Every product begins its lifecycle in the idea stage. This crucial phase is known as the product innovation stage, and is where brainstorming comes to life and problems become opportunities.
During the idea stage, the goal is to generate concepts which solve a problem and cater to customer needs, conduct market research, and begin concept testing to validate the idea.
During ideation, it's important to focus on the problem rather than the solution. Focusing on the problem will allow you to clearly identify and understand who the target market is.
Once a problem and target market are both identified, it's a good idea to consider how your potential customers are currently solving this problem. Understand what other solutions exist and their strengths and limitations. Conducting a SWOT Analysis to gauge your idea's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats will help to better understand the current competition and if your product is filling a market gap.
Once a problem and target market is identified, and a solution idea to crafted, it's time to begin defining what are the specific features and functionalities the product will include. This process is referred to as defining the product.
Having a product definition is key, as it becames the roadmap for technical solutioning. Solutioning is the process of analyzing a product idea, along with its defined features and functionalities, and creating a technical roadmap for building an Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
When preparing the plan for an MVP, a few key items to consider are:
Technology Stack: The technology stack is the set of technologies, including, hardware, software, programming languages and other tools used to create a product.
Existing Solutions: Leveraging existing third-party solutions can be a great way to rapidly test a concept. Existing solutions may be implemented through an API or SDK.
Success Metrics: Defining success metrics early is essential to measuring and evaluating the product's success. Examples of basic KPIs are session duration and churn rate.
During the design and prototyping stage, the planned MVP is mocked up with the goal of producing a visual roadmap for the upcoming development stage.
Creating this design prototype can help the team execute a quick product launch with a clear vision in mind. During this phase, many user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) challenges will be resolved.
This phase can also be leveraged to refine and adjust the previously defined MVP plan. Prototyping is a great way to identify features which can be substituted, combined, modifined, or eliminated. Rather than dragging out launch timelines, additionally desired features can be added further down the road when bandwith is available.
After successfully designing a prototype, the product is ready to be developed. Using the previously planned development strategy, the engineering team is ready to begin setting up the basic infrastructure of the project, including:
Architecture: The blueprint for a complex set of structures needed to establish communication and coordination mechanisms among different underlying systems that enable the product's functionality.
Hosting: This is where the software product's files and various resources reside on a hosting provider's servers. This is commonly referred to as the cloud.
Database Design: Database design is the organization of data according to a database model. The designer determines what data must be stored and how the data elements interrelate.
CI / CD Pipeline: Continuous Integration and Continuous Development
With the proper infrastructure and a process now in place, the team can begin developing the following aspects of the product:
Back End: The backend of the product is the server-side of the application. This is where all the inner workings and behind-the-scenes processes as it includes the server, application, and database, and orchestrates the communication and coordination between components.
Integrations: Integrations with middleware solutions act as a hidden translation layer. Integrating with third-party solutions can be done through APIs or SDKs. An API is a set of defined tools a developer can use to communicate the product with the third-party solution, and transacts data between the two applications. An SDK is a collection of development tools in one package which can be used for product creation.
Payment Gateway: The payment gateway is party of the back end and integration. It is used to process customer purchases within the product.
The process of product development is iterative, meaning that as features of the product are developed, each segment will continuously undergo rigorous testing and revisioning to squish bugs, optimize the product and improve the user experience.
Testing ensures that the product being delivered is of high quality and meets the needs of the end-user. This phase typically involves three phases:
Unit Testing: Unit testing involves testing individual components or modules of the software. This phase is usually carried out by developers and involves writing test cases for each component or module. The goal of unit testing is to ensure that each component or module works as expected and that there are no bugs or errors.
Integration Testing: Integration testing is the second phase, looking at how different components or modules work together. This phase is usually carried out by a separate team of testers and involves writing test cases for different scenarios that involve multiple components or modules. The goal of integration testing is to ensure that all components or modules work together seamlessly and that there are no issues when they are combined.
System Testing: System testing is the final phase of testing and involves testing the entire system as a whole. This phase is usually carried out by a separate team of testers and involves writing test cases for different scenarios that involve multiple components or modules. The goal of system testing is to ensure that the entire system works as expected and meets the needs of the end-user.
During the testing process, anytime a bug is found or an opportunity to optimize the product is identified, the team reverts back to the development stage for revisioning and implementation.
Hooray! The product is now built and ready for release.
Once the product is launched, it must be continuously maintained. Receiving regular updates ensures that the product operating efficiently and securely.
As additional desired features are conceptualized, they can be added to the product's development backlog. The items in the backlog are continuously being prioritized and worked on by the development team as the backlog contains both bugs and new features.