Most entrepreneurs celebrate once they launch, but I think that’s when the real work begins. Up to now, you’ve validated your idea viability with a small group of people. Now it’s time to see demonstrate that your early feedback has statistical significance...it’s time to test it on a larger audience. That’s why the last step in the product development process is to make sure that you are using tracking and analytics tools to learn what your users are doing on your site so you can improve engagement and retention.
Using analytic tools, you can also uncover usability issues by determining where users stumble. You can also track what the most used features are make decisions on which features you should improve and what new features you should build.
This is an ongoing process and analyzing how users actually use your product is the only way you can improve your product.