So you want to build the perfect product?

A client’s guide to creating a better digital product design

Every digital entrepreneur dreams of creating the perfect product, but the sad truth is that only 10% of all tech startups succeed. Some projects fail due to a wrong business approach or non-sellable idea, and a huge part of them fall flat because of poor implementation and unfitting UX approach. In my practice, I have witnessed too many wonderful ideas failing, some of them even before reaching the market.

In this article, we will take a look at the main enemies at the early stage of product development, before the first line of code has been written. You will also find some useful tips, tricks, and tools to help you overcome the challenges.

Enemy #1 — Excessive expectations

I’m not saying we have to create crappy products, but we have to be realistic in our expectations. Surely all the functionalities that you want your product to have are great and very useful. However, it is more important to have a good product on time than a perfect one but too late.

Why?

  1. The fact that you had come up with a wonderful idea means that most probably someone is already working on a similar, or even the same concept. So, if you procrastinate too long, the competition will surely overtake you.
  2. Loading the first version of a product with too many features always makes it more expensive than the investors expected. In many cases, this leads to freezing of the project before it is even released.
  3. Even if you have unlimited resources, the prolonged development time will exhaust you, your investors, the developers, and all others involved in the project. This is a serious threat that should not be underestimated. When participants in an initiative lose their motivation, they are almost always doomed to failure.

What’s the solution?

MVP (Minimum Viable Project) or MVE (Minimum Viable Ecosystem — for blockchain projects) is the entrepreneur’s best friend. I know it’s hard to let some of the great features go, but postponing them to a later stage will ease the work of developers and enable you focus on the important components of the product. Тhis sounds easy in theory, but in practice it is quite challenging to decide at the very beginning, which elements should stay and which are to be suspended.

How to achieve it?

You can start by creating two plans. The first plan (Optimistic) is the plan of your dream product including all the incredible features you can imagine. There are many ways to design such a plan, but it is advisable to use the following methods: Personas, Scenarios, Journey Maps, Blueprints, User Workflows and so on.

The second plan (Realistic) is a simplified version of the original design. But, how do you determine, what has to be dropped? Very easy, you don’t. The most important quality of each product is to solve a real problem relevant to its users. So why not just ask them.

The general opinion that user testing takes a lot of time and money is totally incorrect.

In fact, nothing holds you back from running early, low-budget user tests with no more than 10 people. This simple but effective approach will give you much more information about the needs of your users than you thought. In many cases, the functionality that you considered absolutely necessary turns out to be of insignificant to your customers.

By carefully developing the Realistic plan, you are one step closer to achieving the Optimistic one.

Enemy #2 — Staying in your comfort zone

I realize we’ve talked about MVP so far, and MVP is not believed to go hand in hand with experiments. The latter is however not particularly true. The innovation you offer doesn’t have to cost hundreds of thousands or take half a year of development. Sometimes small but bold solutions could be the key to your success on the market. I have witnessed the destruction of too many brilliant ideas, due to the belief that “The customers are too conservative”, or “Consumers are not ready yet for such innovative features”.

Why?

  1. The main reason for the lack of innovation and inability to step outside of the box is very simple… fear. People were always scared of the unknown, but you shouldn’t let fear cloud your judgment. If people weren’t able to overcome it, we’d probably still be living in a cave.
  2. It is a misconception that innovation is expensive, time and material consuming. Unless you are building a spaceship, there are thousands of ways to innovate without spending too much.

What’s the solution?

There is no written recipe for innovation — after all, we are talking about creating something new and unseen. So, what will be your unique feature depends entirely on you and the creativity of your team. The only thing I can do is give you the inspiring example of a great toaster design. Keith Hensel (Breville Group Principal Designer) didn’t reinvent the toaster or the way it works, but added a small and inexpensive extra which remodels our entire understanding of the product.

How to achieve it?

