| 19 min read

Guide to the Product Development Process [10 Steps + Key Tips]

Alex Morgunov , Project Lead

Think about the things you use on a daily basis. It could be chairs, clothes, smartphones, or even websites like Airbnb, whatever.

What do they have in common?

All these things were just ideas some time ago. They went through the whole product development process cycle. Just to become the products we use today.

According to statistics from the McKinsey Global Institute, for every 7 product ideas, only 1 succeeds. And this mostly not due to bad ideas. But to the wrong product development and promotion.

In this blog post, we’ll share a number of tips to successfully bring your idea to life and effectively deliver your project.

What Is a Product Development Process?

The product development process is a complex process. It comprises all the product development steps required to transform an idea into a real market-available project. Commonly the product development process includes:

  • idea generation
  • market research
  • development of the minimum viable product
  • quality assurance
  • launch
  • maintenance

Product development process:  TOP 5 methodologies

A product development methodology is a framework. It is used during development to manage, structure, plan, and control the work process.

Every project is different. It has its own requirements and limitations like costs, development time, team size, and tech stack. Thus your project may require a particular product development methodology. And we’ll start our product development guide with overviewing the top available frameworks.

Waterfall

A waterfall methodology is a linear approach to project management. Using Waterfall, both team and customer set up requirements at the beginning of the project. Then they create a sequential project plan for the whole product.

Product development process: waterfall methodology

Flexible Product Development

This product development methodology is about being Agile. Using the flexible development method, the companies are able to continually make changes whether they appear at the beginning or at the late stages of product development.

Using the Agile product development process, the companies can keep the cost changes low. But at the same time it is possible to conduct such steps in product development as modular architecture changes, experimentations, and check various designs. 

The most popular Agile development frameworks are Scrum and Kanban:

  • Scrum 
  • Kanban 

Read more on: Why and How We Switched from Scrum to Kanban?

This methodology focuses on product usability and user experience. Using a user-driven approach, a development team should pay particular attention to the established behavioral patterns of users and implementing a user-friendly design. 

Product development process: flexible product development

Lean Product Development

Lean product development strategy strives to deliver the product in a short time. The process has less testing cycles and lower development costs. 

In general, lean product development is based on the innovation principles. It divides the development process into three parts depending on what users need and require. Or what they want your product to have and what they wish it would have.

Product development process: Lean Product Development

Extreme Programming

Extreme programming is another software development methodology. This method is perfect for products that require constant improvement in accordance with changing customer requirements.

Extreme development also operates Agile techniques. 

How Extreme methodology works: 

The development process consists of so-called feedback loops. During the development process, a team makes frequent product releases in short development cycles. And analyses clients’ and customers’ feedback. 

Such a methodology helps to create a user-friendly product. Such a product is adapted to the target audience’s requirements.

Product Development Process: Extreme Programming

Feature-Driven Development

This product development methodology also operates short iterations. 

As a rule, the FDD model consists of five basic steps:

  • Concept & Initiation

Includes concept or idea development and actual project launch.

  • Product planning

This stage consists of scope and budget planning. It may also include scheduling work, communication, or risk predictions.

  • Execution

At this stage, the team starts the development of the product. It tracks tasks and analyses the performance of each iteration.

  • Performance & Control

During the performance stage, the team analyses quality of the project. It also analyses the costs and general performance.

  • Closure

Naturally, the end of the project.

Product development process: feature-driven development

Product development life cycle: 14 Key stages

Throughout the software development process, every product starts with an idea. Then it goes through discovery, development, and testing, to the final maintainable service. Let’s dive into some details about product development steps.

Product development process chart

Idea Generation

This step is about idea generation, development, transformation, and elevation as well. You start a product development cycle. Regardless of whether you do it with an inhouse or outsource team, you need a clear vision of your future project. As clear and detailed as possible.

Problem definition

All businesses should get started with defining the problem they are going to solve. Make sure of it just by looking at the products surrounding you. All of them solve some particular problem of their audience.

