Oct 16, 2023, Consulting

The Essentials of the Digital Product Development Process

Aneta Skoczewska Business Consultant
software development process
Digital product development is the process of inventing and programming interactive digital assets with a clear focus on delivering value to the end user. Whether it’s a web, mobile, or desktop app, they all require a structured organization to make sure that the process is smooth and efficient.

And this is where the digital product development cycle comes into play. Following the development phases step by step allows you to pay attention to every aspect and thoroughly refine your ideas before putting them into action.

So, what are the actual phases that lead to a successful launch, what’s their importance, and what to expect during the process? Here are some need-to-know basics.

Ideation

Let’s face it – not every software idea becomes a smashing success. In fact, only 10% of digital products manage to deliver real value to their end-users (Startup Genome report). That’s why the ideation phase is crucial to assess whether your digital product can avoid failure right from the start. It allows you to identify potential roadblocks and form reasonable solutions, focusing on conceptualization and market analysis. The ultimate goal? To prove the feasibility of your future digital product.

Research

If you want your enterprise to thrive, you need a clear and precise vision. That means diving deep into market analysis and understanding its demands. Also, don’t forget to keep an eye on your potential competitors, get to know your target audience, and stay on top of the latest trends. Once you’ve gathered all this valuable information, you can finally answer the questions that should put some light on pursuing your goal: 

  • Is my proposition truly unique or am I just copying existing apps with my digital product idea?

  • What value does my solution bring to customers?

Believe it or not, this phase is one of the most vital stages in the digital product development cycle, as it equips you with the essential data and insights needed to understand your product’s value proposition.

UX design

The key is to build your digital product with user experience in mind. Begin with creating a basic version of the solution, even with limited functionality. Such a prototype will help attract investors and gather feedback from early adopters. By focusing on the product’s functionality, look, and positive user experience, you’ll increase the likelihood of people actually using it and ultimately achieving your project’s end goal.

To make all this happen, it’s usually vital to employ various approaches, namely:

1. Design thinking

Apply principles gained from the marketplace and people’s experiences to develop tools that work best for end users. Thus, you’ll be able to create prototypes showcasing different ways the product can be built. Then, it’s time to test these prototypes to identify functionalities and user interfaces that provide optimal user experience.

2. Smooth workflows

Examine existing patterns and seek ways to streamline the effort and time required for end users to complete tasks. Pinpoint areas with possible obstacles and devise strategies to ensure a seamless output from start to finish.

3. Testable prototype

Generate functional prototypes that mirror the final digital product’s look and feel. Present them to stakeholders and potential users to gather insights and identify the best solutions to any arising problems.

4. Valuable insights

The prototypes undergo rigorous usability testing with various methods applied. You can employ user observation, card-sorting exercises, A/B testing, and more to understand what works and what doesn’t from a user’s perspective.

Did you know?
  • By embracing a dynamic testing process, you can steer clear of the common pitfalls that ensnare other organizations. A survey by CBInsights revealed that a staggering 35% of failed start-ups attributed their downfall to the creation of products that had minimal or nonexistent market demand. Don’t let your efforts go to waste – ensure your product meets a genuine need.

UI design

When it comes to crafting a User Interface (UI), it’s best to start by creating rough yet functional wireframes that serve as the foundation for your product designs. They then evolve into more comprehensive designs that are continuously improved based on user feedback and input.

The process usually encompasses two crucial aspects:

  • Visual Design – employing functional images, effective use of space, colors, typography that enhances readability, and carefully crafted layouts.

  • Data Visualization – presenting information in a visually compelling manner by transforming complex data sets into easily understandable forms: interactive charts, intuitive tables, and insightful graphs.

Did you know?
  • According to a study conducted by Forester, investing in a good UI can potentially skyrocket a website’s conversion rate by up to 200%. But wait, there’s more! By taking it a step further and focusing on improving the UX, that rate can soar by an incredible 400%!

Development

Now it’s time to bring your design and ideas to life through the exciting stage of digital product development. 

Normally the process involves several essential steps undertaken by a team of professional developers.

  • Selecting technologies that best suit your project, creating comprehensive technical documentation that outlines all the features, functionality, and relationships between different user roles.

