How to Build Products People Love

How many times has this happened to you? You have a brilliant idea for a product. You’ve gone through it all in your head—the specs, the design. You’ve conceptualized a development plan. You know exactly who you want on board. This is going to be great!

…Until, it’s not. Because when you take your product idea out of your own head and start sharing it with others, they see all the things you didn’t. The major product flaw that can’t be overcome. The very similar products already on the market or in development. The little things that make your idea good, but not great.

So what makes the difference between building an average product and something people will truly love? How do you ensure that you’re building products people love?

Here are four steps every software developer should take in order to create truly successful products:

1) Find a problem you’re passionate about.

You probably already know that great products solve a problem for the consumer. And there are a lot of problems out there waiting to be solved. So, do you just pick a problem out of thin air and start brainstorming ways to solve it?

Absolutely not. To build a successful product, you have to find your problem. Not necessarily one that affects you personally, but one you are fiercely passionate about. The problem you are looking to solve should keep you up at night. It should fill you with emotion. Because building a great product is hard work. And if your product succeeds like you want it to, you’re going to be living and breathing this problem and its solution for a long time. If you’re not absolutely passionate about the endgame, you’re not going to deliver something truly incredible.

2) Commit to meeting the needs of the end user.

The most common mistake developers make is forgetting that you are not the customer. I know you’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating. You are not the customer!

Great products fulfill one or more of 12 key human desires:

  1. Human Connection
  2. Human Expression
  3. Making Money
  4. Taking Care of Family
  5. Helping Others
  6. Learning
  7. Finding a Partner
  8. Health
  9. Survival
  10. New Experiences
  11. Impressing Others
  12. Safety, Comfort & Relaxation

If your product doesn’t meet at least one of these desires for your customer, it can’t have lasting success. Period.

Who is your customer? Whose problem are you solving? And how is your product going to fulfill that person’s innermost desires and bring them absolute joy? If you can’t answer these questions, your idea will likely miss the bull’s-eye. After all, you don’t even know where the target is!

3) Validate your idea.

Every product goes through beta or consumer testing at some point. But often, it’s too late in the game. Developers find themselves in the testing stage, changing design features or UX functions to improve the product, when the truth is—the idea itself just isn’t working. Consumer testing, or at least a process of validating the quality of your idea, is a process that should happen before the development hours are put in, not after.

As Silicon Valley Product Group’s Marty Cagan so aptly said at MindTheProduct2012 —if you’re not killing at least half of your ideas, then you’re just developing and launching ideas only to find out after the fact that they don’t work.

You may love your idea. And if you only validate your concept with your team, or with your three best, most like-minded friends—they’ll probably love it too. But what about your actual prospective customer? Get out of your comfort zone and ask for feedback from folks in your target market, so you don’t waste time developing an idea that just won’t work.

4) Stay focused on the end user experience.

Congratulations! Once you have a solid, focus group–tested, validated idea—NOW it is time to get your hands dirty in the work of development.

As you develop your product, it will be tempting to focus on logistics, and on the back-end technology of making the product work. While at times necessary, this is a dangerous organization of priorities, and can turn an incredible idea into a just ok end product.

Even when you’re deep in coding and in the very high-tech side of app building, always keep at the forefront of your mind what you want the user to experience. It’s the takeaway, not the complicated inner workings, that will make your product one that people will love, recommend, and use again and again.

It’s all about the idea.

Did you notice that the first three steps of this process come before any actual product development even begins? That’s because building a product is easy. Building a product people love is not. So take the time, energy, and focus up front to solidify your idea. It’s worth the effort to avoid building a mediocre product, and instead dedicate yourself to a project that will truly surprise and delight your customer base.

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