The top 5 misconceptions about building digital products

by Maarten Jansen
Building a great digital product isn’t easy, even for well-established software companies. When we work with clients on building new products, we tend to see the same misconceptions popping up over and over. Knowing the truth about how the process works and being clear-eyed about how to address certain recurring issues helps increase our chances of success. Here are some of the most common misconceptions and how to counter them:

1. Building a digital product is very expensive

This is a bit of a controversial statement: it’s something that people who are new to software often underestimate, and people who are more experienced tend to overestimate. The truth is, building a digital product does not have to be outrageously expensive. However, expense is relative to your investment: the bigger the possible return, the bigger the expense that you can justify. Finding the right balance means taking a good look at what is necessary to get your product on the right track to becoming profitable. Here’s some ways to keep it lean:

Lean software development is an old term referring to the rational use of resources in software development. Lean development principles prevent losses in all stages of the development software process, helping to speed up product release without paying the price in expensive flaws. It also helps developers work at a human pace instead of burning out from the long hours and stress caused by crunch time. It creates a streamlined workflow that focuses on the essentials of getting a product to the market testing phase without extra bells and whistles. For example, one principle is loss removal which posits that anything the user doesn’t strictly need  is a loss of resources, as is any unnecessary transferral from one development team to another.

Stay tuned to our blog for a future post on how we at Dashdot apply all seven principles of lean development outlined by our gurus Mary and Tom Poppendieck! Until then we’ll leave you with this pro tip: open source software is a great way to cut development costs, as it is a lot less expensive than licensing software or developing it in-house. It will not only save you on software acquisition, but also on deployment, support and maintenance.

2. Involving extra developers will speed things up

Added to this is the fact that not all development tasks are easy to delegate or divvy up, and you have all of the reasons why Fred Brooks coined Brooks’s Law, which states “adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.” So how do you speed up product development without adding extra staff? Leverage the advantage of efficiency that small teams have by making sure everyone’s goals and work plan are clear. You can also focus on upping your team’s skill level which will help developers solve problems faster and create less complex solutions. It’s not the quickest fix but it will pay off: provide incentives for continuous learning, or actively fund additional courses and certificates.

3. Adding features will make a better product

Before we get to that unfortunate point, it’s important to always keep in mind that a product is more than just a collection of features. The purpose of a product is to solve a problem. A successful product has a track record of success in solving that problem. Knowing whether you’re succeeding isn’t an abstract art: it’s a matter of measurement. Sounds obvious, but you would be surprised how few product teams are accurately measuring their success.

There is a lot written about what type of metrics you can or should use, so we won’t get too deep into that. The important thing to remember is that new features shouldn’t stand in the way of you solving your problem. For example, if an app is supposed to make a transaction easier and the KPI you use to measure that is the speed of completing the transaction on that app, any feature that is added should increase rather than decrease the speed. Keeping your eye on your KPIs can help you question whether you really need something. If it’s not clear why something is necessary, it’s always better to err on the side of simple.

4. Time and cost estimates are usually on point

So what’s going on there? You can bet that digital product developers don’t want to underestimate the time spent on a project, but rather that they are failing to account for a number of factors. One common pitfall is not taking into account all the work related to carrying out a development task: the research, meetings, discussions, and brainstorms. Another is not leaving time for input to come down the pipeline or for the loss of attention created when switching between tasks. There is also a tendency to put a uniform amount of time on something when it can differ per individual. Whatever the issue may be, you can get to the bottom of it by looking at data. This is where time tracking comes in to see how long things usually take and use it as guidance for the future. However, this should be paired by an analysis by developers of their role and be part of a comprehensive planning process. We believe in coaching our employees to work on this skill as they would any other. Then once we have the most realistic estimate possible, we use it as a deadline. No excuses!

5. Building the product right will result in the perfect product

Imperfection doesn’t have to be a problem. It helps to keep on top of bugs by using version control software to record every change in your codebase. This way you can always go back to a previous version and start over, as well as knowing who made a modification or which files were modified. The difference between fantastic and perfect means that you will always keep tweaking and refining the product. Clients are also learning about what they want as they go along, and the developer’s job is to keep adjusting the product based on client feedback. By taking small steps and writing code that is easy to change, the product will keep up with the times and keep evolving.  

Ready to get to work on your digital product? We’re your partner from A to Z. Get in touch with us here & schedule a free call to create your product plan!

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