Product development process — from conception to market
Staying relevant and keeping pace with the marketplace are the key factors of any company growth. Businesses are constantly looking for better ways how to find customers and gain their loyalty. New products and services are the lifeblood of all businesses. As a result, entrepreneurs strive to attract more customers via user-friendly websites or apps and get ahead of their competitors. Investing in website or app development is crucial to business growth and profitability. However, the development process might seem risky and needs considerable planning and organization.
Peter, a business owner from Sweden, has similar concerns according to his future digital product development. He has a bunch of questions that require to be answered to make a concept of Peter’s product into a real business opportunity.
What Peter Wants
Peter has a concept of the app related to the bicycle rental service in Stockholm. He is excited about his large-scale, complex and innovative project that will help people to enjoy finding the perfect bikes. At the same time, Peter is worried as he knows that such projects entail extensive but captivating design and development process, which requires innovative solutions.
As a business owner, Peter has already gone through the stage of generating an idea. He knows what’s lacking in the market and where there’s a need for something new.
Now, Peter wants to start development of his app. He’s looking for a good design and development company and finds us, Cadabra Studio. Peter gets in touch with our sales department as he would like to know all the necessary information about the product development process — the steps all the way through to product launch. Therefore, we set up a kick-off meeting online, as Peter lives in Sweden. Usually, the Project Manager and Designers assigned to the project are present at this meeting. At the meeting, we go through Peter’s project details, discuss its roadmap and lifecycle and agree on the main project milestones.
Peter is ready to start work with our studio, so we negotiate a contract and begin the project.
What stages await Peter’s product? What will he, as a product owner, face with? Let’s go through all the process of the digital product design and development together, basing on Cadabra Studio expertise.
Creating a Project Team
Every potential new product or service requires a dedicated development team. To create a product Peter needs a team of people with a variety of skills — a Project Manager (PM), a Technical Expert (Developer), a UX/UI Designer and sometimes an Illustrator or a Motion designer. All the team members should understand Peter’s business objectives and be committed to them.
There are many forms of effective teamwork and the one we offer depends on business needs. Preferably, the team works as a unit dedicated to Peter’s project, reporting to the Project Manager, and the Project Manager monitors the progress, coordinates and motivates the team.
Also, together with the Project Manager, the team communicates with Peter daily on Skype or other messengers to keep him informed about the workflow with the result of our work. In this way, Peter knows exactly what’s been done and what we intend to do next.
While the PM is the primary communication agent, there is one more person who is involved in the product creation process — our Art Director, who controls and guides the visual aspect of the work. Together with the Art Director, the team has transparent, collaborative discussions that are focused on finding the best way to solve complex tasks.
Market Research and Project Estimation
Every project starts with an estimation. Market research and competitor analysis are the main part of the research for the development stage. These are done to get an idea of the potential growth for the product, and to build a business case to validate the product. The three golden aims in this phase are to find out how Peter’s product can satisfy the customers, stand out from the competition, and show the greatest potential for turning a profit.
In this early stage, our team carefully studies all project’s facts and details, tries to understand the possible deadlines and client’s preferences. We collect information, analyze it and find out about the similar products on the market, competitors, target audience, why this product is needed, the demand for it and the niche it could fill.
Fundamentally, the project estimation is based on our hourly rates. We work with both approaches: fixed-price and time and material projects. So, Peter gets an estimation with the cover letter that describes the price logic and description of the project stages.
As most development companies, we work with the Agile Method, which assists teams in responding to the unpredictability of constructing software. It uses incremental, iterative work sequences that are commonly known as sprints. When each stage is completed, the team moves on to the next step.
A design sprint is a design-thinking process to help the team test big, important ideas before starting to build the app. The team agrees on a long-term goal, maps out the challenge, and decides which part of the challenge they can solve during the sprint.
We start the sprint by creating user-stories. They are a type of scenario used in design processes to enable a designer to empathize with a user and generate ideas that fit into the user’s life. In order to create user stories for the mobile app, we need a vast amount of information on the users’ lives. The design team obtains this by conducting qualitative research — observations, contextual interviews, and other methods are typically used in the research process.
We make a list of actions defining the interactions between the users and the app system. The user stories act as acceptance criteria and help our team understand if they are going to reach the goal. The designers select the most relevant insights for the design problem and then merge these into cohesive user stories. This information becomes the background for the development of user flow and information architecture. We study how each item relates to all other elements within the app structure. Finally, we check if the acceptance criteria are met.
