Category: Blog, Business, Development, Fundamentals, Project Management, Scrum

Product Discovery Process – A Practical Case Study for Product Owners

What is the Product Discovery process? How does it look in practice? Read this article, to learn the answers.

Product discovery process and tips

When using Uber, Tinder, or Wallet, have you ever thought about the trigger point for releasing them on the market? What was this spark that ignited their development?

In the search for ways to manage your product, you might have come across the idea of Product Discovery and its two pillars:

  • identifying a problem
  • and devising a solution.

You can read in our previous article on What is Product Discovery in Mobile App Development? that Product Discovery enables teams to target users and decide on the features that are crucial to implement; all in order to launch an attractive product.

However, in this article, I will walk you through a case study of creating a mobile app for teens and show you some practical step-by-step usage of Product Discovery techniques for a mobile application.

What is Product Discovery in mobile app development?

Before we move to a case study, let’s take a quick look back at what Product Discovery is.

In a nutshell, Product Discovery in custom mobile app development is the initial stage of the development journey, when you want to make sure that you know your target audience and that your app fills the gap in the market.

The foundation of Product Discovery is a constant testing of solutions and ideas, as well as learning how to adapt them to the user’s needs. This process should also ensure you that, not only are you aware of the end-users’ needs, but your dedicated team is able to deliver your ideas.

Read also: The Ultimate Guide to Mobile App Development Process in 2021

In the next part of this practical case study for Product Owners we’ll go through the following phases and techniques:

  • Targeting potential users and their problems: Personas
  • Defining an initial profile of your product: Product Canvas
  • Ideating solutions: Event storming
  • Prototyping: User Journey Mapping
  • Narrowing down the solutions: Wireframes
  • Prioritization and planning: MVP (Minimum Viable Product)
  • Testing and collecting feedback: Interviews

Let’s jump into practice!

To explain how Product Discovery can help your business, I would like to share with you a case study where we will see how to crystalize and test the vision of a product.

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Product Discovery Process: Hustly case study

“Money doesn’t grow on trees!”. I’m sure you remember your old folks’ repeating similar excuses when you asked them for some pocket money. Earning your first money in your first side hustle is usually a nostalgic memory from teenage times. Let’s refer to that story in our case study.

Please meet Tom, a 42-year-old real estate businessman (Product Owner), and Amy, his 16-year-old daughter, a high school student (User).

What’s the matter? Amy is fed up with asking her dad to top up her account every time she goes out with friends. She decides to look for a side hustle to free Tom from weekly pocket money. Working part-time in the cinema or dog-walking didn’t hurt any kid, Tom thinks.

He recommends Amy finds some posts on the job portals he used to visit: indeed.com or reed.com. Amy flicks through the lengthy, generic offers with no interest, yawning when browsing unfriendly applications with attachments and dozens of questions. It’s definitely an overkill for a teenage girl to stretch herself in finding a $7 per hour job in the same way her mother is looking for an accountant post.

It’s a great niche in the market, Tom thinks. Why not solve his daughter’s and her peers’ problem on the way?

Tom wants to do some research and test the waters. Where should he start? How can he share these ideas with others? Tom has experience with real estate but not IT. Will investing capital in a mobile app bring him more profits than flipping another property?

It’s time for the prep before the journey!

So, let’s try to help Tom define the problem areas and go through the Product Discovery phase in order to find the best solution.

1. Target potential users and their problems: Persona

Firstly, as Tom spotted a niche, he needs to properly describe the target:

  • Who is the user?
  • What kind of problems do they have?
  • How can we help them?

A persona is a simple tool to identify who our target users are. By answering the questions within their profile, we dig into their perspective and mindset. Empathy is the key to understanding their current journey and their feelings behind it.

It is not necessarily true that the more profiles of potential users you define the better. Try to focus on the median: what is the average user like?

Product Discover Process – Personas

Tom knows his daughter pretty well, so he could easily fill out her profile

  • Name: Amy
  • Age: 16
  • Job/Role: High school student

Personal background: familiar with mobile apps, active on social media, loves the online experience of products that are simple and intuitive for users.

Goals: She wants to be independent from her parents and find a side job to replace her pocket money. She does not want to fill up long applications and would prefer to find the job on the spot, just as she does it with a good cafe.

Current journey: She needs to scroll through dull formal job portals and send lengthy CVs and cover letters.

Feelings: She is frustrated, bored, and impatient to find a good match.

Tom did a couple of more interviews with his daughter’s peers and collected some more observations.

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2. Define the profile of your product: Product Canvas

As Tom knows who the target user is and what their needs are, it’s time to define the initial picture of the product to help others understand what’s on Tom’s mind. The Product Canvas is a simple tool to collect basic information about your product. As a starting point, it helps you to review and validate your approach. Here’s an example of such a brief:

Product Discovery Process – Product Canvas Template

Let your audience know your product vision by providing the following information: name, business goal, purpose, metrics, target group, and a big picture description of the product.

Tom meets up with his business partner Mark and shares the vision of a mobile application that will be targeted at searching for a teen job.

He portrays the idea of an app that he wants to call Hustly (a reference to side hustles). It could connect American teens looking for some side hustles with companies looking for part-time, underqualified workers.

The target group?
Teens and company owners.

How are they going to earn money?
Ads and fees for promoting the posts.

After brainstorming and checking pockets, his friends turn on the green light and start the project.
Mark recommends Tom contact and consult a chosen software house regarding the next steps.

Get a Printable Product Canvas Template

Download for free

3. Ideate solutions: Event storming

Having spare capital, time, and effort to invest, this is the point you should confront your initial idea with the next steps of Product Discovery. One of the tools that can help you out with ideating a solution is Event Storming.

