Developing a Product Is Hard (Here’s How to Make it Easier)

By Dan Brown

You have an idea for a new product. Great. Now what?

You should build a prototype, right? Find angel investors? Apply for a patent? Not necessarily.

Developing a product is hard and often fails because:

  1. Problems are not defined clearly.
  2. Projects scopes are not specific.
  3. Resources are not allocated adequately.

Here are several ways to address these inefficiencies.

Clearly Define the Problem

When it comes to developing a product, the appropriate course is often obscured because the product is not yet clearly defined. It’s helpful to ask the following questions as early as possible: What is the purpose of your product? Does it solve a problem? If so, is it a problem that needs to be solved? Has it already been solved? How is your idea different from existing solutions or products?

The clear definition of a product is the first and most critical step in its development. If the designer does not understand what is being designed, there is no way to ultimately measure success. 

A clear definition can be as simple as a description of what the product is and what it does. Other guidelines including product specs are helpful here. Having a clear description further helps to begin to lay out the design phases.

Developing a Product in Phases

Products are developed in phases. Phases should be specific to the desired outcome. Products start at Phase Zero. This is what we at SGW Designworks define as pre-development, where work focuses on defining possible development paths and choosing a viable one.

When choosing a viable path and defining the overall project plan, these should include allowances for changes or pivots in the product itself.

The remaining phases then may look like:

  • Phase 1: Concept Development
  • Phase 2: Preliminary Design
  • Phase 3: Design iteration: rapid cycles
  • Phase 4: Design freeze and finalization, manufacturer engagement
  • Phase 5: Design for Manufacture

Allocate Adequate Resources

Finally, developing a product is expensive and resources are often not adequately allocated to the design phase. Failure to provide adequate funding to the design phase can lead to unforeseen failures later on.

Many businesses do not have internal resources that are experts in product development. Other businesses do have employees who are development experts, but they are spread thin over many parallel projects. In both cases, getting help from an outside product development company can be the best path forward.

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