How to avoid building products that fail

The lesson we should take from this story is that it’s extremely dangerous to execute ideas without first identifying and testing assumptions about the value of those ideas. We shouldn’t jump to a solution before we understand the problem. And that’s what this post is about.

One of the biggest mistakes we can make in product development is jumping to execution before an appropriate planning cycle has been completed, so we need to give planning the attention it deserves. Let’s start with gathering user needs.

User Needs

When products get too complicated, we sometimes solve the problem ourselves. Source: Reddit

User research, on the other hand, focuses on users’ interactions with a product. It is concerned with how people interact with technology, and what we can learn from their wants, needs, and frustrations. Those are the methods we’ll focus on in this section.

1. Exploratory Research

Make no mistake, this isn’t about asking people if they want faster horses — it’s about observing people and finding out that they want to get where they need to be much faster than they’re currently able to.

2. Design Research

3. Assessment Research

Business Needs

Source: The Verge

I’m not saying a new product needs to be profitable from day one (although that would be nice, of course), but there at least needs to be a plan — a few possible revenue streams — that will eventually lead to a sustainable business.

Eliminating Bad Revenue Streams

Deceiving people to make a quick buck might seem like a good idea at the time, but it is a short-term strategy that is bound to backfire — not to mention that it’s unethical.

How to opt out of travel insurance on Ryanair. Source: Dark Patterns

The thing is, very few people start their days thinking, “I wonder how I could deceive people today?” Instead, dark patterns and deceptive methods sneak up on us as potentially decent ideas that degenerate little by little until they become dark patterns.

Eyetracking data showing the importance of gallery images in search results.

Pursuing Good Revenue Streams

Iron Maiden in concert. Source: Wikipedia

Technical Needs

“Maintaining and monitoring urban environments in a well-ordered condition may stop further vandalism and escalation into more serious crime.”

The technical debt ceiling. Source: Henrik Kniberg

Putting It All Together

Balancing user, business, and technical needs based on the phase of the business.

The point that deserves to be stressed is this: without doing the work to understand the core user, business, and technical needs that your product will address, you’ll be building a foundation on sand.

Product manager & designer • Author • Speaker

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