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What is Product Discovery in Mobile App Development?

What is Product Discovery? What role does Product Discovery play in mobile app development? How does Product Discovery process look like? Why do I have to do it?

These are some common questions we hear from our clients. Read this article, to learn the answers.

Product discovery in mobile app development – introduction for app owners

Have you ever wondered why some products turn out to be successful whereas others got swept from the market? Apart from good luck, there is a certain number of techniques that help businesses to design tailor-made products.

One of them is Product Discovery, which enables teams to target users and decide on the features that are crucial to implement, all in order to launch an attractive product. If you are a Business or Product Owner, this article might come in handy for getting more familiar with Product Discovery.

What is Product Discovery in mobile app development?

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 you are aware of the end-users’ needs, but your dedicated team is able to deliver your ideas.

How about starting development without testing waters?

Product Discovery is an optional process but would it make sense to start costly development without thorough research?

In the Theory of Quality Management, we have the “1:10:100 rule”, which states that prevention is cheaper than correction, and correction is cheaper than failure.

It makes more sense to spend $1 at the beginning of the project rather than investing $10 correcting mistakes during development, and not to mention $100 after launching the app. Prevention makes more sense than correction. Product Discovery costs you nothing compared to releasing a useless application.

In short, Product Discovery is the phase where we are focused on building the right thing, as opposed to building the thing right.

Product Discovery - introduction and definition

How does the Product Discovery process look like?

There are plenty of different approaches to Product Discovery and each and every session should be tailored to the business needs you have. Whether you need a 2-hour meeting, 3-day workshop, or 2-month phase to crystallize your Business Strategy, here are the following areas you should focus on:

  • Establishing a strategy. What is your goal? What outcome do you want to achieve?
  • Targeting potential users and their problem. Who is the user? What kind of problems do they have? How can we help them?
  • Ideating solutions. How can you solve the problem? What will be the outcome of such a solution? What is the best solution?
  • Prototyping. What is my user’s experience? Do I like the solution?
  • Reviewing ideas. Are your ideas good enough? What do my users think about them? Can I really solve their problems?
  • Narrowing down the solutions. Which ideas are we going to implement?
  • Prioritization. What are the features to be implemented first?
  • Planning. What is the scope of our MVP (Minimum Viable Product)?

1. Define your goal, target, user, and their problem

The major part of Product Discovery should be focused on trying to understand the problem space. It is important to take your time to clarify the problem you’re trying to solve. It might be tempting to jump straight into an ideation session and discuss specific ideas, however, try to step back and thoroughly define your goal, target user, and their potential problem first.

2. Ideation

Once you’re clear with a problem area, the next stage is ideation, where the team is brainstorming. You go for quantity, not quality, here. Participants can build ideas on the ideas of others. For example, if your user is a patient and you want to remind them about taking medicine – how can you do it? Notifications, text messages, calendar reminders, pop-ups, buzzing alerts? It’s not the time for judging and evaluating – rather releasing creativity and going with the flow.

3. Analyze & select solutions

Next, we analyze solutions and select the best ones by answering the questions: can it solve the problem? Is it feasible? Are we able to build it? So, as in our example above, we agreed that our user is an elderly patient and is not familiar with using an online calendar – maybe a better idea would be to use push notifications from their prescriptions?

3. Prioritize the features and plan the scope of your MVP

Finally, after crystallizing the best solution, it’s time to prioritize the features and plan the scope of the Minimum Viable Product.

Product Discovery process step by step

How does Product Discovery relate to Product Strategy?

Having a great idea will not guarantee anybody success, but it is a fantastic step to start the journey with. Product success starts with making the right strategic decisions. One of them is a time-boxed session of Product Discovery.

If you are thinking about creating a brand-new mobile application or you want to upgrade your current one, you will benefit from devising a new Product Strategy during a dedicated Product Discovery phase.

After validating crucial user experience and architecture risks, you should get an answer to the question of whether your product has market potential. If yes, your Product Discovery should end up with answering the following questions:

  • Solution: What is the key problem your product is solving?
  • Alternatives: Are there currently any alternatives your users can take to solve that problem?
  • Value: What are the core value propositions of your product?
  • Uniqueness: What makes your product unique compared to direct and indirect competitors?

Once your vision is supported by business goals, market research and a value proposition, you can proceed with:

  • Product Roadmap: How and when will you implement the strategy over a specific period of time? Do you have any defined milestones or release dates?
  • Product Backlog: What needs to be done to achieve your business goals? Are there any blockers? Do you know what the priorities are?