  • Establishing the fundamental structure of your product by making key decisions:
    On the backend – choosing a monolithic or microservices approach, and determining controllers and types of APIs to be utilized.
    On the frontend – strategizing how to implement the user interface and creating schematic representations of how different parts of the product will interact with each other.

  • Prioritizing and sequencing the creation of product features, being the foundation of the entire product development plan and ensuring a streamlined and efficient process.

  • Setting up a production-like environment on the cloud, allowing both the developers team and the client to access and test the product. Any changes made are automatically reflected in this environment, ensuring seamless integration and continuous testing.

  • Developing both the client and server components of the product – building UI components, APIs, and other necessary elements while conducting thorough quality assurance testing to ensure optimal performance and functionality.

Testing

As you approach the development stage’s completion, the coded product undergoes rigorous testing from the QA team. The process involves Alpha and Beta testing with real users before deployment, using a release candidate version of the product. At this stage it’s essential to select specific user profiles carefully, and closely observe user sessions. The conclusion of these tests should encompass valuable “exit” data collected from users.

The primary purpose of the pre-release testing stage is to validate the product’s functionality, identify any potential bugs or issues on a larger scale, and gather valuable user feedback. The insights gained during this stage are typically transformed into tickets in Jira or a similar issue tracking tool. This enables the developers to address and resolve any identified problems before finalizing the product for its official launch.

By conducting thorough testing and actively incorporating user feedback, you ensure that the product not only meets expectations but also provides an optimal user experience. Your goal here is to address any potential issues and refine the solution, so it’s prone to meet the needs of both your business and your users.

Launch

Here comes the final moment of truth – the stage where you find out if all your efforts were truly worthwhile. 

But instead of diving headfirst into a public release, it’s generally wiser to start with a slow and controlled approach. As there’s always a chance of discovering unexpected glitches and bugs in the initial version of your product, consider a soft launch, such as a private beta release, to mitigate the risk. It will allow you to minimize potential user losses, gather valuable feedback from a selected group, and make improvements to your digital product.

Maintenance

But your work doesn’t end there! Post-launch review and maintenance are essential aspects of digital product development. To stay relevant and competitive, your application needs to evolve continuously with new features and enhancements. And the best source for guidance is user feedback! By actively listening to your users, you can identify areas for improvement and implement updates accordingly. Additionally, focusing on specific product management metrics allows you to assess the performance and overall success of your product.

Why is it better to set some processes rigidly?

It’s generally advisable to stick to a well-worn path and set the digital product development processes rigidly. Changing the solution is usually not as easy as snapping your fingers, and can have an effect on some of the following areas:

1. Consistency & Quality

Following predefined steps and guidelines allows you to produce reliable and predictable results, maintaining a unified approach and standard across the development process.

2. Mitigating Risks

By adhering to established processes, a developer can identify and address potential issues early in the development cycle, reducing the likelihood of critical errors or security vulnerabilities.

3. Efficiency & Time Management

Well-defined processes provide a clear roadmap, eliminating guesswork and minimizing time wasted on unnecessary activities. They can help allocate resources effectively, estimate project timelines accurately, and facilitate better project management.

4. Collaboration & Communication

Rigid processes foster collaboration and communication among team members. When everyone follows the same guidelines and uses a common vocabulary, it becomes easier to share knowledge, understand each other’s work, and collaborate effectively. This is particularly important when working in distributed or cross-functional teams.

5. Scalability & Maintainability

By establishing concrete coding standards, version control practices, and documentation requirements, it becomes easier to onboard new team members, maintain codebases, and introduce changes without causing disruptions or introducing unnecessary technical debt.

6. Compliance and Auditing

Certain industries, such as finance or healthcare, need to meet certain strict compliance and auditing requirements. Rigid processes ensure that the development process complies with relevant regulations and provides a trail of evidence for audits or inspections.

While sticking to well-known processes has its advantages, it’s sometimes necessary to strike a balance. An example can be agile methodologies which prioritize flexibility, adaptability, and iterative development. Depending on the project’s nature, it may be a good idea to blend rigid processes with more flexible approaches to accommodate changing requirements and promote continuous improvement.

Share