How to Build a Great Product
The common problem with the Founders/Product Managers is when they build a product they think users will want, not the product that user want.
Yes I know everyone said this to you & might be it's not new for you too. I also got this advice before building my startup and many time in my startup journey, but to know exactly what user want is more challenging matter entirely. To overcome this problem you need to understand the importance of conducting customer discovery — getting out of the building to talk to users to gain a deep understanding of their needs and pain points.
Hi, I am Ankit Dhawan, Co-founder of Awesummly (AI-powered Short News App) and currently have 5+ years of experience in building/scaling great products with 1M DAU. Today I want to share my learning or my understanding of what makes a big difference in making a product great, and what causes the product to fail.
Step 1: Build A Strong Highly Accountable Product Team
To kick things off, you must start with a strong foundation. That means not only hiring great people but also creating a great culture that holds teams accountable for outcomes. Few things that you can think of while trying to build a culture great:
- Cross-functional team empowerment. A common trap that startup teams often make is that they will execute largely CEO’s/Management ideas. But don’t let this happen. Instead, as a founder make your team much comfortable that they can question you too, allow the teams to make decisions based on the data. Allow them through the process of customer and product discovery and product validation to tell you what they should be building.
“Your product team should be telling you what to build — not the other way around.”
- Give each team a main KPI & objective. Another mistake that I learnt from my experience is that teams are aligned around product areas or domains but leadership will fail to give them a clear North Star metric. The most successful product teams each have a clear set of KPIs or objectives. Measure your teams against those KPIs. Did they actually move the metric, whether it’s revenue or conversion or engagement? Each product team should have just one metric — no more than that. Multiple objectives overwhelm teams by making it impossible to prioritise.
- Value outcomes over output. Don’t think of launches as a success. Product teams will tell me, ‘We just launched our mobile app last week, done!’ Then they move on to the next feature. Success has nothing to do with launching new features. It’s about whether or not you moved the desire outcomes. “Releasing feature fast doesn't matter, How much it impacts you KPI is what matters”
Step 2: Talk To Users
The next step is the User discovery. The top rule for that is simple: Talk to your users. We think we know our customers, but we don’t. You won’t discover what you need to discover unless you go out and talk to them.
Talk to your users. Go to their homes or call them if you have to. You’ll learn a lot of things that will often surprise you. “Airbnb struggled when it first started despite getting a few positive PR mentions. The founders finally went to 100 hosts — staying in 100 Airbnbs — and talked to them. They learned of all sorts of concerns including trust and payment that led them to turn the site into the success story we know today” that's the power of feedback or understanding your user better
Talk to 100 customers and then decide what product to create. Don’t spend weeks building something no one’s going to use.
Step 3: Now It’s Time To Build and Iterate Fast
To launch a startup, you need to be agile and you need to be quick. Slow and steady will not win the race. You need to be efficient, decisive, and ready to learn and adapt. But for people unfamiliar with founding a company, moving at such a fast pace can be scary. After all, it’s your dream on the line and you don’t want to drop the ball in your haste.
There is a way to launch a startup quickly and successfully. You just need to do these three things to make it through the process:
- Understand agile startup principles
The traditional business process is all about planning. You decide what your company is going to be about, refine your idea, develop a process to make that a reality, hire employees, and go through a thousand other steps before even starting to create your product. Figuring out each of those steps requires time and money you don’t have at the beginning.
Enter the agile startup methodology.
The basics of these principles are to launch a startup quickly while simultaneously releasing versions of your product along the way. There is no concrete plan, but rather a series of experiments that test assumptions about your company and product. The results of each small test allow you to refine your product. This method enables you to see what interests your target market and what doesn’t, and from there you can decide what the next step of development is.
Since you’re learning as you go, you don’t need to worry about sticking to a plan. And if something unexpected pops up, you can continue to move forward instead of going back to the drawing board.
Learn more about the details of the agile methodology, by looking into what experts have to say on the process. Start with books like Value Proposition Design Book by Osterwalder, Pigneur, and Bernarda, Hooked by Nir Eyal, The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steve Blank, and Sprint by Jake Knapp. These will help you understand the basics of what you need to know to launch a startup.
- Embrace mistakes
Many people equate mistakes with failure. They worry that one wrong decision will mean the end of their company. As a result, they begin to worry and overthink each step they make, which slows down the process.
Unfortunately, that fear of mistakes can actually lead to failure because of the delays it causes. Instead of worrying about each possible misstep, accept the fact that you will falter. Give yourself and your team permission to make mistakes, as long as they approach them as a chance to learn and do better. Iterate and test small aspects of your product. If something doesn’t turn out as you had hoped, understand that it’s better to find out after spending a week working on that feature rather than six months down the line.
Also, know that when you’re practising the agile startup process, you’re focusing on small aspects of your company. If something turns out to be a mistake or not resonate with the market, it’s on a much smaller scale than a traditional launch process. Just analyse what data you’ve gathered and make a new decision based on that information.
- Don’t overbuild
Great startup ideas have plenty of room for growth and development. However, great startups know every possible feature or product does not have to be ready from the very beginning. If you continue to develop beyond the bare minimum, you’re wasting time.
Get the core of your company out to your customers first. See what they have to say about the product, what new features they’d like to be added, or what else they’d want from the company. Then use that information to prioritize your next steps of development.
Performing A/B testing after you’ve gone to market will let you see what the true possibilities are for your startup. For example, say you’ve released the basic version of an app. You have an idea for what feature you’d like to roll out next but aren’t sure if it’s worth the time and effort. Create a button for that feature that leads the user nowhere. If nobody clicks on the button, you just saved yourself a lot of time and resources developing a feature no one would use. But if the majority of users are interested in the button, you know it’s worthwhile to develop that feature.
When it comes to building a startup, the secret to success is speed. The quicker you get off the ground, the quicker you can prove your concept to others and the quicker you can begin to see some money rolling back into the company. Follow these tips and you’ll see your business take off sooner than you could have ever imagined.
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