How to Build a Product from Scratch
Let’s take motorized scooters as an example. The creators assumed that everyone would eventually ride one to work on the sidewalk. They also assumed that their product would be legal, but many cities have bylaws that prohibit their use. Assumptions like that can lead to the total failure of a product or website.
I recommend finding an attention-oriented (or cynical, let’s be real) friend and explain your product to them in detail. Have them note every time you’re making an assumption about something. When your friend asks, “How do you know X is the case?” you must be prepared to prove it with evidence. You may end up with a very long list of assumptions that will leave you doubting your product.
There are several ways to prove assumptions. You may want to consider doing surveys or interviews with potential customers, or spend time researching laws (especially if you assume something will be legal). At the end of the day, your goal is to collect hard evidence that will alleviate risks related to your product. One of the best ways to prove or disprove assumptions is through the use of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
MVP (Minimum Viable Product)
The basic premise of an MVP is to create a small working version of your product in order to test it and prove that a larger, full-featured version is viable. MVP’s are typically used by early adopters, who are customers that adopt and use your product early in its life cycle. These customers are often willing to overlook missing features because they see potential in the product and they are more likely to provide valuable feedback.
An MVP is designed to validate your concepts and ideas early before spending a lot of time and money developing a full featured product. An MVP typically presents only a small amount of features to the customer, but it is important to note that an MVP must present value and functionality. The MVP should be fast and cheap to develop compared to a full-featured product or website. A broken product or website is not a valid MVP as it presents no value to the customer. It must be usable and early adopters must be willing to spend money on your MVP in order to validate the product. If an MVP is not successful or did not catch on with the market, don’t be afraid to change things up, either with pricing, who you target, or the MVP itself.
If your MVP fails, then it may be time to let it go and understand that your product idea may not be as good as you thought it was. On to the next idea!
Being agile is the art of breaking down your work into a small iterative approach rather than delivering everything all at once. Being agile brings many benefits to both the customer and to yourself as an entrepreneur. In a two week span, a motivated development team can build a new feature, deploy it, test its validity, collect data and feedback, learn and address any issues, and re-deploy an updated version. This leads to the customer receiving an up-to-date product which takes their needs into consideration. It also avoids a product that was designed 3 years ago built entirely without user feedback going to market and being stale as soon as it launches.
The requirements needed to meet a customer’s needs today are constantly evolving, which is why iterative development is a growing trend among successful products.
Being part of an agile team means you always review your tasks and only work on the highest priority items first. Agile allows the product to adapt on the fly. Let’s say you are building a new car for your customers and you decide (here come those assumptions again) to start building a luxury sedan but, at the end of the day, what your customer really needs is a heavy duty pickup. Without agile, you may finish building your car and deliver it to the customer only for it to fall flat because it does not meet their needs. With an agile development strategy, you would have identified this change of requirement when you delivered the bare frame to the customer. The customer would have given you feedback about the lack of space to carry and tow items which would then lead to you iterate on your product to develop exactly what the customer needs.
Even after you have launched your website or product, you must be prepared to learn from it in order to fix its challenges upon the next release. Launching a product does not mean you are done. If you simply sit back, any issues with your product will not be addressed, new features will not be added, and competitors will end up learning from your mistakes to create their own version. You must constantly be learning about how customers are using your product and iterate on that information in order to avoid a stale product.
Many companies would not be where there are today if they had not iterated on their original product. Google would still be a simple search engine and Netflix would never have adapted to the growing use of the Internet and still be a DVD-by-mail service. Your journey should be no different. In order to be successful, keep growing, keep learning, and keep testing. Your customers will thank you for it – and so will your bottom line.