Product Discovery Process infographic

Does every mobile app need a Product Discovery phase?

Not really, but why would you skip that part if you already learned the lesson of the “1:10:100 rule”? If you are in a rush for jumping into the development phase, obviously, you might be the lucky one who is the first to successfully fill in the gap.

However, would you leave your application’s success down to such luck, bearing in mind that trusting your own guts might cost you a fortune? It might be disappointing once you find out, during or after development, that your product features are obsolete and require an upgrade or Flutter does not correspond well with the app design or your competitors were faster to deliver more attractive products.

As a Business or Product Owner with a record of successful decisions, you might despise the idea of collaborating with the cross-functional team to devise the ideal Product Strategy. Apparently, encountering perspectives from different angles – business, technical, social, economic, etc – might enrich your vision and be the first testing ground; one that’s much more lenient than the market conditions and the target users’ feedback.

Answering the question of whether it is always beneficial for you to conduct Product Discovery – definitely, it is worth it. Is it always a necessity? Once you know your product and have a reliable Product Vision and Strategy, you might carry on with development and Product Backlog management.

When is the best time in the development process to run Product Discovery?

The right answer should be: ALWAYS.

Obviously, the first thought is that the right time to tailor the product is the first stage of the project. However, it’s recommended that you don’t restrict Product Discovery to just your first days with the Product Vision process.

On the way through delivering the product, you will be constantly confronted with various challenges to satisfy your users. As you probably have the most customer-centric approach, you are about to respond to feedback at all times. Obviously, it does not mean that you need to repeat a Product Discovery session every Sprint but, rather t, it suggests the idea behind this approach.

Nowadays, products are exposed to never-ending evaluation.

Product Discovery, apart from being a great part prior to development, might also be included in the Product Delivery. By playing the role of the “inspect and adapt” tool, it can be a part of a process in which you revalidate the building up of a new feature.

Who should participate in Product Discovery?

There is always the temptation to keep the development team busy with their code and not to bother them with boring value propositions or business goals.

Fortunately, nowadays we encounter a cross-functional approach more and more often, wherein all team members are included in the process of creating a product. Why not benefit from these various perspectives?

If you are thinking of building a new application, it would be very efficient if you include representatives of the following competencies in the Product Discovery phase:

  • Technical: Developers from specific platforms (e.g. iOS, Android, Backend, QA)
  • Business: Business Analyst, Business Developer
  • Design: UX and/or UI Designers
  • Process: Delivery Manager, Scrum Master/ Agile Coach, Process Manager, Product Owner
  • Stakeholders: Product Manager, Investor, Delivery Manager
  • Target users

Thanks to involving such a wide range of competences, you get an all-round perspective and instant feedback on the ideas you want to implement.

Who should participate in the Product Discover of a mobile app?

Moreover, team members can gain product accountability as, instead of being contractors, they become creators. The whole team owns the process and feels empowered, as well as accountable, for the results. Last but not least, empathy triggered in the Product Discovery phase helps to understand the user and increases the probability of meeting their needs.

Proven Product Discovery techniques

There are plenty of different approaches to Product Discovery and, thus, a lot of techniques.

Design Thinking might seem to be a recent hype, as it has merged all the best practices from human-centered designs. By following this technique, teams have a chance to generate ideas in five steps:

  1. Empathize: Research your users’ needs
  2. Define: State your users’ needs and problems
  3. Ideate: Challenge assumptions and create ideas
  4. Prototype: Start to create solutions
  5. Test: Try your solutions out

However, you might also find some other techniques useful – experiment and combine them in the way that works best for your business:

Don’t be afraid to mix and experiment with different tools so that you can tailor your product in the most efficient way possible.

Wrap-up. Don’t give up on discovering!

There are a number of ways you can take to find out if your idea for a mobile app brings business value. Always try to confront your potential product with the market, social, economic, and technical risks prior to development. It is always cheaper to prevent mistakes, rather than spend a fortune on rolling back a useless app.

Product Discovery is the phase of the project which gives you an opportunity to understand your users and tailor the product to satisfy their needs. This phase is not restricted to the initial part of the project, so don’t give up on discovering!

What is Product Discovery in mobile app development?

References: herbig.co, blog.crisp.se, porzadnyagile.pl, producttalk.org, medium.com/lean-startup-circle, designkit.org

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