Once the features have been defined with user stories and specification, they should be ranked by difficulty and priority. This will help us to identify what features are needed most, and how difficult and time-consuming it will be to create first a minimum viable product (MVP). In most cases, the first product release won’t have all the features the client desires to. The first release of Peter’s app will be an MVP containing the main features necessary for the product to be interesting for his customers and become successful in the market.
Design sprints empower the design team to answer critical questions through user research, experimentation, and validation from potential customers. Avoiding assumptions, focusing on the users, and maintaining an experimental mindset means that products, features, and services are all validated quickly and with minimal risk.
Wireframing And Prototyping
Wireframing and prototyping (also known as low-fidelity prototyping) and usability testing is an inexpensive, quick and cost-effective technique for identifying major usability issues at the early stages of the product development. It’s one of the best methods for gaining design insight early. Catching major usability problems early means Peter won’t waste his precious time, effort and money developing designs that may fail.
At this stage, we create wireframes to showcase the full spectrum of features of the project. Put together wireframes become a prototype. We create clickable prototypes via InVision App that help get everyone involved in the design process. It is a very easy and convenient way for both Peter and the team to get feedback, discuss and improve the design process. To provide full and immersive user experience, we offer our client to test the app directly on his smartphone.
When Peter approves the prototype, the UX stage is completed, as we use wireframes as the visual-manual to deliver UI design on the next step.
User interface (UI) design is the access points where users interact with the product. Our designers aim to create designs that users will find pleasurable and easy to use. UI design typically refers to graphical user interfaces but also includes others, such as voice-controlled ones. At Cadabra Studio, we don’t separate UX from UI, as we consider they belong to the same process.
Before we start designing user interface, we get background information on branding, colors, patterns and general preferences provided by Peter as a client. After that, we discuss our proposals regarding style and visual approaches and agree on them.
The successful UI design isn’t just about making things look pretty, it’s about communicating the purpose of the product and the utility of its interface. We aim to make the interface effectively invisible, offering users portals through which they can interact directly with the reality of their tasks. Focusing on the “magic” by letting the users find their way about the interface intuitively, we let them immerse into the app functions and benefits.
We propose Peter a few options of his future app interface design which helps him imagine and understand what design trends, style, and graphics we will use creating the UI. Having agreed on the design approach, we can move forward. To keep the client updated about the product development workflow, we conduct daily calls, so Peter can express all his ideas and suggestions according to the project’s milestones.
When the design of a product is finished, it is being passed on to the developers to undertake the final build. The designer creates style guidelines for the navigation elements, the state of errors, required fields and downloads all these deliverables into Zeplin, a collaboration tool which works as a bridge between UI designers and developers.
Developing The Product
At the initial stage of development, the app goes through a set of changes — the core functionality isn’t tested and Peter sees the app to be very buggy. The non-core functionality doesn’t exist yet at this point. It might seem very frustrating, though much of the proposed functionality is implemented at the second stage. The app has already had light testing and bug fixing, however, some issues could still be present. In this phase, Peter’s app can be released to a certain group of external users for more testing. After the bugs in the second stage are fixed, the app will move to the deployment phase where it’s ready for release.
The Agile Methodology, used for the development stage either, helps with flexible planning, progressive development, early deployment, and constant improvements. A large application can be broken down into smaller modules, and agile methodology can be applied to each of these small parts.
Product testing is vast, so we make sure our team covers all the necessary aspects of it. The application should be tested for usability, compatibility, security, interface checks, stress, and performance. In user acceptance testing we discover whether Peter’s mobile app works for his intended users or not. Once the application passes the user acceptance test, we know our solution works. Further, Peter can make his product available for a beta trial, either through the enrollment of previously identified groups or an open solicitation for participants. The feedback we receive from beta users will help to find out whether the app’s functions are operating well in a real setting.
What Peter Gets In The End
This moment has come, and Peter’s app is ready to be submitted. We choose a day and start a formal launch. For different app stores, the policies for launching an application are different. For Peter and us this is not the end — app development doesn’t end at launch. As Peter’s product gets in the hands of users, feedback will arrive pretty quickly, so we’ll need to incorporate that feedback into the improved version of the app. That’s why we provide one more month of the product maintenance and perfect the app during this time.
Every app needs updates and new features. Typically, as soon as the first version of the app is released, the development cycle begins again. Peter has to be sure he has the resources to maintain and update his product. As a business owner, he has to keep in mind that apart from the money invested in building a digital product, its a long-term commitment.
If you have decided to create a website or mobile app, or update the current version of your existent product, our team of experts is eager to help you to reach an awesome result and build a strong market share. Just get in touch with us and we’ll handle any project of any complicacy.
Originally written for Cadabra Studio blog.