Insight | 14 March 2022

The guide to building a great digital product

Helen Walters 800

Helen Walters

Chief Marketing Officer

Tags: Experience Design | Development & Engineering | Performance & Optimisation

The guide to building a great digital product hero

Building great products is essential to the success of almost any business. This principle is no different when the products in question are digital. Your digital product needs to offer users an easy and enjoyable experience for your business to grow and thrive. Take a look at these guidelines to learn how to build a product that your target audience will love.

What is a digital product?

A digital product is a digital entity that provides some kind of value or utility to a human user. An app such as Uber, which allows a consumer to request a ride, is an example of a digital product. Another example is the user interface of your smartwatch, which allows you to control its various features. A web browser, such as Google Chrome, is another example, as is the iTunes software, which allows customers to buy content.

Note that a digital product is not the same as a project, which is something that delivers a specific version of a product — such as iOS 14.5 or Windows 10. Projects end when you release the new version of a product and the product continues in its new form.

Software as a Service (SaaS) companies make digital products available for their customers to use. They continuously update and maintain those products to ensure they continue to give useful value to customers. The financial technology (fintech) industry is also a major provider and user of digital products. Banks can now use fintech to offer more convenient services and interfaces to their customers.

The importance of building a good product

New products have a failure rate of somewhere between 40% and 90%, depending on which source you believe. Whether the true rate lies towards the bottom or closer to the top of that range, it is clear that failure is a very real risk when launching a new digital product. For that reason, it is very important to ensure that you build a good product that fits the needs of the target audience in order to maximise its chance of success.

The best digital products prioritise user experience. Your business needs to shift from product-oriented thinking to customer-value-oriented thinking. As you start to consider how to build a product, begin by asking the following questions:

  • How will your customers use your product?
  • What frustrations could they encounter while using it?
  • How can you update the product to remove those frustrations and provide a seamless and smooth experience for your customers?

Innovation is also vital. Digital products don't reach a final form and stay in that form forever. Without ongoing updates, digital products offer decreasing value to the customer. It is important to never stop innovating, even after the product has been launched and is out in the world. The most successful providers of digital products ensure that they are constantly evolving, continuously improving their products to keep pace with the changing landscape of customer needs and demands.

It is important to target your product precisely to the audience that you expect to use it. To do this targeting successfully, you need data. Invest in customer research, rather than relying on assumptions about how they want to use your digital product. Test the product. Use the product yourself on a regular basis so you are familiar with its strengths, weaknesses, and pain points. Only by understanding what your audience wants and needs can you build a digital product that delivers satisfaction to them.

What is product design? The stages of building a digital product

There are five main stages involved in the building of a digital product. You should never be tempted to skip over any of them, or you are likely to end up with a product that is poorly targeted or offers a poor customer experience. Follow these five steps to create a digital product that delivers real value to your target audience.

1. Identify the need for your product

The first question to ask is this: What problem is your digital product going to solve? To answer this question, you need to know who your target audience is and what pain points those people face in their daily lives or work. How will your product address their daily frustrations and make it easier for those people to achieve their goals?

Don't rely on assumptions during this stage. Talk to the real people who you expect to be the audience for your digital product. Find out what they are trying to achieve and what barriers they face.

2. Design your product as a solution

Once you know what problems your audience is facing, you can design a digital product that provides a solution. In this stage, you don't have to make a perfect product with the world's slickest interface. It simply needs to be focused on solving the main problem that your audience faces.

Once you have a usable prototype or MVP (minimum viable product), it is vital to test it for solution fit. Does it solve the users' problem? Do they get value from it? If not, then you need to redesign the product at this stage, rather than push on with polishing something that's not suitable.

3. Test the market demand for your digital product

Now you need to work out how to attract users to your product. This means that you need to consider competing digital products and work out how you can make your product better than the most popular alternatives. Once you can show that your product provides increased value over its competitors, building and maintaining a user base should be possible, even if the rate at which users adopt your product is slow at first.

4. Grow your digital product's reach

Once you have shown that your product provides value to users, it is time to start scaling up its reach. As you gain more users, it is very important to ensure you have enough resources to be able to provide them all with support. Letting the user experience decline at this stage can lead to your digital product getting a poor reputation, which will be very difficult to overcome.

5. Continue to innovate

Digital products cannot be allowed to stagnate. You have to keep innovating and evolving your product so that it meets the changing needs of your users. Keep an eye on what competitors are offering through their digital products so you don't get left behind. Most importantly, pay attention to the problems your customers are continuing to experience and work out how you can evolve your digital product to address them.

Reducing time to market for your digital product

It is important not to rush the launch of a digital product, as you must take the time to ensure that it is well-designed and provides a solution to the problems your customers face. However, time to market (TTM) is an important factor to consider in the eventual success of your digital product. Research shows that the first entrant into a new market niche often takes up to 70% of the market share, whereas products that are launched later often end up with much lower user bases.

Agile development can help to speed up TTM, allowing you to bring a digital product to market quickly, without compromising on quality or market fit. You need to focus on creating workflows that are well designed, with as few bottlenecks as possible slowing down the development process. In addition, it is important to always focus on the principles of good digital product design to ensure you end up with a product that gets it right the first time.

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The guide to building a great digital product body

How to ensure your digital product is built well

A digital product must be well built to achieve success in a crowded market, but how can you know whether it meets that goal? There are a few principles you can follow to help ensure you end up with a well-built digital product.

Build something you would use yourself

All digital product developers should use their own products so they can get a real understanding of the value the products offer. If you wouldn't use your own digital product, then ask yourself, why not? If the product doesn't offer a useful solution to you, then why would you assume that it can provide such a solution to other users? When Distinction helped Podium build and launch a digital product that can help people find the right mortgage deal, several of our team members used it themselves — that's how we knew we'd got it right.

Provide a good user experience

Testing is key to determining the quality of your digital product's user experience. You need feedback and data from real users to find out how they use the product, which aspects of using it cause them frustration, and what they enjoy about using it. To provide as good a user experience as possible, focus on eliminating pain points without destroying what people value about the product.

Provide an accessible user experience

Accessibility is more important than ever in today's world. Almost all people, including those with physical and mental disabilities, need to use technology as a part of their daily lives. Delivering a user experience that is accessible to all can expand your user base and boost your company's reputation. Considering accessibility means talking to people with different needs to find out how they struggle with using your digital product and then making changes to make the experience easier for them. That might involve changing colour schemes, making your product compatible with screen-reading technologies, offering both voice- and text-based inputs, and making various other features available.

Outsource to a product studio or agency

If your business has little experience of building slick, high-quality digital products that are ready for widespread use, then it's often a smart move to outsource product design or development to a product studio or agency. They are the experts when it comes to delivering products that offer a good, accessible user experience and can help you make your vision into a product that people can actually use.

Invest in quality testing

Testing is vital to understand what people want and need from your digital product and whether the product you have developed so far is catering to those needs. The data you get from testing can help guide your digital product evolution, ensuring that it remains relevant and useful, not just now — but in the future too.

Summary: What makes a good product?

Here are some key takeaways that you can't afford to overlook when it comes to building a digital product. Stick to these principles, and you won't go far wrong.

  • Your product must solve a problem for your audience.
  • Your product must deliver a good, accessible user experience.
  • Digital products need constant innovation to stay relevant.

If you’re looking for help with your digital product, get in touch today for a chat with one of our subject matter experts.

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