Product Development Lessons

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I’ve had the opportunity in the past four months to be a part of a seven person group of very talented people to create a product for our stakeholders. You could think of this experience as a miniature start-up organization. This opportunity has given me new insight and experience with dealing with a product based company. There are three things that you must consider when you deal with a product based company.

The first thing is talk to as many stakeholders as possible. Our product that we are making has undergone about 10-20 major modifications since inception and this was the reason. When you create a product for your stakeholders/clients you need to make sure that you have given thought to every angle. Now sometimes you might think that you have conversed with everyone who has a meaningful say in your product, but don’t stop there. If someone is related in anyway to your product, (how you use it, how it looks, and how it works), then they should be on top of your list for contacting. When our idea was still malleable it was a lot easier to accept when a stakeholder told us of a difficult piece to the puzzle. After the first month of stakeholder contacting we had contacted about 50-60 people and had conversations with every one. Remember that if your stakeholders don’t like it, then you won’t be able to sell it.

The second thing is user input. This might sound similar to the first section, but it’s got a little bit of a different nuance. This lesson was learned after we had built our first prototype. A saying that I learned while doing this project is “Facts are friendly.” As you show your product off to stakeholders and clients, there will be times when they completely shoot down your idea. When this happens just remember “facts are friendly.” Just because you might have put two weeks strait into a prototype just to get it shot down by someone you were showing it to, doesn’t mean it was a waste of time. There was a reason that your user didn’t like the prototype. So instead of complaining that your user doesn’t know what they are talking about, go back and make something that your user will love. In every situation remember that “facts are friendly.”

The last thing I learned from my experience is test early and test often. This goes hand-in-hand with the two lessons from above. As you are throwing your ideas to people be as liquid as possible. A good rule of thumb is to test out a particularly difficult function in your product, and see if it works. Most of the time you’ll fail, but you’ve tested it with your user and they love it, that’s when you know you have really succeeded. Every function that your product has, remember to test it early and test it often. As you do that you’ll be able to gradually make an awesome user experience and a great product.

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