Years ago, while working on the second version of Weathermob — a social weather app — we made a mistake. The app had traction, but it also had flaws that we were correcting to help it reach the next level of growth. Rather than solicit user feedback on our new developments, we built and released the new iteration based on our assumptions about the product’s existing user base.
While the relaunch was a success, it did upset a small-but-vocal cohort of users. Small things like font size and interface changes, which we thought were improvements, frustrated a key user base: seniors who enjoyed talking about the weather.
We’d failed to do our homework, and we had to make last-minute changes to address the situation. Worse, we’d missed a big opportunity to show our users that we understood their needs.
Spotting Product Problems
Like ours, your product team is human. Its members make mistakes. Fortunately, they’re probably also bright enough to correct them and get the product back on track.
In our experience, the most common errors made by product developers are:
1. Not understanding the user.
If you don’t understand your users, you’ll miss opportunities to boost their engagement, just as we did with Weathermob. Don’t make assumptions. Instead, constantly connect with target users about what they need and integrate their feedback into testing. If you can key in on users’ needs and address them, you’ll create brand ambassadors and a better overall product.
To get a more complete understanding of what your users need, use our empathy-mapping technique, which will enable you to ask better questions and help your users provide meaningful feedback.
2. Disagreeing on development procedures.
During development, things are bound to change. New features are requested, budgets shift, and complexities crop up. When they do, your team needs a process to handle those curveballs. Without one, communication breaks down, delaying development and creating unnecessary headaches.
Start with a standardized written procedure for team communication, development, and decisionmaking. Know who should have input on each feature and who has the final say. Product roadmaps are a wonderful tool for this. With a high-level product plan, communication improves, change becomes manageable, and development accelerates.
3. Failing to plan for launch.
Especially at startups, most of the early pressure and effort goes toward just getting the product finished. Unfortunately, this means little time is spent on marketing, onboarding, and user acquisition. These should not be afterthoughts and must be integrated into the plan from the beginning.
Tech giants like Apple consider the end consumer’s experience throughout every step of the process. They think about how people will find the product, what kind of people will be looking for it, and how people will use it at launch and later in its life cycle. Thinking about these elements throughout development helps alleviate launch stress, ensuring the product hits the market in the best position possible.
If you’re struggling with any of these problems — or another development difficulty — check out our resources or give us a holler. Trust us: We’ve made, seen, and corrected our share of product development mistakes, and we’ve built processes to keep teams on track toward successful products. Whatever you’re working on, we’re happy to help.
Tony Scherba is a President | Founding Partner at Yeti. Tony has been developing software since high school and has worked on digital products for global brands such as Google, MIT, Qualcomm, Hershey’s, Britney Spears and Harmon/Kardon. Tony’s writing about innovation and technology has been featured in Forbes, Huffington Post and Inc. At Yeti, Tony works on strategy, product design and day to day operations, hopping in and working with the development teams when needed. Follow Tony on Twitter.