How to Turn Your Great Idea Into a Successful New Software Product
Nothing’s more exciting than having a new idea that you’re sure will revolutionize a market or solve a key problem for people. But the real challenges start to emerge when the rubber meets the road and you need to actually build the thing.
That’s where it pays to have a deep knowledge of the potholes that lie in wait on the road to success. Drawbackwards has been there and done that. We know what works and what can be a distraction. Creating a new software product from scratch requires careful planning, efficient execution, and a deep understanding of the market and core user needs.
But it’s not enough to know the needs of your users. You have to translate those needs into an intuitive and usable interface.
Here's how we've helped countless clients build successful real-world products and solutions.
Start with a Clear Product Vision
Do you think Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak jumped in and started sketching the first Apple right from the start? Of course not. They started with a design philosophy that included their product vision, strategy, and goals.
Many of our clients come to us wanting to immediately start brainstorming and designing a solution. They’re expecting to ideate a set of solutions to a problem and that's it. Beautiful products and seamless experiences that change lives don’t show up overnight. They take a lot of research, strategic thinking, and trial and error.
They need a core design philosophy. If you’re stuck, here are some tips on how to develop your own design philosophy.
You need to identify your passion and state the problem you’re trying to solve in the world. What are the holes that you’re seeing that you think your product can fill? What will that look like if it’s successful?
Keep in mind that you might see a huge problem, but it might need several solutions that apply to different stages or steps. You can’t change an entire industry overnight. Pick one aspect of the problem that needs the most attention, aligns with your passion, and feels like the right fit.
Make Sure the Problem Needs Your Solution
We’ve seen a lot of good ideas fail fast. The biggest reason for this? They were trying to solve something that people didn’t want to solve, or in a way that they didn’t want to do it. The key to a new product’s success is how fast it can rise from Functional to Comfortable on the Experience Success Ladder.
Before you do anything else, you need to take a long hard look in the mirror (and into the market) to find out if you’re seeing the problem the way your users see it.
Who is the user and what do they need to do? What are their specific needs and pain points? Do they feel this pain every day or is it a minor occasional nuisance? What is their current way of solving their problem and how (if at all) would they like to change that? Are there other solutions out there that work well enough to prevent them from switching to your product?
Look at all the technologies, processes, and steps that are currently involved in the user flow. Where can your idea have the most impact? Write user stories to capture what you want to enable the user to do. Focus on the stories that you're in a position to address better than anybody else.
It’s easy to convince ourselves we have the perfect cure for something we see that’s failing in the world. It’s a whole lot harder to convince other people that your cure is right for them. Sure, marketing can help. But the most surefire way to do this is to make sure your product has a true market fit.
Create a User-Centered Design Philosophy
Our work at Drawbackwards starts from a baseline of user-centered design (UCD). It's a core philosophy that places the needs and goals of the user at the center of the design process. We use this approach because it has proven to deliver the highest chance of success at the lowest cost.
To do this, you need to establish early on a repetitive cycle of user research, prototyping based on that research, and testing to validate your design decisions. Without a user-centered approach, you’ll likely end up with a confusing and frustrating process that results in subpar performance or even a complete product failure. You’ll also waste a lot of time and money on redesigns and rework later on.
The features you choose to build need to have a direct connection to user needs. There are a lot of cool ideas that will come up early in the development process. Resist the urge to chase after every one of them. Everything you build needs to fit an underlying design philosophy.
One of the biggest challenges in starting a new digital software product is understanding the needs and behaviors of your users. The next biggest challenge is creating solutions that feel tailor-made to meet those needs.
To create a product that provides a great user experience, you need to understand your users' goals, motivations, and pain points. The only way to do this is through first-hand user research, talking to potential users, and analyzing data that reveals their true behaviors, not only what they say. You need to get out of your own head and into the heads of your users.
Build and Test a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
You need to design a product that is easy to use, intuitive, and provides a seamless user experience. To achieve this, you need to design user flows, wireframes, and prototypes that reflect the needs of your target audience.
It’s easy to get caught up in adding features and functionality. But adding too many features too early can sink your product before it has a chance to get its sea legs. You need to balance the functionality of your product with the user experience and make conscious decisions about the trade-offs. You can’t spread yourself too thin too fast or you won’t do anything well.
The best way to do this is to create an MVP version of your product with the most essential features and functionality needed to meet user needs. With an MVP, you can test and confirm your ideas with target users. People respond to things they can touch, sense, and feel. If an MVP doesn’t at least reach the Comfortable rung on the Ladder then we don’t suggest building it until it does.
An MVP helps you refine your product before making significant investments in bells and whistles that may not matter. It also helps you further define and confirm (or adjust) your perception of product-market fit.
Usability testing is a key part of this process and will become your friend throughout your product development. Get a structure in place to regularly recruit target users who can test the MVP and future iterations of the product. Whether it’s in-person or remote, passive or active, any level of user testing is better than nothing when you’re trying to get a new product off the ground.
Watch Out for Land Mines Along the Way
We’re experts at navigating the minefield of new product development. We’ve seen almost all the ways teams can get blindsided in the process. With an expert like Drawbackwards by your side, you’ll feel more confident that your solution will address the right problems and that your product will achieve the full potential of your original idea.
We reduce the risk of failure. It takes more time and investment to do things right from the start. But that pays off when your product is thriving five years down the line. We’re celebrating our 20th anniversary this year, and we’ve seen a lot of products come and go in that time. The ones that stick around are the products that follow these simple rules to get off the ground and onto a long-term trajectory for success.