The 7 Stages of Digital Product Development
Product development is a crucial aspect of any business. It refers to all the steps involved in taking a product from the initial idea phase to product launch and beyond.
Any business can make or break itself based on its product development, and this is especially true of startups. You may only get the opportunity to create one product in the beginning, but whether you’re planning to offer one product or many, an efficient development process is critical.
A digital product may refer to a tool or software package your business is developing, or it could refer simply to your website or even an app. Really, it can refer to any digitized product or service. Whether you’re a digital agency in Los Angeles or a software design company in London, the following are the seven steps typically taken in digital product development.
Research and analysis
This first step is one of the most important. It’s here where you’ll decide if your product or service is actually needed and if it can become profitable. Design thinking is the approach to take during this stage.
You’ll need to research your target market and identify a problem they’re facing or something that you can improve upon. Empathize with their need, and determine a sound way to solve it. This step is also where you’ll plan your budget to ensure the product can be profitable in the long run, as it may not be at first.
It’s also best to focus on the bare minimum of what you need to provide at first to avoid overcomplicating the project.
Once you have your product idea, you’ll need a way to illustrate it before moving forward. There are multiple ways to do this, with the most common being sketches and wireframes.
A product sketch gives a general overview of a product and requires little time investment. The goal here is simply to get the idea across. A wireframe is more detailed: it explains how the product will work and it sets the stage for the design process.
This is where the idea really starts coming to life. It’s here where you’ll be designing the layout of your product and how the end users will interact with it.
You’ll also begin optimizing the product for different devices in this stage, making it as functional and visually appealing as possible. Details as big as the overall functionality of the product to those as small as transitional animations should be discussed during the design phase.
The product prototype is essentially the first version that your team will see and evaluate. It won’t make it to the general public, but you may test it with some members of your target audience.
While there are a few types of prototyping, you’ll likely want to aim for a high-fidelity prototype. At this stage, the design of the product should be largely finished, and you’ll be focusing more on functionality and how to improve it.
At this point, the basic goals of the project should be agreed upon, and you can begin coding and fine tuning the product. “Agile development” refers to a style in which the project is allowed to evolve or be adjusted during the development stage — an approach which is often best for digital products.
During this stage, you’ll also be engaged in testing and quality assurance. The main goal here is to avoid problems come launch day, although some are often inevitable. You may also create new iterations of the product during this phase if the testing process determines a need for improved functionality.
This is the big moment. You’ll be executing your marketing campaign for this phase, attempting to reach as much of your target audience as possible. It doesn’t have to involve huge high-profile events, and in fact, it may be best if it doesn’t. It’s hard to recover from a high-profile launch flop, so erring on the side of caution can be wise. As long as the launch is reasonably successful, you’ll have room to work with.
The final stage may not be the most glamorous, but it is absolutely imperative. You won’t be able to maintain users if you don’t support your product well after launch, and this is doubly true if the launch was accompanied by any noticeable issues. Always keep team members and resources available to maintain your current project(s) before moving on to something else.