5 Phases of Product Development Process

January 10th, 2016

What is the difference between a million dollar product and the one that never got any traction? Most likely it is the total amount of time spent on validated learning.

We hear about the products that are raising a decent amount of money almost every day. Every once in a while we witness a product that totally changes the way we live our lives.

Everybody would like to disrupt the market but only a few do. Below we will learn about the five phases of a product development process that can help create something people actually want to use.

Product Development Process

Customer Validation

Up to this point all we have is a hypothesis of a problem that a hypothetical customer has. Before building a solution, we need to be sure that people we are solving a problem for really exist. Customer validation also minimizes the amount of guidance we have to give to our customers since they don’t have to form new habits.

Problem Validation

The goal of problem validation is to find a real problem or customer pain point that enough people face. Problem validation can be divided into two stages — research and insight stage.

Research

The best way to truly learn about our customer’s pain points is to go to our customer’s natural environment and observe what they’re doing. That way we will understand their behavior in its context. Observation will also help us identify the current solutions they are using for their pain points. After observation we can go deeper and conduct customer interviews with more tailored questions.

Methodologies used at this stage are field observation, diary studies and customer interviews.

Insights

Now that we have enough insights we can start analyzing the data. At this stage we are looking for patterns. What are their most common pain points they are facing and how are they currently solving them?

It’s important to put ourselves in the shoes of our customer. When we empathize with our customers we can make sure that we are solving the problems that are most important to them.

Methodologies used at this stage are personas, empathy maps, customer journey maps and feature comparison diagrams with competitors.

Concept Validation

After completing previous phase we now have a deeper understanding about our customer’s key problems. It’s time to start producing concepts that will solve them.

Don’t build anything that is based entirely on assumptions. This is a mistake many people make. We don’t want the success of our product to be just one of the possibilities. We want to validate our hypotheses and concepts before spending any time on building.

At this phase we explore the different concepts. There are several ways to solve the same problem. We need to find the one that fits the best with our customer’s needs. And that is only possible by constantly gathering feedback from our target audience.

Methodologies used at this phase are storyboards, landing pages and paid ads.

Experience Validation

Since the concept is now validated we can start designing the solution. Unfortunately this is where a lot of people actually start the product development process. Hopefully we can now see how many important insights are lost if we start building straight away.

There are some cases where we want to build a minimum viable product and launch it as soon as possible to validate our hypotheses, but even then we have to know our customer’s pain points and how to solve them.

Similarly to previous phase we are constantly gathering feedback from our customers. This way we identify the flaws and improve the experience that a customer is having with our product.

Methodologies used at this phase are sketching, wireframing and interactive prototypes.

Technical Validation

At this phase the product is finally built! The last thing we have to do is to test how it works. We should identify any performance issues or critical bugs that need to be fixed right away. Internal testing is done throughout the building stage — now we have to test it with real users.

Alpha and beta launches are a common practice in product development process. It’s the last step before launching it to a wider audience.

Methodologies used at this phase are alpha testing, user acceptance testing and QA testing.

Conclusion

Stop building products nobody wants! There is nothing worse than spending your most valuable resources only to see that the product you just shipped doesn’t fit into your user’s lives.

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