digital product development process

The digital product development process is a crucial part of any thriving business. Competitors change, markets change, and so do the customers. As a result, even the most seasoned enterprises can’t standstill.

Whether tangible or intangible, every product is intended to bring value to both its maker and owner. The first one usually earns money by selling it, and the latter utilizes the product to get a specific job done or to solve a particular issue. Selling digital products are essentially the tools or services that you work with using a digital medium. Your banking application is a perfect example of the digital transformation of banking services. It provides services online in a more convenient and faster form.

Difference Between a Digital Good and a Digital Product:

All downloadable assets are considered digital products. This includes video and audio content, graphics, eBooks, graphics, and more. But, e-commerce, falls under the concept of digital goods. And it is more relevant to the value they bring.

  • Digital products are programming code-based assets that bring a coherent value proposition to the end-user. These are mostly mobile, desktop, web apps, digital dashboards, control applications, and much more.
  • Digital goods are intangible digital assets that are present in digital form. There are some digital goods that can be used in physical form too. Examples are ringtones, video tutorials, electronic books, wallpapers, mockup images, and more.

What Are the Basic Requirements of a Digital Product?

There is a misconception that web applications and websites are real digital products. In fact, they are just product implementation present on the web. Therefore, we can’t say that Uber’s mobile application is a separate product.

It is a way to bring value to users of smartphones and tablets. So, each digital product development can be used with a web app or website, your mobile app for both iOS and Android and a desktop version for a different OS. To summarize our introduction to the digital product term, let us highlight key features or requirements that can be noted:

  • A value proposition intended to solve a specific problem
  • Digital interaction point or interactive UX
  • Power to generate revenue

Digital Product Development Cycle:

In general, the low-level cycle of creating a digital product depends on the development method you have chosen. However, it is usually the same when it comes to high-level workflow. Therefore, you can adjust it according to the complexity and requirements of the project. There are three primary stages in the digital product development cycle: Ideation, Design & Development, and Growth.

1. Ideation:

The initial and first step is the idea or thought. However, nearly 10% of digital product ideas turn into successful products and are able to bring value to end-users. And the thinking phase is aimed at finding out if your digital product can avoid failures in the first place. Traditionally, this section is about problem identification and problem-solving. It might include thinking, research and analysis, measurements, and other activities.

The main goal is to prove the potential of your future digital product.

    • Vision

The motivation for developing a digital product development process is its primary vision. It acts as a north star for all participants. A successful vision reveals the context of the product and points to the final destination. It may be as short and international such as Disney’s “To make people happy” or as comprehensive as “Helping content creators around the world to find a global audience” for Netflix. The vision should focus on the potential of your digital product and its long-term goals.

    • Strategy

A product strategy is a state-of-the-art system that uses the original vision. It defines your product team’s direction through implementation. One of the main reasons that startups fail is that their strategy is based on inspiration. A winning strategy depends on a product roadmap with well-defined objectives, success metrics, competitive analysis, value proposition, and other important data.

    • Market Research and Analysis

It is one of the most important stages in the digital product development process. It involves processing different data to determine if your idea is worth a shot. At the market research and analysis stage, product owners need to:

        • Research the market thoroughly in order to identify the target audience
        • Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of competitors
        • Estimate product-market fit
        • and other relevant statistics.

The essence of this section is to integrate your digital product strategy with market needs and expectations.

    • Budget

You need to define available financial assets and forecast costs you’ll encounter in the short and long term.

    • Value Proposition

At this stage, you need to check the suitability of your digital product. In the value proposition, you identify the advantages and disadvantages from the end users’ point of view. It is a powerful analytical method that can be performed using a value proposition canvas. As an outcome, you will get a detailed picture of the performance and features required by a particular category of users.

    • Proof of Concept

Proof of concept or PoC allows you to test the practicality of a design concept. For this, some experts assign PoC to the wireframing or prototyping category. However, we take it as a pre-development phase because it answers the question of whether a digital product can be developed. After that, the magic of engineering might begin.

2. Design and Development:

After the idea (if it is successful), you are ready to move on and think about how your digital product should feel and look.