It is a flexible workshop format where everyone can participate, while a facilitator keeps the group focused and engaged.

The group is guided to progress toward a complete model of the business domain. For this purpose, we may only need a board and sticky notes or a Miro board (online collaborative platform).

Participants start with domain events, which means collecting anything that can happen in the application.

So, after brainstorming and finalizing the Personas and Product Canvas, Tom decides to confront his ideas with mobile app experts. He goes to a befriended software house to conduct a Product Discovery workshop. It’s time to engage domain experts, namely Developers, Designers, Business Analysts, and Testers, all of which will help Tom with reviewing the business idea behind Hustly.

The whole team uses sticky notes to write down all the possible scenarios from the user’s perspective that they could think of. From logging in and entering personal data, to adding reviews, subscribing, and receiving alerts, everything can be considered. The team walks through the model forwards and backwards to ensure that everything is covered.

At this phase, there are no stupid ideas, as all options should be considered. Participants add the commands, or triggers, that cause the events, and analyze users, external systems, and the order of events. The facilitator helps to identify bounded contexts and create a context map.

The technical and business domain experts are there to share experience and provide you with scenarios you might not have thought of. It’s time to explore the unlimited possibilities and define the bounded contexts that contribute to the features of your application.

4. Prototype and review ideas: User Journey Mapping

The model created in the Event Storming is a starting point for the next exercise to visualize the product. In order to prototype the app that is on your mind, Designers will use another tool: User Journey Mapping. This is one of the best tools to develop human-centric designs. User Journey Mapping visualizes how a user interacts with a product and allows you to see the product from their perspective. Ultimately, it leads to a better user experience.

Tom leaves the board with sticky notes and moves on to explore the application from the next angle. Designers pick markers and start drafting the first screens of Hustly.

With the support of the whole team, customer journey scenarios appear on the board. By filling up simple templates, the application slowly materializes. Tom can slowly see how his app could look and behave.

5. Narrow down the ideas: Wireframes

A more detailed approach and a common follow-up to User Journey Mapping, is creating wireframes.

The same screen can be built in a lot of different ways, but only a few of them will get your message across correctly and result in a positive user experience. Devising a good interface structure is possibly the most important part of designing software. Creating wireframes before any code is written and before the visual design is finalized will save you lots of time and painful adjustment work later.

This part is also a test for your pocket.

Usually, after workshops, Product Owners are provided with estimated costs of developing each feature. It might turn out to be impossible to implement all the features that you thought about due to your budget limitations.

After collecting positive feedback on Hustly, Tom decides to follow up with more detailed prototyping.

The chosen software development company offers 100 hours of their UX/UI Designers’ time to prepare wireframes. For around two months, Tom works closely with Designers to implement the best solutions for the functional and visual part of the application.

However, while 100 hours of a designer’s time is not enough to have the final designs, it is sufficient to end up with a prototype that could be presented to the target users. So Tom sends up a clickable prototype to all the teen and college relatives he has in order to collect feedback and adapt improvements on the spot.

His fellow users are enthusiastic about the idea of Hustly, so he ultimately decides to move on and reach out to the Software House he’s been working with so far.

6. Prioritize and plan: MVP

We are slowly reaching the final part of Product Discovery, where it is highly recommended to start the prioritization and planning of the first version.

One of the most essential concepts of building a successful mobile application is the crystallization of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).

It is a version of a product with just enough features to be usable by early users who can provide feedback for future upgrades of the application. The sky’s the limit in your roadmap but taking the first step on the market as soon as possible is crucial.

Tom decides that the first version of Hustly will hold only the basic features related to posting and responding to a job offer. Logging in will only be possible via email, using a very generic user profile. He also decides to reduce the audience to iOS users.

Teen customers will need to wait for social media integration and notifications in the next releases. The MVP will allow Tom to get to know the market better.

Read also: Guide for Product Owners: “Drive your Product to Success”

7. Test and collect feedback: Interviews

Having an MVP on the market is a great opportunity to test your target users, collect feedback and adapt your roadmap to their needs. At this point, another customer experience tool might come in handy: Empathy interviews. This is an approach to finding out as much as possible about a person’s experience as a “user”. We want to understand the choices that people make and why they make them.

Properly tailored interviews are a massive business tool and provide valuable insights to product development.

Hustly has been downloaded in the first week by around one thousand high school and college students. The First ratings and reviews have appeared on AppStore.

However, Tom asked his daughter to collect more detailed feedback on the user experience, which apparently became his daughter’s first hustle job.

Product Discovery process – wrap-up

The Product Discovery process and tools that I introduced you to in this article are just a suggestion. There are plenty of alternative approaches on the market. However, whichever method you choose, the key deliverables of Product Discovery should be:

  • a clear profile of your users, the problems they’re facing, and their expectations,
  • and a clear idea of how your product will overcome those challenges.

The more information and feedback you have, the better for you. If you understand it and use it to your benefit, the chances of success for your product are higher.

I hope that, after reading this guide, you know WHY it’s important to run a Product Discovery, WHEN it should happen and HOW you ought to implement it.

Side note: Hustly is a made-up story, but I hope there are many Toms out there willing to discover some successful apps.

References: infoq.com, railsware.com, uxplanet.org, herbig.co.

Katarzyna Owcarz

Scrum Master

Katarzyna Owcarz is a certified Scrum Master (PSM I), with 5 years of experience. Previously, she was a Product Manager using the Waterfall framework, but then she met Agile and fell in love. Totally. In her job, Kasia most enjoys supporting the team in delivering value. One of her superpowers is the ability to shorten the distance between people, so they feel as one team (both a development team and a PO). A great fan of Sprint Retrospectives and Liberating structures. Squash player and a passionate traveler.