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The Top 3 Product Development Challenges and How to Avoid Them

Taylor Miller | September 30th, 2020

Building a successful digital product means fighting against the odds to build a product that solves a problem that users are also willing to pay for. We all know the abysmal statistics around the success of startups and digital products alike. As a digital product consulting firm, we are experts when it comes to building digital products and helping our clients to be successful. We have over 25 years of trial and error where we have made mistakes, learned from them, and grown to become an elite team of digital product creators. We want to share our experience with you so you can avoid making the same mistakes. So here are 3 product development challenges and how you can avoid them. 

1.    Feature Bloat

As far as features go, it should be quality over quantity – always. I’m sure you’ve heard quality over quantity adage a million times in reference to physical products, but the same holds true for digital products. Many product development teams believe adding features increases customer value and subtracting them eliminates value. First time product builders often fall prey to this fallacy and add an overabundance of features that becomes too much for their users. We refer to this as feature fatigue or feature bloat. To put it simply, no pun intended, simplicity is better. Each feature you add to your product also comes with more complexity. Take the Amazon Fire Phone for example. Amazon believed an endless array of features — including “dynamic perspective,” a screen that provided a three-dimensional effect without the need to wear 3D glasses — would enable the Fire Phone to take the lead in the high-end smartphone market. However, the features did little to spark consumer enthusiasm. Reviewers called the device “forgettable” and “mediocre.” Even after a series of price cuts, Amazon ended up taking a $170M loss due to the Fire Phone’s lack of sales. Do not allow the “more is better” philosophy to be your product downfall. Instead, center product development on feature value instead of feature volume, and embrace that less can be more.

2.    The Problem is the Problem

The number one reason products fail is because the product isn’t solving a big enough problem. Most people tackle problems they find interesting to solve and they miss out on the market need. Don’t create a solution in search of a problem. This statement is as true for enterprise organizations developing a new product as it is for startups. If you can’t clearly identify a market need and explain how your product solves the problem, keep working. Tackling a problem that’s interesting to solve, rather than one that serves a market need, is a risky venture. Even with the best technology, the lack of market need — not to mention customer base — will destine your product for failure.

You can say the same thing about solving a low-value problem. It’s no surprise that solving a low value problem takes the same amount of energy as solving a high value problem. The difference lies in the end results. To avoid this dilemma, evaluate the problem, clearly define how your product will provide a solution, and identify who you’re solving the problem for. Otherwise, you’ll spend valuable resources providing solutions to problems customers may not care about.

3.    Validation is Key

Use your customers to push you in the right direction. If it hasn’t been validated, it shouldn’t be included in a version on product. Validation might be the single most important aspect of new product development, and if you’re letting your ego tell you otherwise, stop! In the end, you need customers to buy and adopt your product, if you aren’t taking into consideration what they want, there’s a good chance another company will come along and do it better. It’s no longer important who does it first, we now live in a world of who does it best. So, stop, take a breath, and talk to your customers before you continue. In the end you will save time, money, and build a better product. Not to mention, having a better understanding of your customers will help with marketing, sales, and support.

How do you avoid these challenges and develop a deep understanding of the problem? Begin with user research and validation. By prioritizing this step in the product development process, you can clearly define the problem your potential customers or users are facing and understand how to address it at an expert level.

Here at AWH, we are proud to provide our clients with the best in product development. If you are a startup, mid-market company, corporate innovation lab, or anything in between we would be happy to talk with you about your product.