What to Consider During the Product Discovery Phase

Adam Korman
March 7, 2022

Product discovery is a process that, at its core, helps us to understand what customers are looking for, identify gaps in the current market, and how to realize the unique value proposition that will make for a great product. Because the development process of an app or any kind of software is expensive, it’s essential to perform adequate research to validate ideas before ever sending them off to developers for implementation.

This is what you do during the product discovery phase, which can include everything from competitive analysis to targeted surveying to qualitative research with users. During this phase, you might have a Product Manager speak directly with customers to gather quantitative data or a User Experience Researcher perform ethnographic-style research with users.

If you’re working with a software partner during the product discovery phase, you’ll likely have someone to support and guide you through the process. However, it still helps to understand what to look for and what to consider.

Separate by Problem and Solution

The goal of the product discovery phase of product development is to mitigate risk. Primarily, you’re working to understand your target audience and the market to ensure you’re building the right product for the right users.

Understanding how your potential customers think, behave, and what their goals are, helps you mitigate value risks, usability risks, and overall business viability risks. We suggest asking yourself: What is the core underlying user need, and how can I best address that?

To effectively undergo this process, we suggest separating the process into the problem space and the solution space. You’re starting off with a problem, which is whether or not your product is viable. Work to uncover users’ needs by examining their goals and articulating their mental model.

Then, you can move onto the solution space. This is where you’ll be able to formulate solutions to the issues posed during the research and problem phase; turn those solutions into ideas, high-level customer journeys, and prototypes – then test and repeat. Notice that we said “repeat.” This is because you’ll need to learn that the problem space of product discovery is essentially never-ending. You’re going to want to continually be identifying user problems to evolve your product further as you grow.

Understand and Empathize with Your Audience

You won’t get very far in the product discovery phase if you don’t know your audience well. Gaining a deep understanding of users requires interpreting their actions, behaviors, and motivations, not just asking for their opinions.

Here, it’s vital to avoid projecting your own experience onto your users or assuming you have a good understanding of people who aren’t like yourself. It’s better to assume that you know nothing about them, their needs, or their behavior and go into the process with an open mind. Let their feedback guide you, and (at least for a while) ignore everybody who doesn’t match your target customer base.

Try to empathize with their challenges as they relate to the market you’re trying to enter. If you’re building a credit monitoring app, for example, you’ll need to figure out what unmet goals they’re trying to accomplish with similar, existing apps (or other offline tools). Understand and empathize with their pain points, turn around, and make a product that addresses them.

The way to synthesize what you learn about your users is to craft personas who represent the people you’re trying to serve with your product. They become a shared reference point for the team so that you can collectively rally around who it is you’re building your product for.

Think About “Will” Instead of “Can”

At the outset of the product discovery phase of development, it’s easy to get stuck asking everything your users can or might do. Instead, you should focus on what they definitely will do.

Where many products struggle is by presenting the implementation model – what works on the back-end – as the interface for your users. What makes for efficient code usually doesn’t match the user’s mental model and expectations. Your goal should be to both keep concerns about what’s most efficient for the code separate from what’s most appropriate for the user, then find a way to bridge the gap, so you can deliver a great user experience.

The idea of creating an MVP product has become a great rallying cry, but many people become so focused on the minimum part of the equation, they lose sight of what it means to make a viable product. Viability isn’t just about being technically feasible, but about being useful, usable, and desirable. Instead of asking whether or not users can interact with your product (ticking the box of usability), you need to think broader; answer the question of whether or not they will interact with your product based on what you know to be true about your personas and their needs.

Surfacing and testing assumptions are crucial here, and that goes back to the idea of working with the right software partner. The right partner will work with you to scale up and down on production as new insight becomes available and useful.

Whether you’re testing a mockup or an MVP, you should be able to engage in the right kind of testing to help you develop the right product for the right audience.

Working with the Right Development Team

There’s a reason why so many startups and lean teams seek help with the product discovery phase of development. While you might have a good idea of who you’re trying to target, competitive research, user research, and learning how to implement and test the right kinds of ideas are all factors that ensure the process is far less straightforward than it sounds.

Working with the right development team can help you through this process. At Uptech Studio, not only do we have numerous talented individuals, but we each specialize in something a little different. Our partners don’t just get devs for hire, they get comprehensive help with Product Strategy, UX Strategy, Visual Design, and System Architecture. This means that as you move through the product discovery process, you’ll not only have someone to guide you through it all, you’ll also be able to rest assured knowing an expert is tackling that one specific task you need to complete before moving on to the next stage of growth.

Interested in seeing what we’re all about? Contact us today to start a conversation. We’d love to hear from you.

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