Some say that even startups don’t have to innovate, you just have to identify and solve problems. As Paul Rand said “I will solve your problem and you will pay me”.

The is a variety of problem statement techniques, but basically you should answer 3 questions:

  • What is the problem?
  • Who has this problem?
  • Why is this a problem?

One of the interesting techniques is “The 5 Whys” invented by Toyota:

  • Ask yourself what is a problem and who has it
  • Why does this problem appear
  • And why this reason occurs
  • Repeat the steps with 2 more questions

Defining ways of solving the problem

Only once you know your customers’ problems, you can start to solve them. 

It may be surprising, but finding solutions to the problems usually appear to be much easier than finding the right problems. 

NB: When you find a solution to a certain issue asks yourself an important question. Will my audience pay for this solution? And how much are users ready to pay?

Here at Sloboda Studio, we are sure that a clear problem and a clear goal is the keystone of successful project implementation. It already brings you closer to achieving that target. 

Discovery phase

The Discovery phase is a process of evaluating a client’s idea. It is done by collecting information about the future project. During the discovery, a team analyzes the market and target audience of the future product. As well as goals, the scope of work, and even possible challenges or limitations.

The Discovery phase is one of the most important product development phases. It helps to formalize the requirements for your future product.

Only after answering this question, you will know what exactly you are building. 

2 Parts of Project Discovery Phase: 

Business part

  • Market research
  • UVP development
  • Requirements Definition
  • Roadmap development

Technical part     

  • UX Concept Creation
  • Choosing tech stack & architecture
  • MVP Scope estimation

As a result of a discovery phase you have to obtain:

  • Software requirements specification (SRS Document)
  • Technology stack
  • Platform architecture
  • Product functionality
  • User journey map
  • Wireframes

NB: To create an efficient concept of the project, consider creating a business model canvas for your future project. 

Business model canvas helps to understand all your project goals, target audience, revenue models, and costs. 

Market Research

The market research may or may not be included in the discovery. It depends on whether the clients did market research earlier. Or maybe they would like to conduct it with the help of the development team.

In Sloboda Studio, we usually involve a project manager, business analyst, and senior developers. Optionally we engage marketing specialists and CTO.

Market research helps to understand:

  • Market demand
  • Your customer needs
  • Current  & future trends
  • Possible risks 
  • Market competitors and their advantages
  • Must-have Features

UVP development

UVP or unique selling proposition development stands for  creation of your unique value proposition. In simple words, your UVP describes what specific benefits your customer will get by using your product.

Simply put, you have to answer the question. What will your product do for your customer that nothing else can?

Requirements Definition

All the research is complete. Now it is time to come up with the functionality and product requirements. There are two kinds of requirements: functional and non-functional. 

NB: There’s one common mistake for lots of startups. Lost of them start the new product development with the features that founders like. Later, the team finally analyzes the market. And it often turns out that the choice of the features was wrong. Many founders realize that their favorite features aren’t needed at all. A solid requirements definition helps to save money and time.

What are the functional requirements

Functional requirements – are such requirements that tell us what services your product should give. In short, those are technical requirements about such things as an indication of how the system responds to certain input data. Plus, its behavior in particular situations. And sometimes even indications of what your product shouldn’t do.

Some examples of functional requirements:

  • External Interfaces
  • Authorization
  • Regulatory Requirements
  • Authentication
  • Certification Requirements
  • Historical Data
  • Admin functions
  • Business Rules

What are non-functional requirements

Non-functional requirements are such requirements that show the properties the product should have. Besides, non-functional requirements can also include the restrictions your product should comply with. Like some bugs or functions that aren’t related to the system’s behavior. 

Some examples of non-functional requirements:

  • Environment
  • Security
  • Data Integration
  • Regulatory
  • Performance
  • Scalability
  • Availability
  • Usability

Roadmap development

A roadmap is a high-level plan of your future product development process. Moreover, the roadmap may also be used as a checker for your team. It shows the major steps of your development process. So it can help to compare what is going at the moment. And analyze if the situation goes wrong.

