After 11 years working with startups and building products, launching them and driving them successful, we come across and mentor people having amazing ideas for their startups, tremendous resources with them and unmatchable enthusiasm. And, some of them have become unbelievably successful.
People wonder, what is the secret to success? What should be the process? How to minimise risk? How to make sure the team we’ve hired will deliver? how NOT to fail? etc. If you’re reading further, you have similar questions going on and you are looking for answers now.
We’ve decoded a perfect recipe for cooking a surely successful product and broken in 11 steps those are must.
Let’s start with when you have an idea which you think is going to be the next big thing in the startup sphere.
1. Evaluate your idea
All of us get ideas which we think are amazing. The most important thing while evaluating an idea are your vision and passion to make it happen. There are 3 types of ideas:
- Catering the need of the audience and filling some gap.
- Making the product itself the need after you build it.
- No idea, just following what is becoming successful.
Catering the need of the audience (type 1) is the one everybody is taught in business schools and friends etc. The risk is not high, medium sort of and if you research the market well beforehand, you can do good business until someone from type 3 idea gang beats you.
Making the product itself the need(type 2) is the one no body will ever suggest you as it contains high risk but if you trust your vision (whatever it is, wrong or right is relative), you’ll prove everybody wrong. People don’t know what they want until they see the product. For example, Apple products, Tesla etc.
Just following what is successful(type 3) is the one with the minimum risk and amazing chances of success. I’ll tell you how. There are so many successful products which are making news and money but trust me, they’re not the best. A product can be built still better solving exactly the same problem but in a better manner.
What makes them better? Simplification
Just simplify any process, remove hassles, get things out of the way of users, make interfaces clutter free, remove steps that can be, use lots of spacing, handle things in the backend that can be and it works wonder!
Why it has less risk, you see a successful product and you know what you’re building is simplifying it for users so only thing that can fail this is bad reach. We’ll talk about this later in point 8.
2. Hire the right team
The idea is your baby and you want it to evolve as a product as per exactly your vision if not better than that. It’s difficult for anyone else to match your exact vision until and unless you define a flawless process. You should start by jotting down your requirements clearly, use any of the free requirement gathering templates available on the internet for briefing everything. Few things you must consider before making your decision about the right team are Experience in years and domain, Process, Communication, Transparency, Expertise in Technologies (We’ll talk about right technologies in 4th step), How flexible they are incorporating your ideas, Importance they give to user experience and Post deployment support policies.
I suggest to NOT hire cheap developers because they’re cheap. Somebody who just says Yes to all your demands and suits your budget might not be the right choice. Ones who have vision, experience and talent to build things simpler for users come with a price. They won’t be cheap as they know how to build ultra usable apps and what it takes to build a sustainable product. Also, no experienced and respectable team will work without any upfront payments. In other words, the cheap developers will cost you more time and money as they may end up wasting both of them. Be careful and choose the one who first understands your product completely and even have suggestions which add to your vision.
If you’re hiring them in fixed cost manner, make sure you divide the whole contract in milestones of deliverables. After first upfront payment, release next payments in parts with achievements on milestones which you can review.
3. Create Wireframes & Documents
What? you want fast prototyping and you want to skip this?
Don’t you dare even think of that. Unless you’re developing your product yourself, it’ll cost you a huge amount of extra time & money if you skip this step.
Based on your initial requirement document and a few brainstorming together/Q&As, ask the team you hired to first document everything with use cases, data flow and ER diagrams to remove any discrepancies. Ask them to create wireframes/mockups of each and every screen with the respective flow.
Once it’s done, verify thoroughly the documents and mockups. You will be amazed to see there were still differences even after discussing things so clearly and there are still things you never thought earlier. This step will make you revisit all your thoughts and will make your developer ask you more genuine questions. There may be steps/features/flows you want to remove or add in this phase and its very much required. You may make things even more simple by removing things you don’t think are much required. Be open to revise the contract fee if it increases few man hours here & there (in case of fixed cost contract). Don’t worry about minute behaviours of each element in the wireframes. You can review them later after Step 5 is completed.
