Have a product idea? You may need to define a product next

12 Min Read • Oct 29, 2018

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Bianca Gângă

Content Marketing Specialist

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Ideas become valuable only after you validate them

We know it already – nowadays, we are practically hooked on what we like to call brilliant ideas. We read, see and hear it all the time: “this idea is amazing”, “this guy has such a genius idea” and other similar expressions. This is called genius bias. Unfortunately, this bias applies to digital products as well.  However, the strongest and most “disruptive” businesses of the last 20 years, have not started necessarily as original ideas. For instance, about Airbnb, Brian Chesky once said: “If you can convince people to buy a $4 cereal box for $40 maybe you convince them to stay in other’s people rooms. And so he led us in the Y Combinator”.

Here’s the catch: no idea is good or bad until you get some consistent feedback. Not on the idea itself, but on the product that results from having the idea.

But, for that, you have to actually build a product. In order to make sure it can be built, you have to define your product, first thing first.

Define your product: A How-To Guide

You see, when innovating products or businesses were launched on the market, people actually took time to get a hold of the whole idea. Defining a digital product is not very different from defining a physical product. Might be a bit more complicated, especially nowadays. In a nutshell, it’s an entire, lengthy process, that starts from the original concept and along the way, everything seems to become clearer. How can you do this? By asking questions.

To name a few, here are some of the questions you must address yourself when you are starting the “define your product” process:

  • What is the real need, problem, or struggle you want to solve it through your product?
  • Does anybody have any of that? Who are they?
  • Can you pinpoint an approximate number of people to whom this solution would solve their need?
  • What are the current alternatives that solve the need?
  • How will the product create value for its users?
  • How will the product stand out and be better than the current alternatives?

Before we go further, we reach the big question: how can you transform your brilliant, yet possibly useless idea into an actual product that will deliver value to its users?

Taking into account how many good ideas might go to waste, here at Tapptitude, aside from actually building top-notch products, we thought: “what if we help startups define their product?” And we did so, in a process that we’ve tested a few dozens of times and which delivers clarity and solid results. It’s dubbed as “Product Definition Phase” and its objective is to help you get from an idea generator, or a future-maybe-wannabe startup founder,  to a proper product creator. In other words, a product creator that might have a future in a growing business.

What is the Product Definition Phase?

In a nutshell, the Product Definition Phase is a process that takes early stage startups or idea stage products to a point where it’s utterly clear what needs to be coded as a product.

During this process, we work directly with the founders and help them both clarify and decide all the core elements of their products, up to a point where a development team would be able to estimate the amount of work needed to launch the product and the major tech implications of such a product. In other words, we take an idea that is suffocated with possibilities to a point where a single product is decided, it’s easy to understand and shows you what kind of experience it will create for the user.

There are three steps to this process:

product definition phase with tapptitude

We like to keep our workflow lean, therefore we work iteratively. Here, the founders will be involved in the whole process, having a product owner role. But, our senior product team of UX, strategy, and tech will challenge their hypotheses – it’s really ‘guesses’ most of the times – every moment. In this way, we push them towards better-researched decisions.

The main purpose of the workshop is to define all the major aspects of your product before entering in development, especially since in the idea stage, changes and decisions are faster and cheaper. In short, it’s a smarter way to build products altogether.

Step 1: Discovery Workshop

Nothing can be done without a bit of research first, especially when the product is just in the aforementioned “idea stage”. This is why the first step of “define your product” is the discovery workshop. Here, we work directly with the startup founders to understand their vision, the business model they have imagined around the solution and eventually, what the solution will be.

To make sure we have all these covered, we do intensive workshops with the founders, for one or two days. These can take place in our office, or in several sessions in a remote format. During this time, we deconstruct biases, brainstorm new possible solutions, create validation experiments and narrow all the possibilities to reach a clear product, that can be easily expressed visually.

This first step of the process is critical, because it does not only give us the opportunity to take actual decisions about the product, but it also brings everyone on the same page. Nonetheless, it gives the founder a much clearer perspective about the product, about what can be done and what can’t, and what is needed in the product.

For this workshop, we bring three main capabilities from Tapptitude into the room. A Senior Product Strategist, who usually moderates the workshop and advises on the business model details and facilitates the decisions in the product as a user’s advocate.  A UX Designer, who creates the first wireframes draft, based on the discussions and taken decisions during the workshop. And a Senior Tech Lead, who advises on everything regarding technology, from platform choices, frameworks to the implications of business decisions into the tech solutions.

These are the main topics we approach during the workshop:

  • Getting to know each other
  • Defining failure and success
  • Describing the problem you want to solve with the product
  • Sketch out User Personas
  • Draft the Product Architecture
  • Shape the Business Model using the Lean Canvas

When the workshop is over, the deliverables the founders get are

  • All the research docs
  • A visual document with core User Flows
  • User Personas
  • Lean Canvas 
  • Product Specs documents

What others said about the Discovery Workshops

We enjoy working with ideas and moulding them into something viable. This is why we asked a couple of our clients to share with us their experience on Product Discovery.