3 tips for developing a roadmap:

  • Give top priority to your strategy
  • Start with Product Vision 
  • Determine your product goals
  • Only then develop your product roadmap

Thus we move to the technical part of the discovery phase

UX Concept Creation

Next, you move on to the  UX concept creation.  Here you decide on how exactly our product should look. And how it would be interacting with the customers.

The final expression of the UX solutions is represented by a set of wireframes. As usual, they can be prototyped. 

Product development process: Wireframes

Choosing the Tech Stack & Architecture Development

At this stage, we are taking into account all the features we chose earlier. We select a technology stack that is the best fit for their implementation

So, how to choose the right technologies for your product? It depends on what you want to implement.

Often your tech stack will depend on:

  • Budget. Some technologies are more expensive than others
  • Time. Sometimes it is faster to use some out-ot-the box tools than use custom development
  • General complexity of the features -the more complex one will require more sophisticated technologies

In Sloboda Studio, we love working with Ruby on Rails framework and PHP programming language. These technologies give us an opportunity to develop projects way faster. And, provide better speed and scalability.

Scope Estimation

At this stage, we analyze the technology stack we chose earlier. Also, we define how much time it would take to develop architecture.

This stage consists of:

  • Scope of work creation
  • Prioritization of tasks
  • Scope estimation
  • Scope specification
  • Roadmap compilation

NB: Depending on the financial state of your project, the next step of the development process might be seeking investments or moving to the coving stage right away.

Fundraising 

This step is about looking for funds for your project.  Once you have decided:

  • what your project is about
  • which users problems it solves
  • what features it has
  • how much time the development will take

you can start pitching your product idea to investors.

NB: Use your business model canvas to pitch a product.

MVP Development

You’ve conducted a discovery phase and business analysis, came up with tech stack, features to develop, UX concept, and maybe even raised investments… And only now it is time to start actually developing your product. 

In Sloboda Studio, we prefer developing products using Agile principles. Aka working in sprints, meeting daily to control our current working process, and weekly or monthly to discuss our results and plans. This helps us to provide better quality for our product. As we can test it right away, fix issues as fast as we notice them, and make rapid changes.

Product development process: Agile methodology

Development stage includes:

  • Back-End Development
  • Front-End Development
  • UI/UX Design
  • Quality Assurance
  • Maintenance

In Sloboda Studio, we also advise our customers to launch an MVP first. Firstly, Minimal Viable Product helps our clients to launch their products faster than their competitors. Secondly, we can analyze the customers’ reactions. And add or fix some features in accordance with their feedback.

After developing the MVP, a project moves to post-production activities. Usually, these are marketing, getting users’ feedback, developing a fully-featured product, and promoting.

Marketing Activities

Marketing activities are at the end of this list. But in the real-life product development process we would recommend starting promoting a product once you begin the development. 

Some may say it’s too early to start a marketing campaign when you do not even have a product to promote. And that’s where they make a big mistake. 

There is a variety of available marketing activities. The choice always depends on the product type, target audience, and, surely, marketing budgets.

Typical steps of marketing campaign would be:

  • Defining the goals of the campaign
  • Analyzing and segmenting of the target audience
  • Setting a budget
  • Selecting media and marketing channels
  • Analyzing competitors’ campaigns
  • Developing your wording
  • Designing the creatives
  • Evaluation

Fully-Featured Product Development

After you get the first traction with your MVP and obtain the market feedback, it’s time to develop more features and upgrade the existing ones. 

Now is it time to develop all those nice things that you wanted from the very beginning. But had to put off. But I bet you’ll get a hundred of new ideas by reaching this stage.

Marketing Performance

Marketing performance helps to improve your product’s Return on investment (ROI). And analyze how effective your marketing campaigns are.

The marketing performance process includes measurement of the existing marketing performance and planning of your future campaigns.