    • Prototype

Prototyping enables you to understand how to build your digital product. It is basically the initial and first attempt to introduce UI and UX visually. The prototype mostly has a basic design and limited functionality. Its purpose is to lure investors or get feedback from the first adopters.

    • Pilot Test

Pilot testing aims to refine the digital product prior to beta deployment. It allows you to estimate how a product has been developed from the end user’s point of view and what changes are needed as soon as possible.

    • Alpha / Beta Release

Each version of the product is intended for different purposes. It is not the only misconception of the famous MVP. Alpha is the first practical model intended for internal performance testing and design. It is followed by a beta release, which collects feedback from UX and is publicly available. Both versions pursue the aim to create a bug-free, refined, and ready-to-go product.

    • MVP

The Minimum Viable Product or MVP is the version with both UI and some basic functionality. It is an essential step of advanced digital product development crucial for the validation of the idea. It also enables you to learn from the feedback of users. Depending on the method you select to build MVP, it can be a simple idea visualization or a working prototype.

    • QA testing

Quality Assurance is a particular set of testing activities with the aim to refine the quality of a product development partner. Simply put, it is intended to eliminate bugs and different defects. There are many QA strategies to choose from, depending on your development strategy.

3. Growth

    • Go To Market

This is the time the product owner dreams of. The digital product is ready to go to market at this stage and take over a particular niche. Although much effort has already been put forth, there are still many challenges ahead. The first among them is to create a pre-launch strategy, which includes:

        • Landing page or teaser
        • Email marketing
        • Guest posting
        • Social media campaign
        • Pre-released reviews
        • Influencer campaign
        • Various promotional campaigns

The market launch itself is not a simple click of a button. It is a set of tasks aimed at gaining a large audience for your digital product leads. You know your target audience from the ideation stage, so it’s time to come up with your marketing plan, which includes:

        • Website
        • Social media content
        • Referrals
        • Advertising
        • Influencer campaign
        • Email marketing
    • Ongoing Development

The post-launch life of a digital product is a kind of maturation period. It is often characterized by continuous product engineering, customer support, building new features, and updates. The main aim of ongoing development is to improve user experience, keep up with the time, meet new needs, and ensure product growth.

    • Product Evolution

Ideas for the digital product are not limited to design and launch strategy. They include the need to adapt to the ever-changing environment and the needs of customers. Therefore, you should ensure that your product changes and evolve according to price, quality, performance, security, and other factors.

Different Approaches to Digital Product Development:

There are different processes to increase efficiency in digital product development. However, every product owner is free to choose the one according to the development methodology or approach of the project.

1. Waterfall Or Traditional Development

It is one of the well-established approaches that offer a linear and logical life-cycle model of development. The name of the waterfall means from the top to the bottom as water falls on the ground.

As a rule, this method includes the following steps:

        • Conception
        • Analysis
        • Design
        • Implementation
        • Testing
        • Deployment
        • Maintenance

Waterfall development is an ideal approach if you have a reasonable budget and strong requirements for the technical stack, timeline, and documentation. As a rule, this approach is the choice of large companies for their internal projects.

Pros:

        • There is no requirement for customer presence.
        • There’s an established timeline and scope.
        • Understanding the complete scope means that there is a complete product at launch.

Cons:

        • It has a longer timeline.
        • The needs might be difficult to define.
        • It is inflexible. It means you’ll get what you plan. The software requirement specifications (SRS) don’t allow you to evolve much.

2. Agile Development

Flexible and rapid response to change is the most amazing feature of the Agile digital product development process approach. It includes the division of the development cycle into iterations, or you can say short time slots. The iterations are meant for each feature or task of the digital product. The agile development approach offers the same progress for different teams and a significant reduction in time costs.

Here are the common life cycle processes for Agile development:

        • Conception
        • Inception
        • Iteration
        • Release
        • Production
        • Retirement

Agile development practices emphasize face-to-face communication. At the same time, it reduces the role of documentation as compared to other approaches. This approach is subject to alternatives, some of which we will introduce below.