4. Choose the right technologies
The best suited technology stack totally depends on the nature of product. But for most of the products you’d want to scale big and of course would want to perform better in limited resources, I would recommend MEAN Stack.
The components of the MEAN stack are as follows:
- MongoDB, a NoSQL database
- Express.js, a web application framework that runs on Node.js
- Node.js, an execution environment for event-driven server-side and networking applications
For User Experience, the current trend suggests that user love the Material Design on almost all platforms.
5. UX Design & Flow
Once you finalized the documents, wireframes and decided technologies, it’s time to get the UI done. This is when you see your real product minus the actual functionalities.
Now, make sure in this step you get the best possible prduct ui based on your vision. Review all of the screens, the behaviours of each and every element of the design, colors, effects & themes. Discuss with your team about each and every behaviour and improvise.
In this phase, let your team develop the product as most of the things are clear and you’re sure what you’re gonna get. Just let them know you want the best optimised, secure and well organised code and let them build the awesomeness for you.
Regardless of whether you’re building a web app or a mobile app or any other platform, it’s always wise to build a REST API on top of your server app and then build the client app on any/each platform separately which connects to your server app via the API. This will keep things smooth for you forever and easy to change anything in future. Also, building API in start may cost you a little extra buck but will reduce costs in long term. It’ll be much easier to build client apps on any platform in future and will cost you less.
7. Test & improve
Once the development/implementation is complete, test it with your development team as a team. If you find some silly bugs, don’t get mad at your team and simply help them resolve asap. Keep your team motivated as they’ve done very hard work and there may be mistakes which will be taken care of in no time. Bugs are inevitable and that’s why testing is a part of the process. Improve the app by removing any technical/ usability/ performance or security bugs you find. Try to make all the flows as smooth as possible. If post deployment support of a couple of months or more is in contract as suggested, you’ve an advantage of getting any future bugs fixed too which were not detected now.
8. Launch & promote
If you’ve not compromised in Steps 1–7, you have a wonderful product in your hands. Be confident, believe in your product, go hit the road with it.
Instead of spending a fortune on advertisements, I’d suggest to spend limited budget on marketplace promotions and put rest of your budget on various Growth Hacking techniques. I’ll write more about Growth Hacking later in other posts.
Some other helpful spends should be SEO, Explanatory/Promotional Video, Referral schemes, Freebies.
Keep an eye on the stats like which efforts are attracting the most conversions, where you’re getting the most value for money, which kind of users are becoming your most loyal customers etc. This will help you plan the future of your product and this is a continuous process after launch.
9. Evaluate the demand/need
You’ll start getting feedback. Suggestions, Praises, Complaints & Demands.
DO NOT LISTEN TO ALL OF THEM
Yes, simply do not. Take your time, filter any bugs/complaints reported first and forward to your technical team for fixing. Thank them who reported bugs and inform as soon as fixed. They are the most important customers.
Thank who praise next. Keep them updated about any new feature through newsletter etc.
Accumulate all the suggestions & demands, sort by most repeated ones. Now starting from top, ask yourself two questions:
- Is this need or additional request?
- Is this making any flow simpler/smoother or it’s a new feature or making it complex.
Make a primary list with all the Needed requests in top 20 demands list. Make a secondary list with all the requests which will make things even simpler and smoother. Discard any additional feature requests for now. Yes, focus on what you have.
In the meanwhile, scale the server for performance if need be.
10. Define the next version
Having your Primary & Secondary list, discuss & brainstorm with your partners, friends and even tech team you hired. Define the set of implementations to be done in the next version. Ask your tech team to implement but, Do not skip the process. The next version must again be well defined, documented and all process followed.
Just keep in mind that your tech team must have a migration strategy for all the live data and users to the next version beforehand.
Exactly the same way we built the product, the next versions shall be built too. Only difference would be less time spent on understanding each others’ visions and enjoying the joyride.
Remember, it is very important to keep building, improving and repeating the above steps as it’s very easy for competition to pick up and eat at least some of your marketshare you built by your hard work or even overtake it if you’re totally sitting idle. You have to keep improvising, the whole experience.