Product development: how to launch an MVP
Are you familiar with the product development process? Do you know how to launch an MVP? Let's take a deep dive.
What is product development?
If you are in the process of designing something new or planning for novel business projects, you might be Googling things like product development or how to launch an MVP. Hence, I might define some terms you are already familiar with, but better safe than sorry. MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product. Product development is the path you take to start that journey and ace your next release.
Product development refers to a business process, which can be:
- Taking a new product to market
- Renewing an existing product
- Introducing an old product to a new market
Along this path, you might have several steps to go through as:
- Identifying market needs
- Conceptualizing the product
- Building a roadmap
- Launching the product
- Collecting feedback
This journey will probably be carried out by several individuals working as a multidisciplinary team and coordinated by a product manager (not to be confused with the project manager).
Product development is an essential part of product design, or is it the other way around? You might be thinking that all you need is to get an idea, design it, and put it on the store shelves (or websites), but the process is not as straightforward as it sounds.
Product development has no straight edges, and a more iterative approach is needed. This process does not end until the product life cycle is over and, if it does, you might need some design thinking on your workflow.
As such, you will always continue to get user feedback (good and bad) to learn and iterate on new versions by changing things up, adding new features, or ditching the project altogether. I am looking at you, Windows Phone.
The 7 steps of product development
We have already discussed the design process and how creativity can be of service to communication. We have also listed the steps of the creative process: preparation, incubation, insight, evaluation, elaboration—which turns out to be a pretty straightforward structure for a task that looks daunting from the outside. The same method applies to product development.
Therefore, the 7 steps we will look into today provide a solid foundation on which to base your strategy. A disclaimer first: this is not the only way to develop a product; you will always find someone that started by the end and got it miraculously right. Lucky them. But let us go into the concrete structure.
1. Idea generation
First, you need an idea or kind of an idea. You might have traveled abroad and found a product that you can't get in your hometown or city, or you are struggling to buy a premium product and want to make it available to a broader audience. Perhaps you will find an idea too ahead of time, which has never been implemented, waiting for its day to come in a dusty design leather tome (too wizardry for you?).
That is the idea (Ha!) behind the SCAMPER methodology. Ideation doesn’t have a single source, and while inventions and innovations are always considered unique and groundbreaking, you might have a minor but still significant part to play in the world of ideas. How do you go about it? By iterating and brainstorming. Idea generation should be a free-flowing instance, then comes screenings and limitations to prune the excess, but keep an open mind if you want to identify a market need.
What is SCAMPER?
SCAMPER means “to run nimbly and usually playfully about” (according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary) and the kind of mood you want to be in when generating ideas. Think about the prairies in the Sound of Music—yeah, that kind of vibe. Why is it used in product development? Because it works as a perfect acronym for finding ideas:
- Substitute: wood instead of plastic toys
- Combine: a newspaper with seeds woven in
- Adapt: a plastic shredding machine for recycling
- Modify: non-addictive social media
- Put to another use: a dating platform to adopt doggies
- Eliminate: no middle man for your takeaway orders
- Reverse/Rearrange: reusable gift wrapping
The title is pretty self-explanatory, but research is a major instance when traveling the product development journey. You will need input from an unbiased audience to validate your product. There is nothing as awful as opening a new pizza place just around the corner of the best pizzeria in town.
That includes feasibility research which reduces the investigation to two questions:
- Is it worth it?
- Is it doable?
For example, asteroid mining: worth, not doable; selling surplus fidget spinners: doable, not worth it.
The planning phase might need you to bring your hand to work. The product needs to come to life through sketches, so start looking for drawing tutorials online, or hire a dedicated designer over the Internet—your call.
This step will test your idea, as not all of them will be good ones. And going from mind to paper will put forward any imperfections or complications you had not factored in during the previous steps.
If the feedback from your team and consumers indicates all is good, a prototype or sample is created. Keep in mind that a wireframe is not the same as a prototype. In this stage, you will leave your pencil drawing behind to create an almost finished product to use as a sample for production.
That will allow you to see if everything works accordingly, make the first tests, and get early feedback. Make sure to try it out with a diverse group of people; you never know who might start using your product. Also, always remember you will be dealing with humans, so plan accordingly.
5. Sourcing & costing
Take out your spreadsheets and start calculating. Sourcing and costing are all about gathering materials and securing associates needed for production (inviting software factory sounds). At this point, you will want to know the total cost of goods sold to fix a price and establish margins.
Here you will account for materials, labor required, production cost, distribution channels, cost of promotion… Account for each and every amount of money and time invested in keeping your production line up and running, not only with physical objects but also digital. Think of CI/CD pipelines, for example. Running a site or a SaaS platform has a lot of costs; you will have to account for all of them.
Basically, you will want to ask your team: can we make and sell this product without losing money and (ideally) earning some, too?
6. Development, testing & MVP
Once your prototype is ready, you will get into what most people think of when developing a product: the final design, which involves your entire multidisciplinary team. Here you are expected to find:
- Front-end developers
- Back-end developers
Development times will depend upon methodologies you will want to incorporate, as scrum or agile software development. The amount needed to have a finished product on your hands will strongly depend on your team's scope and the investment you can make.
Here is where the concept of a minimum viable product (MVP) comes into play. Basically, it is a version of your product with enough features to be usable by early customers and continue to receive feedback for further product development. It is a limbo state, not everything you envisioned, but enough to put into shelves.
Why is it important? Because we humans tend to plan in excess and aspire to overachieve, and there is nothing wrong with that until it is. If not limited by a strict plan and essential features as goals, an unaware development team might be creating an avatar generator for their users without having the login page up and running.
The bottom line? Focusing on releasing an MVP means avoiding lengthy and probably unnecessary work, allowing you to get quick feedback and adapt to an actual living audience, remember agile software development. It is the second big jump. We talked about taking the idea out of your mind and into the paper; this is taking it into other people's minds and hands. You will never know how actual people tinker with your product.
7. Commercialization & Marketing
With your MVP ready, you will want to launch your product into the market. Why wait, anyway? Here is where the development of your marketing strategy comes into play. You might not think of it as an essential part of product development, but how you present your product and how it goes around can make a huge difference. Think about Apple products.
For this, you will want to determine the target market and decide how to sell your product, which involves a great deal of acceptance testing of the product, making first releases, giving out some samples, and getting the word around.
Here your product life cycle starts.
Hidden step: Maintenance and support
Please, do not abandon your customers. Maintenance and support are often overlooked by manufacturers and digital companies. Nobody wants to feel used, which is the signal customers receive when they can't get a hold of anyone for support once they have paid.
Selling a good product is also about keeping an exceptional long-term relationship. It is not a sprint; it is a marathon (yeah, I like clichés too, you know?). Any thoughts where people go back time and time again? Where they are remembered and taken care of. Remember human-first design, not only customers: humans.
At Awkbit, we strive to develop the best quality products and appreciate the importance of releasing new MVPs to the market promptly. After all, we are a software factory. If we are going to fail, let's fail fast and learn from there. Are you looking for a partner to build your MVP? Do you have a million-dollar product idea to develop?