The Secret Behind the Digital Product

Geoff Wilson
by Geoff Wilson 19 Nov, 2015

Sometimes the term "custom Web development" just doesn't cut it.

Though there are tons of websites that look amazing or deliver great functionality, many companies lack a development strategy that continually drives revenue and adapts quickly to changes in customer demands. That is where a digital product mindset can dramatically impact your business. 

Let's be clear: a digital product is not a physical product - it can't be picked up at Best Buy. Rather, this iterative mindset embraces the concept that a website or mobile app is never supposed to be perfect. Just like car companies deliver new designs each year and the newest iPhone arrives every fall, websites benefit from a similar strategy, albeit on a more rapid timeline. 

Embracing this may be scary. There is never a finish line for websites, applications and software that must drive revenue and resonate with customers. Through rapid development and dedicated testing, organizations can keep improving their digital experiences. 

Here are three steps organizations of all kinds can take to build thoughtful digital products that set them apart from the competition. 

Think MVP.

According to Eric Ries' The Lean Startup, a minimum viable product (MVP) is the "version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort." Rather than merely getting a product out the door, Ries says it's more important to build a product that delivers actionable insights into customer needs and habits. But why?

Technology simply moves faster than humans - and much faster than an enterprise business. If a company can't launch a product in 90 days or less, then the product is simply too heavy. The quicker a company can get a product to market, the quicker it can receive feedback from the people who matter most: their customers. That feedback ultimately leads to a product people actually want. 

A fast-paced development cycle, broken into short sprints that deliver fully functional features based on consumer feedback, offers a fundamental shift in strategy. It's time to embrace a quick-to-market approach. If each sprint is guided by strong user feedback, the product will grow with its users. Whether a website, app or software program, a digital product MVP needs to make it live as soon as possible in order to be successful.

Iterate. Iterate. Iterate.

As feedback is gathered from customers, organizations can guide future development through a process of iteration - gradually introducing new site features and improvements, rather than building a full-fledged website with every possible bell and whistle.

Marketers and business owners know that nearly all digital efforts require trial and error. Web development is the same way. Testing and learning are critical to building a product that can deliver continuous growth, customer retention and ROI. Bottom line: iterative development unlocks the potential of that testing cycle.

A Dedicated, Cross-Functional Team.

To take full advantage of iterative development, organizations need a dedicated, multi-disciplined development team - a team that sits together and creates together, succeeds and fails together. A team that trusts each other implicitly, a team willing to challenge each other - and you - to think bigger. Cohesive agile teams can significantly reduce the time needed to build and launch functional websites and apps, often in less than 90 days. 

To succeed, these teams should focus on taking a product idea from conception to realization. Moving beyond the traditional model of digital development opens valuable new service channels and market opportunities, but companies need the speed and flexibility to capitalize on new product ideas.

Building a custom website or digital product isn't an easy process, but an iterative approach allows organizations to create successful digital products that delight customers and achieve business goals. Don't be afraid to experiment and pivot based on feedback - it's the best way to create a product that will last and connect with users in a meaningful way.  

Geoff Wilson is the President and Founder of 352 Inc., and an evangelist for his Barely Manage to Lead philosophy. 352 is a digital product development agency specializing in product strategy, UX design, custom web development and digital marketing. 352 turns ideas into successful digital products for companies like Cox Automotive, Microsoft and YouCaring.