We, at Visual Craft, have been developing software applications for over 16 years. During this time, we have helped to elaborate on more than 100 startups and completed over 300 projects. We devised an approach that helps us focus on the product development stages that positively affect the overall success the most. Those stages are linked to each other, so it is important to execute them in proper order.
Let’s talk about startups and begin with the definition of the pre-seed stage, what results and metrics are important at this step of working on a software product, and what challenges startups usually face when trying to achieve each of the desired outcomes. We are co-founders of Viosk and OrburO startups, and we will share with you as much of our own startup experience as we can!
- No code, pre-made or custom solutions: What is the best for your MVP?
- How much does it cost to develop an MVP
- MVP and the first traction: How to balance the funds for a startup
What every product needs to be successful early on and the most common problems
1. Confirmation of the customer demand for your product
Helping founders build projects in London, Berlin, New York, Oslo, and Silicon Valley, we never create a product and decide how to market it later. First, we help founders to study the market and possible target audience, and only afterward do we make the app suitable to meet the needs of the potential customers.
It is vital for the pre-seed stage to get confirmation that there is a place and demand for the product on the market. Otherwise, the next steps and further product development make no sense. Here are some key phases of the customer demand confirmation process:
- At the Product Analysis and User Research step, we explore the market to understand the market’s landscape and customer needs. This is needed to be done in order to shorten superfluous costs and software development efforts later. Exploring the market, we determine direct and indirect competitors. We help conduct user research through consumer and expert surveys, online questionnaires, and user monitoring.
- For the Customer Discovery step, we look for user pain points. It helps us make desirable software applications that offer advantages and improvements over competitors. This step is vital, because we discover the main user needs, and it influences directly how the future product would sell.
- After the previous steps, we figure out whether our product is needed on the market by answering the following questions: How does our product solve user problems? Do we have a product-market fit? Is our target sector increasing or decreasing? Through the use of these questions, we find and eliminate more potential roadblocks.
2. An actual product, in a form of a fully functional MVP that allows you to prove your ability to deliver the final product
It is important for the pre-seed stage to have a working product on your hands, even though with a limited number of functions. At this stage, you need to prove that the features of your application will solve the user pain points that you discovered earlier.
Prioritize on a fast product release on the market, that would allow you to test it and get as much user feedback as you can. That's all right if a number of functions in the product will not be automated because automation takes a lot of time, and we can do it later easily. Far more important for us is to implement the main functionality that gives value in solving the user's problem.
After we correctly identified the problem and properly selected the key to the solution, then we can move on to the next round and further development. We have already written about Top 7 Mistakes While Building an MVP and how to avoid them. Read to find out more!
So, ultimately, you need to have:
- A working product, a fully functional MVP with core functionality
- A confirmation that the product solves user problems, based on reviews, first traction, and key metrics
A lot of startups lack the technical expertise during the development of the MVP and face the following challenges:
- Validation of technical sustainability of the product
- Setting up and controlling the development process
- Picking the right technology stack to achieve set goals
- Lack of understanding of product design and no project manager to prepare product requirements
Before developing a product, we need to go through the preparation of the requirements and to translate the language of business into the language of technology. It is also crucial to set the right priorities, understand what we focus on, use the right product design principles, create a product that is comprehensible for our potential customers, and don’t forget about the prototyping. The latter will allow us to validate our ideas before we start development.
3. A cohesive team with a proven proper skill set and the ability to deliver results working on your startup
Your investors should see a great team with suitable skill sets for the project and a fine-tuned development process. This is a key element, and without it, your chances of scaling fast are lowered.
There are several challenges at this stage:
- Deciding what kind of team you should have and setting their roles
- Finding a Chief Technological Officer (CTO) and deciding what to do if you don’t have one
- Hiring developers: In-house vs Outsourcing
- Interviewing developers if you don’t have the technical expertise
- Dealing with the high salaries of local developers
- Overcoming the challenges of working with outsourcing and offshore software development teams
4. Initial traction and feedback from the early users
Getting first users is certainly a milestone for every startup, but the most important for investors and for you, as a startup owner, is to make sure that the product meets user needs.
The biggest challenges you will face here are
- Getting the first traction
- Getting reviews from first users
- Analyzing the first feedback and prioritizing future functional capabilities
We have an article where you can read more about metrics, which will really help you to see the results and set up priorities for the next iterations.
At this stage, you need to “digitize” your progress and see if the product is growing in the right direction and whether it is helping to solve user problems.
5. A detailed plan for growth with a thoughtful marketing strategy
While working on a detailed plan for growth, there are some challenges you need to be prepared for.
Bringing your product to the market as quickly as possible is essential, and here are the reasons why:
- receive early feedback from users
- establish engagement with users in the shortest possible time
- not waste a lot of resources on functionality that may not be approved by users
- be ahead of competitors.
Always follow the lean approach, as it emphasizes the business model over the business plan, and encourages a process of customer discovery and development, and iteration to achieve the right product/market fit.
As we mentioned previously, it is super important to determine the key features of your product from the very beginning to build an MVP, and see how you can scale your MVP to a full product when the time will come.
Cost of creating a product
It is impossible to accurately calculate how much it costs to develop a product because there are always multiple variables. However, it is possible to set a certain budget and adhere to it. Keep in mind, that you can often cut costs by developing a prototype, or using open-source, no code, and ready-made solutions where possible.
More often than not, hiring a nearshore or offshore development team is less expensive than building your own in-house development team in terms of salaries. Additionally, with outsourcing, you will pay only for what you need, and you are able to take breaks in the development process to collect user feedback, conduct additional research or raise more investments. With an in-house team, you pay salaries even when the development services of your department are not required.