Pros:

        • Quickly creates the basic version of the product.
        • It offers greater flexibility, which means software requirement specifications (SRS) can evolve.
        • It tends to be more user-centric.
        • Offers high adaptivity. The customers get to solutions sooner because they are involved constantly.

Cons:

        • There are shillings at scale. It works great if you have 10 team members, but not for a team of 500.
        • The costs and timeline can be uncertain.

3. Scrum Development

Scrum is the perfect way to build complex products with flexible needs. Every workflow contains sprints (periods of two to four weeks), and each sprint is the start of a complete product life cycle:

        • Initiation
        • Planning
        • Implementation
        • Retrospective
        • Release

The scrum approach is one of the most flexible ones among others. It encourages and enhances verbal communication within the project and embraces a factual mindset. It means that when there is an agile response to challenges, it exceeds the effort to fully understand the problem.

4. Lean Development

Lean development is often characterized by quality-focused progress and quick product delivery.

Following is the lean digital product development life cycle process.

        • Ideation
        • Exploration
        • Validation
        • Growth
        • Sustaining
        • Retire

Pros:

        • Very scalable.
        • It is highly efficient because it saves money and time (hinges on eliminating all waste).
        • Software requirement specifications (SRS) can evolve.

Cons:

        • Success depends on how stringent the documentation is.
        • Success depends on how cohesive the development team is.

5. Feature-Driven Development

FDD is another type of Agile Development. Ideal for companies that are changing from phase-based to iterative methods. Feature-driven development empowers digital products that require continuous updates. It is a design-oriented approach, and each project is divided into small features or parts.

Here is the FDD process cycle:

        • Model development as a whole
        • List of features
        • Planning and prioritization
        • Design
        • Implementation

This approach encourages rapid development and successful product evolution. Contrary to that, smaller projects are less likely to benefit from FDD.

6. Rapid Application Development

RAD relies on prototyping as a key part of the product development cycle. The time costs of prototype delivery increase due to cutting planning tasks. Pipeline acceleration is usually achieved through the use of focus groups to collect needs, multi-team synchronization, rapid prototyping, reuse of software components, user testing of design, and other methods.

The RAD life cycle looks like this:

        • Requirements planning
        • User design
        • Development
        • Cutover

There is another way to implement rapid application development, and that’s the use of dedicated object-oriented programming languages. Some of them include Java, Python, and Ruby.

7. Hybrid Approach

Today, many startups mostly opt for Agile Development and other derivatives. However, another progressive choice sought so far is a combination of Waterfall and Agile approaches. This method allows you to customize the process and tailor it to the needs of your project.

The idea is to have independent groups and integrate them into a common environment. In this case, the level of interdependence between them will determine the alignment of the output as the waterfall teams focus on advance planning and the agile teams choose continuous planning at each stage.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to developing any digital product. Moreover, companies mostly use more than one methodology for the entire pipeline. For instance, some outsourcing businesses use a blend of Lean, Scrum, and Agile.

Thus, you can make the best of specific development approaches and implement them in your project.

Maintenance and Support:

People often overlook maintenance and support during a process to avoid digital product development mistakes. But if your product turns out to be a success, then it will be the longest stage.

It might end up costing you much more than the launch if you don’t plan overhead and safeguard proper resources for it. Often the development partner offers long-term maintenance and support services. You need to clarify this with the provider upfront, whether it’s a development team within your organization or an external company.

It will help you avoid the nightmare of post-launch bug fixes damaging your product reputation.

Conclusion:

With the rise in the digital product development process, startups need to opt for a well-elaborated plan of action to avoid any undesirable risks. It is essential to understand your target audience, market, budget, goals and do a lot of research as well as testing to step up your game in the market.

If you are new in the market and finding it difficult for the first time, Xavor Corporation has a solution. We have all the relevant professionals and years of experience that ensure a flawless development process.

We are well-versed in digital product development and know how to do market research offering you the possible robust foundation for the development and launch of a new product. Reach out to us to get started on your digital product development journey!

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Hadiqa Mehwish

Hadiqa Mehwish is a Content Strategist at Xavor Corporation, where she plans, creates, and manages tech-related content. She's an entertainment news nerd and writer who strolls the world on the quest to experience different sentiments of recreation.