Deborah Smith, Founder & CEO of EarlyGroove, a startup that connects people to events, information, and opportunities that promote personal, social, and cultural well-being:

Shortly after starting my company, I reached out to Tapptitude about my product idea and began a discussion about building a mobile app. When I learned about the option of the Product Discovery Workshop, I decided it was a necessary and important place to start in order mitigate risk and focus a strong lens on the problem and solution I was proposing. Two months after our initial discussion, I found myself in Cluj-Napoca sitting with a delightful team comprised of experts in product engineering, development, research, and design.
We went through a deliberative and thorough process of understanding and defining the product goal, developing use cases and mapping user journeys, and discussing technical requirements and risks.

The key outcome for me was an awareness that I was not ready to start building a native app. What I discovered what I needed more information before diving into the deep end. Because of the discovery process, I realized the next best step for me was to first develop a prototype, gather user feedback, and validate both the problem and solution before building the MVP..

As it turned out, this was absolutely the right decision.  Over the past summer, I launched a prototype and started gathering rich feedback from users that are guiding the development of the product.  Because of this decision, I feel confident moving forward that I have minimized both risk and cost by taking the time to answer the questions that were uncovered during the Product Discovery Workshop.”

Also, we asked another one of our clients, who is developing an app that fights against cognitive bias, how he feels about the Product Discovery Workshop.

We had a bunch of different concepts that we wanted to understand whether they are product worthy. We started to have 10, we went down to 5, then to 3, and we tested one by asking an opinion.
Then we looked for a product partner. We contacted 6-7, then cut it down to 3, then to 2 – one being Tapptitude and another company. In the beginning, we were sure we’d pick the other company since they had great sales and their responsiveness was impressive.

What made us choose Tapptitude, in the end, was this - Gabriel told us “let’s do a workshop to understand your idea and to build a very early-stage prototype, to see if we are on the same page”, which we consider a very lean-agile approach.

Although at the beginning there were a few hiccups on syncing when Tapptitude understood the problem we were looking to solve, I was blown away – not only did they understand it, but I noticed their ability to come up with a solution on fixing the problem.

Finally, I chose Tapptitude because they were challenging me on a few aspects and proactively suggested multiple approaches. I think sometimes founders don’t know what they actually need, and if you start an open conversation with them, they will tell you what they want but not what they need.

Step 2: Wireframing

After the Discovery Workshop is over, we are going to the stage of the Define Your Product process. This one is the wireframing. Here, our UX team will create a first sketch or a wireframe, where all the product mapping is done and the user flows are defined. Together with the client, they work on refining it and adding some of the last touches on the flows. Usually, wireframing can take up to 3 or 4 weeks, varying on the product size and the speed of the feedback.

This step is highly important since here we will finally have an idea of how the product will look after we built it together. Then, based on the wireframes, we are going to decide how the final product will look like in the end – whether it is about the colour spectrum, user flow or all the designs.

When we asked our aforementioned client how he perceived the wireframing step of the process, he told us that

Step 3: UI Design & Prototyping

Once we have agreed on how the wireframe should look like, in terms of design and user flow, our UI designers will start working for the final touch-up. Or, in other words, here’s where your brilliant idea comes to life – the screen applications.

The first step of this process is to create a visual styling proposal, which will be agreed upon with the client. This contains the colour palette, proposed fonts, style of design and visual logic of the interface. And then, we jump right into the creation of it.

When the designs are officially done, we add them together to make a prototype. This will be used to validate your idea, by sharing it with your team or for market research or to increase your chances for investment raising.

Still not convinced why prototypes are more than useful?

Here’s what our client told us about it.

Regarding the prototype, it made me feel good to visualize how this thing could be. The prototype was a more detailed vision of the product, and it also helped me set the initial design language of the product. I strongly believe the design language is an art, and this helped us defining the overall brand – it helped to clarify how to communicate effectively with the users.

When it comes to selecting the right product development partner, it's like asking someone to help you find a needle in an eyestalk. Some will just scramble to find the needle as quickly as they can, some others will ask you 100 questions to try to define how that needle looks like, why you lost it, what it would allow you to do if you already had it, and only then provide you 2-3 options to find it together.

Your product-market fit is like that needle: it’s extremely hard to find, and only asking the right questions can shine some lights on the path.”

When our client decides this is what he wants, we enter the final development stage. And, yes, we can say by now that the “Define your product” process is over.

To sum it up, defining a product takes time and effort. Probably not all products will be the next Airbnb or Facebook, but you cannot know unless you take the leap of faith. No one can guarantee that your product will become a successful online business, but if decide to go the startup way, properly defining your product is one of the core initial steps you need to take. 

Bianca Gângă

Bianca Gângă

Content Marketing Specialist

Bianca always wanted to be a writer - to craft fantastic stories or to be a professor at an Ivy League university. But since life decided that wasn't the path she should take, she yelled "PLOT TWIST" and became a communication professional, having the chance to work with challenging projects. She enjoys it, nonetheless, but still believes there is a huge need for dragons.