You should create your marketing strategy when the requirements are being created because marketing strategy is influencing the choice of tech stack. You will be adapting your marketing strategy through the entire product life cycle based on goals, user feedback, and results.
Watch Our Product Design Video
Watch the product design session video from Visual Craft's CEO at the Founders Institute conference.
How to design product step-by-step
Here in our step-by-step plan, we will describe in detail all the stages that you need to go through in order to get a fine product and explain the roles, responsibilities, and functions of specific team members that should be involved in each of the stages. To provide you with a deeper understanding, we will introduce our team members and explain their roles in the product development process.
At this step, we focus on creating the right foundation for the project. It includes brainstorming sessions, developing our ideas at the meetings, formulating hypotheses, communicating with the market participants, studying problems and looking for their solutions, as well as forming and exploring the buying personas of our potential users.
Meet Alexey, our business analyst. He loves learning about the mechanics of businesses, and the reasons for the successes and failures of different cases. He is also keen on following business trends in different industries. Alexey learns about every approach or a project that gets hype, finds out who are the early adopters of new products, and figures out how to transcend the latest trends into your project.
Alexey will help you brainstorm your ideas, support you through market research, navigate you through the competitor landscape, highlight the trends and provide you with useful insights. As a result, together, you will work out the hypotheses you want to test during the next phase of the development of the product.
Also, please meet Anton, our Technical Team Lead. He has made a 3D printer using his mom's old blender. He even named his dog Linux! Anton can program using a dozen of languages, his email is full of notifications of new features for the top 10 software development frameworks, and he knows exactly what it takes to build another Uber, Facebook, or the project you just dreamed up.
Anton will be able to quickly get your and a business analyst's heads out of the clouds, helping to put aside ideas that cannot be implemented without spending 2 million dollars and 3 years of development on them, but he will immediately figure out how to do it 20 times cheaper and faster.
At this stage, Alexey will help you work on product analysis and user research. Transforming an idea into an understandable product may not be an easy task, but when Alexey is on your team, everything becomes possible. Together you can identify your target audience, choose the best ways to collect information, conduct surveys, determine if there is demand and validate the received information to find out the best way to create a product.
Anton will offer options for a technical solution to the problem, analyze the approaches used by competitors, and provide an understanding of the necessary budget for the implementation of the plans.
Project documentation stage
Now that we have a good understanding of the product we are building, our next step is to work out the details and create the requirements in an understandable to all project participants format, including the development team, designers, and potential users, and even investors and stakeholders.
Alexey will handle this task perfectly. He will help to visualize all processes by engaging detailed flowcharts, preparing wireframes, describing technical requirements in the form of user stories, and even delivering a clickable prototype that will be used by all participants for better development of the project. Alexey likes creating prototypes because they allow experimenting with different features, interfaces, and approaches before starting the expensive development process.
At this stage, Anton is doing his magic designing the application architecture. The resulting app has all the required functionality and is scalable, secure, high-performing, flexible, and extensible. Because you should be ready to pivot at any moment and add functionality that you don’t even guess about yet. Furthermore, Anton will select all technological solutions, frameworks, and databases, as well as set the priorities and required resources for the project.
After preparing the requirements, you are ready to move directly to the development. So, time to form the development team and use agile project management methodologies to create effective workflows for the project.
Meet Kate, our project manager, and Scrum master. She is a very responsible and attentive person, she always does her job great. She likes to solve complex problems, maintains excellent relationships with the whole team thanks to her great communication skills, and despite the fact that she likes to set plans and follow them, she is always flexible in making and going with a plan B and C in her head in case she needs to urgently change the priority of tasks in progress.
Kate helps to set up the processes on the project so that the team always understands what needs to be done, she watches to ensure all requirements for the project are consistently adhered to and progress is regularly demonstrated to all stakeholders.
While Kate takes over project management duties, Anton leads the development team, helps to make the decomposition of large and complex tasks into easier and smaller ones, which are available to each team member, participates in the selection of technical solutions, and controls the quality of the work.
As you can see, every expert has their own role in the development of the product. Everyone's personal qualities help to make a team work a dream work and achieve results.
So, the first version of the product is ready, and you make it available to the public.
At this stage of the project, a new expert comes into play. His name is Sasha, and he is a marketing manager. He likes developing marketing strategies and investigating how to attract clients. He knows how to convert a visitor into a customer. Sasha is an ace at his craft. His main responsibilities are building marketing strategies and implementing them, understanding the audience, configuring user engagement channels, and setting up feedback processing, as well as tracking metrics.
We already met Alexey, our business analyst, he comes back at this point. His main responsibilities are to collect and analyze user feedback, plan future releases based on market response, think about what type of functionality will be in demand (based on the perception of the product by the users), and decide what features should be upgraded in the first place and what can be postponed.
This stage combines a product strategy and its implementation. The marketing expert works closely with the business analyst to receive and analyze feedback and plan future releases.
There is no single formula or the best recipe to create a killer product. However, with a groundbreaking idea, proper business approach, and technological implementation, the sky is the limit. If you are looking to create an MVP, that will blossom into a great product, feel free to contact us at Visual Craft for a consultation!
What attributes contribute to the success of a product?
Good products must have a solid value proposition and solve a real problem, be understandable by users, perform their task as easily as possible.
What are the characteristics of a high-quality product?
A product's quality is not necessarily related to price. If a high-quality product has superior performance or a large number of features, it will generally sell at a premium price. But if the term "quality" refers to fitness for use and aesthetics, high quality can be achieved without premium prices.
What makes my product competitive?
Competitive products are products and services that compete with yours for consumers' attention. You can identify competitive products by how similar their features and solutions are to yours.
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