The answer is one — through empathy, a fundamental part of design thinking (to find out more about design thinking, check out Tim Brown and his TED talk on the subject). You need to know your users better than they know themselves. Find out what triggers them, what frustrates them, and what makes them happy. There are many ways to understand these driving forces: marketing research, competition research, focus group interviews, and so on. The approach depends on you and the time and the resources you have. Often, great innovators don’t need those methods — they truly understand the needs of their users, simply because they’ve experienced the same problems as their customers.

Enemy #3 — Extreme perfectionism

The button is slightly displaced, the height of the column is different from the design. In the rush of development, there will always be things that don’t go 100% according to our plans. After months of hard work, everyone on the team wants the perfect result. Unfortunately, not once in the last 9 years I’ve seen a project (digital or not) that has been deployed exactly as it was intended and there is nothing wrong with about it.

If we can learn to make the right compromises, the lack of perfection will become our strong ally.

Why?

  1. Even if you have the best professionals on your team, no one is perfect. As the old Persian proverb says, “The Persian carpets are perfect in their imperfection and precise in their imprecision.” The beautiful Persian carpet almost always has a deliberate “defect”. This ritual emphasizes that true perfection is unattainable.
  2. Time is never enough, no matter how well you plan and manage your team. It’s important to focus on the significant elements and not allow minor discrepancies to delay the release of the product.

What’s the solution?

Do not stop the developments after the product launches. At the start of the project, secure a budget for a few more months of work after the release date. This buffer time will allow you to study the users on your own territory and make decisions much easier and faster.

Make sure small updates come frequently.

This guarantees greater stability of your product and reduces the risk of errors. This behavior is also preferred by users — small changes are easier and quicker to adopt because you create a sense of constant care for the customer. Delaying improvements for several months or years inevitably leads to major redesigns. This approach carries much more risk for mistakes and angry customers who will feel frustrated and unprepared for the new environment.

How to achieve it?

  1. Improve your team. If you have the resources, invest in courses, training, conferences. Give your people the freedom to experiment. This way, besides the increased feeling of ownership on the product, you can also expect many interesting and innovative solutions.
  2. Just like your staff is improving, your users are becoming better at using your product as they gain more experience over time. This will allow you to integrate more revolutionary ideas into your product as time passes by. A UI that seemed too extravagant three months ago may become mandatory for many interfaces today. So, please, don’t underestimate your audience — people are always open to new ideas if these ideas are user-friendly.
  3. Keep track of the technologies. I know, they change so fast that it is hard even for developers to follow the new trends. But the least you can do is to try keeping up with the mandatory things — like updating to newer system versions. Together with the technologies, the development tools are changing too, giving you the opportunity to build easier, faster, and better products. If you don’t try them out you are risking to become outdated pretty fast. This may seem overwhelming but look at the bright side — if you keep up, one day you will be able to build that impossible feature you always dreamed of.
  4. And last but not least: observe. Today there are many tools that can help you with heat maps, click maps, scroll maps and video recordings of user’s behavior. Some of them like Yandex metrica are free but require some level of data sharing. Others are much more secure but need a subscription. You can try:

Crazy Egg

Crazy Egg provides almost everything you can imagine related to behaviour analytics — from a/b testing, through click and scroll maps to screen recordings. Its clients list includes companies like Etsy, Yahoo and Mint.com


Hotjar

Hotjar is probably the most popular tool on the list. Besides the standard features that such instruments offer, you can take advantage of feedback polls, surveys and one-on-one testings.


Smartlook

Besides the website analytics, with Smartlook you can take advantage of the Mobile App Analytics. The company also provides high compatibility with other platforms.


Mouseflow

Mouseflow is one of the oldest players on the market and has clients like Microsoft, Samsungs and Philips. They also provide a large variety of features and integrations.


No matter which one you choose, your standard Google Analytics is not enough. The suggested tools are an important addition to the classic analytical ones as they provide an understanding of the audience’s response to the content and functionalities you are providing.

At first look, these additional efforts may seem too immense, but this investment will bring you closer to creating the perfect product. Or, at least it will make your life easier.

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