Analytics

The vast majority of businesses use several different marketing tools. These are advertising, direct market research to boost their sales. The three key types of data analytics are:

  • Descriptive analytics. Descriptive analytics describes the use of a range of historic data to draw comparisons.
  • Predictive analytics. Predictive analytics uses various statistical techniques. These are data mining, machine learning, or predictive modeling. They are needed to analyze data and predict future events.
  • Prescriptive analytics. Prescriptive analytics also uses machine learning techniques to work with predictive analytics to determine the more possible outcome.

Defining metrics

Marketing analytics uses various metrics to measure the performance of marketing initiatives

During your marketing performance, you can also consider such factors as:

  • Feedback. Constructive communication with your users will help you to understand what issues your product has. Or what features you may need to improve.
  • Activity. Or Inactivity. At this point, monitor how active your users are. Analyze this data. So you can understand whether your business ideas and features are beneficial for your audience.
  • User Management. That metric whether your users are satisfied with your product and find it useful. You can track the engagement to improve your product convenience and user-friendliness. 
  • Customer experience. Analyze your user’s experience in general. Ask them not only about what they are satisfied with. But also what they would like to add or improve. This information will give you a vector for further improvement actions.

Challenges You May Face

When you are just starting your product development process, you will probably make some mistakes. And it’s OK! They are needed so you can gain experience and determine what is needed to upgrade.

Challenges are great as long as you are learning to make business decisions.

But still, some mistakes are pleasant to avoid when you are working on the software product development process flow.

Unclear requirements

Want a faster and structured software development process? Make sure you understand what you would actually want to get. Still do not have a clear understanding of what features are required? Or how to monetize the idea, discuss it with your development team, or at least conduct a basic discovery phase by yourself.

Different expectations

When starting the new product, both the client and the team may have different expectations and points of view. Different perceptions may cause problems later. For example, a development team may insist on the deployment of some core features, but the clients just won’t understand the necessity of them just because of the lack of experience or vision with this type of project. 

To avoid misunderstandings, we recommend discussing clients’ and team’s expectations to synchronize and make sure you understand the future projects equally.

Redundancy

When the project is brand-new, people often strive to include unnecessary functionality or start to develop more features than needed. This steals time and money but does not always make the project better.

For a lean product development process, focus on the core features, and start implementing your idea with an MVP. Thus you can save valuable time, money, evaluate the idea, and only then build a fully-featured product. 

Ineffective communication

Lack of communication or various kinds of misunderstandings can provoke delays in development and crash all the deadlines.

First, try to hire a team that is easy to communicate with. The agile development method may also simplify the interaction issues. This methodology helps to track the tasks to see what your team is doing and to use regular meetings to get a clear vision of the working process and software development team management.

Code coverage with automated tests

Admittedly, test coverage can be expensive and take about +50% of the time you need to implement a feature. That’s why sometimes you need to cover only the basic features.

On the other hand, this is an important feature, as far as test coverage is a key to a well-functioning code, and you can be sure that you can fix the product in case of a break.

Change of Scope

Sometimes customers change their minds about what features they want to implement too rapidly. We’re not against the changes, but an unexpected change of scope when the work is in full swing may slow down the product development process and demand extra budget.

Another benefit of Agile development – it allows all the changes with the development team to make sure everything goes as planned. The development team constantly checks the backlog and monitors the workflow and informs our clients about the progress.

Tips: How to deliver successful products

People say, there are no universal rules. That’s right, but still, we can give you some tips to make the software development process more effective regardless of the type of your project.

Think about your users’ needs

Whatever question you tackle, think about what your clients need, which features would help them the best, how to make your product useful and comfortable for them. Remember that the users are the people who breathe life (and profit) into your product and the product does not have to be admired by them, but not by your team or even you.

Conduct a discovery phase 

And only then jump on to development. Don’t create a product in a vacuum. You should also remember to set realistic deadlines: it is better to spend more time on development but come up with a quality product than hurry and get a product that nobody actually needs.

Communicate!

