These days, we interact with digital products nearly as much as we use physical ones. And with this massive reliance on digital products, comes massive opportunities for brands new and old. To capitalise on this opportunity, however, companies will need to implement effective digital product development.
And though some traditional development practices carry over, implementing a digital-first development cycle will yield the best results.
What are the digital product development stages and what do they involve?
The first phase of the digital product development cycle is assessment. This is an opportunity for your team to take a step back, analyse your idea and your approach, your existing tools, talent, and resources, and make sure that you’re properly set up for success. In some ways, reading this article is itself a part of the assessment phase, so you’re already on your way!
As with any assessment phase, objectivity is key. If you let biases and assumptions get in the way, then you could see those resurface later as issues and limitations. It’s better to be aware of these early than to assume they won’t be a factor later, only to be surprised when they are.
While you should be getting a general idea of your end users’ wants and needs during the assessment phase, stage two in your digital product development is the discovery phase, where you’re going to hone in on exactly what that is.
To do so, you’re going to have to interact with those users. That means coming to a firm conclusion on who your target demographic is and getting in touch with the potential end users who represent that group.
Once you have end users you can interview, it’s time to start asking them questions. During this back and forth, you’ll want to ask them what they think of your app concept, how they would use it, what problems they foresee, what features would they expect it to have, what’s critical to them and what isn’t?
You’ll also want to seek out negative feedback as well, seeing if there are any features and ideas that you have proposed that they are not interested in. Or anything they downright don’t want to see in the final digital product.
- Product development
This third phase of digital product development is where your project will start to see some traction. This is where you’ll take your ideas, your resources, and your target audience’s input and start creating your digital product.
The product development phase can be broken into two segments: prototyping and testing.
During prototyping, you’ll be creating the prototype product. The basic framework, templating, features, and overall UI should be hammered out here. Bugs and inconsistent features are to be expected — you’ll grind these out of your product during testing.
Once you’re ready to begin testing, you’ll want to go through the internal alpha tests. This is where you’ll start ironing out the kinks you’ve stumbled into during prototyping. You might also find that you’re removing or changing certain features now that you’ve started using the prototype version of your product.
Testing also means beta testing, though. During beta testing, you’ll have end users experimenting with your app to see if they spot bugs that you haven’t, clash with certain features, have suggestions for your team, and so on.
- Continuous engagement
The fourth and final stage of digital product development is one that in some respects never ends. That’s continuous engagement. Continuous engagement is where your digital product is deployed and then managed throughout its total lifespan.
In the short term, that will mean finding any bugs that slipped through and fixing them promptly. It also means keeping a pulse on your customers and making sure that they’re satisfied with the product — adding in updates and features as their needs change, or as competitors innovate around you.
Then, over the long term, your role will transition from rapid maintenance to steady maintenance and periodic upgrading. You’ll want to make sure that your digital product is compatible with updates to whatever platforms it’s on and APIs it’s connected to.
How using these phases of digital product development can maximise your chances of success
The core purpose of following these digital product development phases is to reduce headaches later on. A haphazard development workflow is likely to result in a haphazard lifecycle for that product. But if you start with an organised, structured mindset, not only will you create a better product, but it’ll be more likely to match your customers’ needs. It’ll also present fewer problems as it’s maintained and updated.
If your team needs support in developing a digital product, reach out to the experts at Thunk for insights and expertise.