Grow your dream: How to turn an idea into a digital product that people actually need

by Maarten Jansen
“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; there is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” These wise words from Thoreau remind us that dreams and inspiration can guide us forward, as long as we focus on how to make them concrete. The world of digital products is full of bright ideas, but not all of them end up actually being useful. Here we take a look into the basic steps of turning your dream into a digital product that provides value:

What is a digital product anyway?

Digital products are essentially software-enabled products designed to help you solve a problem or achieve something. Not be confused with a project, which is a temporary enterprise to achieve a specific aim. A product is longer term and involves ongoing work to achieve business goals. It is also not to be confused with a feature, which is a capability of the product necessary for it to provide value to users. Features and the functionality of the product have an influence on the user experience. Digital products are made up of components, which are the building blocks that help create value.

Digital products need to constantly evolve to stay relevant and useful. Not taking this into account will result in stagnation and failure. With digital products, your work is never done. Even once you deliver a product, you will keep needing to update and improve it.

It all starts with a good idea (which is the hardest part)

Sometimes it seems they come out of nowhere, those great ideas. You might stop in the middle of a conversation because a lightbulb suddenly went on in your head. Or a flash of inspiration might come to you while taking your morning shower. Bright ideas are the beginning of every product, but only a small percentage of them turn into successful products that deliver value to end users.

During the ideation phase of product development, ideas are tested to see if they have real potential as a product. Research and analysis goes into seeing whether it’s really feasible and whether it really provides a solution to a customer problem. A product might be conceived along the following pillars:

  • Vision: this is the guiding light for the product’s development. Whenever we get lost in the details, we can come back to this vision for the brand or product and make sure it is aligned.
  • Strategy: here we make a plan to put the vision into practice. The overall direction of the product’s implementation is defined based on a product roadmap with defined milestones and metrics.
  • Research & market analysis: this is an essential step which should never be skipped! We come into the ideation process with lots of assumptions, which all have to be tested. This means finding your target audience and getting to know them inside out. We also take a good look at our competitors and where we could have an advantage.
  • Budget: many customers think we should know how much something costs, and then figure out if they want to pay for it. Actually it’s the other way around. You need to know exactly what your financial capabilities are to know what the options are.
  • Proof of concept (PoC): This stage precedes the prototyping phase, and it is meant to verify whether a digital product can be built.

The ideation phase aligns with Dashdot’s Shape phase, where we help turn fantastic ideas into well-defined visions that adapt to a company’s growth. Coming from a “user first” perspective, we build the user’s needs into the concept from Day One.

Design & development

If you build it, they will come. But first you have to design it! Product design is the part of the cycle where the product’s design is conceived. Dashdot often works together with partners for design, putting their concepts into practice. For example, when we worked together with Made to deliver the new website for Connections.

Digital product development is when the product design comes to life through engineering and workflow strategies. It typically follows these stages:

  • The user journey map shows how users will move through the application step by step. This serves as the basis of wireframes and prototypes, while letting you play and experiment with different user pathways.
  • The prototyping stage provides the basis of your product’s structure, interface and look-and-feel. It is the moment to solve design and usability issues and get feedback from early adopters.
  • The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is the first usable version of your product containing only the essential functionalities needed to validate assumptions with a handful of initial users.

When it comes to digital product development, Dashdot takes an agile methodology, which involves a fast and flexible response to change. Agile splits the development cycle into short sprints for each task or feature of the product. After each iteration, feedback is sought and incorporated. This saves a lot of time and money as we don’t end up following a dead-end path, instead constantly improving and adapting to change.

The digital product development phase aligns with Dashdot’s Build phase, where we help bring stakeholders together to accelerate development and deliver state-of-the-art features. In this phase we focus on strengthening workflow and energizing teams around the bigger vision.

Growing your digital product

Building a product is the first step, but it’s sink or swim in our fast-changing digital world. We must keep moving and keep evolving our digital products. Your product needs to keep being regularly tested and updated, using metrics like traffic, conversions, engagement, feedback on user experience and more. It’s all about gathering insights from your data to learn new things about customer behavior and needs.

That’s why Dashdot doesn’t see it’s work as done when we deliver a project: the launch is just the beginning! During our Grow phase we stay on board and keep working to produce new iterations, working hand-in-hand with customers to deploy, monitor and scale applications as they continue to scale and reach new markets.

Are you looking to build a digital product with a company that can co-create with you from a bright idea to a launched product? Get in touch for an introductory chat!

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