Use daily, weekly or monthly meetings, organize calls and video chats, but keep on discussing the product with your team: when you have a clear vision, it is easy to make changes, share insights and avoid any issues.

Start with an MVP

If you plan to develop a massive product with lots of features, don’t try to implement everything at once. Focus on the core features and launch – this will help you to reduce the costs at the beginning, attract first customers and investors. Later on, you can add all the advanced functionality to your already existing project.

Don’t forget about marketing

Let’s face it- no matter how great your product is if nobody is going to see it. And here again, starting developing your project with an MVP you save budget and can invest it in marketing activities.

Our Experience

TikkTalk

TikkTalk is a Norwegian marketplace that allows interpreters to communicate using video and phone conferences. When we met our client he had only a project idea. So our main goal was to turn it into an MVP.

When we started, we needed a team for at least one backend developer, one frontend developer, and one QA. But we started only with one frontend developer. At first, we were working with some design features and first frames. After this, we grew the team with a backend developer and QAs.

Initially, we had Rails monolith with JQuery. Then we split this application to Rails backend and VueJS frontend. This allowed us to create features faster and separately for frontend and for the backend. 

We also tried task record systems and different processes and in the end, we came and stayed with Gitlab.

Today, TikkTalk is a finished marketplace that provides customers with online translation services.

CityFALCON

CityFALCON is a 21st-century financial news aggregator. Its score rates financial tweets, news, and authors by using Natural Language Processing

The Client met Sloboda Studio at the very early stages of the project, and we’re happy to say we’re still working on CityFALCON’s development and growth. The story started when our client decided to create a financial news website: he even studied Ruby and developed the MVP himself. But then decided that the project requires more scalability and started looking for new developers. So then we did find each other.

Our client wanted to launch a new and improved MVP with a focus on clean and simple UX to demonstrate the huge potential of his social media aggregator.

Our Solutions:

We have improved the initial MVP by improving the design, building a scalable architecture, adding new processing, connecting GNIP API and basic scoring algorithm.

On the next stage, we launched the private beta, which included enterprise API scoring algorithm improvement and UX analysis.

The public beta stage comprised adding scalable infrastructure, connecting voice devices, optimization of response time, upgrading scoring algorithm 2.0, and increasing the number of data sources and topics’ coverage.

And the final live product stage included a mobile application for Android & iOS platforms, voice assistants integration, and cryptocurrency coverage launch.

Cityfalcon financial news feed development

CityFALCON Homepage

Conclusion

Product development is a complex process that requires your attention at most of the stages. Though it is not that hard to create a project of your dream and have a reliable development team to bring your idea to life.

The core steps of your project development would be:

  • Developing your idea
  • Conducting a thorough discovery phase
  • Carrying out business analysis
  • Set key functional and non-functional requirements
  • Creating a UX-concept
  • Choosing tech stack and set tasks for a team
  • Developing and testing your product
  • Providing a decent marketing promotion

In Sloboda Studio, we pay particular attention to business analysis and research. We are clearing up all the clients’ requirements to ensure that both clients and their users would get the dream product. 

Another thing we focus on is clear architecture and the most fitting tech stack to make products scalable and development time-cost efficient.

Our experts are open to free consultation. So you can share your idea below and book a time slot for a consultation.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating / 5. Vote count:

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

Recommended articles
#Tech 15 min

Once upon a time, we met one of our startup clients who had lots of issues with the code structure and architecture. Our team analyzed their code. During the code audit it appeared that the…

14 min

Traditional banks are well known for their lengthy queues and neverending bureaucracy. Unlike these banks, online banking allows customers to open new accounts, perform transactions, and perform many other banking actions online, within seconds. That’s…

#Guides 13 min

Hospitals and clinics have always struggled with managing high patient volumes. With COVID-19 this issue is now critical more than ever. Medical facilities were the first to experience the need to change their approaches when…

Get more insights

Let's talk about your idea?
Alex, Project Lead

+380 99 759 6995