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Digital Products 101: The Essential Stages of Building a Digital Product

In the previous post, we’ve seen how the AI affects the digital product development process today. In this post, we are going to delve into the stages of a digital product development.

Frame the right problem first

Problem framing is often the most ignored step of the digital product development. It answers what problem you need to solve and whether is this problem worth solving at all. We’ve already talked about problem framing in this blog post on pondering data and creativity in modern digital product development.

Anyway, make sure the problem is framed the right way. If done correctly, at the end of this preliminary stage you will be richer for a specific problem discovery. You will also have your business goals defined, lean canvas prepared and go-to-market strategy ready.

Start shaping your digital product

Essential toolkit for your project

Always keep your mind open

To come up with such ideas, always have in mind the customer’s perspective. Keep an eye on the user’s demographics, segment your audience, define customer goals and evaluate the brand promise.

Choosing a prime platform to deliver your digital product on is a very important task. It will decide upon selecting a medium to facilitate business processes. Going from desktop to mobile, Google announced that, starting September 2020, it will switch to mobile-first indexing for the whole web. Although recently, Sunday Pichai, CEO of Google, capped the current market dynamics with the following statement:

We are now witnessing a new shift in computing: The move from a mobile-first to an AI-first world.

Time to design your digital product

The AI is obviously causing a substantial shift in facilitating the digital product development process. Consequently, the most important design steps will be human-dependent for quite a while more.

Deliverables at the Design stage at Clover labs include the validation of the solution, vision for your product, MVP requirements, prototype, and results of the tests. As you can see, a digital product design is a right mixture of information architecture, interaction design and visual design. Furthermore, we can categorize those into sketching, wireframing and prototyping.

The concepts of sketching, wireframing and prototyping

Good old pen and paper

A sketch is pretty self-explanatory and it basically depicts preparing grounds for your new digital product. A wireframe will help gather initial ideas together. It shows the main chunks of content, draws the outline and the layout structure. It also depicts the most basic user interface (UI) of the digital product.

One of the most important stages, is building a prototype. According to the author of the article published on UX Planet, a prototype on the other hand is often a high fidelity representation of the final product which is meant to simulate the user interaction. It is usually clickable and thus allows the user to experience content and interactions in the interface. Actually, a prototype is very much like the final product itself.

On a way to the final product with seamless development​

The difference between the final product and the prototype is mainly that the interface is separated from the backend in a prototype. Reduce development costs until the you approve the UI. After that, the development team can start coding.When talking about coding, web applications are a lot easier to distribute, but they require better development skills. Getting a unanimous look and feel for all platforms intended, as well as a proper level of flexibility for them can be quite a challenge.

Ready to expand your business digitally

After you complete all those stages, it is time to finally launch the product. Product launches are expensive but you can limit costly mistakes by using a systematic process that correctly assesses the viability, desirability, feasibility and growth of the digital product for your business.

Expand your business

Quality assurance, launch and maintenance

Quality assurance (QA) is instrumental to developing and launching a successful product. It is important that the development team stays within the guides of a planned process. You should involve QA in the product launch process from the very beginning of the project. It is the stage where you create the test plans, test cases and automated test scripts. To make your digital product a success, it is crucial to test early and test often.

Maintenance of the product usually comes after all the stages. Depending on the complexity of the product, the latter usually includes continuous updates and testing upgrades.

That's the theory, the reality is a bit more complex

Despite presenting the stages in digital product development process quite linearly, those are, in fact, highly iterative and closely intertwined. Also, the process of building a digital product blends more and more in a modern business ecosystem, therefore the deliverables could change during the digital development process. Also, the automation of tasks its taking its toll in repetitive human processes.

Want to see more in-depth how the AI affects product development today?
Read part 2 of our series here: Digital Products 101: How AI Changes Digital Product Development.

Sergej Nejc Gorišek

Sergej Nejc Gorišek

Experienced product designer and co-founder with a demonstrated history of working in the computer software industry. I envision and build modern digital experiences at Clover Labs.