Build a Winning Product: 6 Stages of the Product Development Process

Ankit Vora
January 3, 2024
min read
January 2, 2024
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Create a winning product with these six stages of the product development process. Learn best practices for launching your product and streamlining the development process.
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More than 30,000 products are launched every year, of which a staggering 95 percent fail.

In some cases, it’s a poor market fit. Sometimes, it’s due to misaligned pricing and value. Some other reasons include poor design and quality, lack of functionalities, pursuing the wrong market, etc.

Just think about it — would you invest your money in a product that has a bad user interface, lacks functionality, or has a reputation for breaking down?

Most likely not.

We’re not saying that you’ll not make mistakes. It’s totally fine to make them. That’s how you and your team will learn. But, by implementing a product development process, you can avoid blunders that may cause your product to fail. 

In this post, we’ll guide you through best practices for the six stages of a product development process.

TL;DR: The product development process

  • Implementing a product development process can help avoid common mistakes that lead to failure.
  • The six stages of a product development process are ideation, idea screening, concept development, market research and validation, product design, and product development and launch.
  • The process involves exploring ideas, screening them, developing concepts, conducting market research, designing the product, and finally launching it.
  • Scribe can streamline the product development process by automating your process documentation and user manuals.

What is the product development process?

The product development process refers to the process of building a new product from ideation to concept development to design, development, launch, and beyond.

This involves exploring new ideas for your product, screening them, turning the shortlisted ideas into viable product concepts, conducting market research and validation, followed by designing, developing, and launching the product. 

The 6 stages of a product development process

No two companies have the exact same product development process, as it can vary based on a lot of factors. This guide provides a general framework that you can take as a reference to build your own product development process:

  1. Ideation
  2. Idea screening 
  3. Concept development 
  4. Market research and validation 
  5. Product design 
  6. Product development and launch 

Let’s touch down on each of these stages one by one.

1. Ideation

To build a winning final product, you need to have a winning idea. But with so many digital products out there, it’s highly likely that the first idea that comes to your mind has already been implemented. Or maybe it’s not what people are looking for.

That’s why you must explore a wide range of ideas in the idea generation stage.

To come up with some promising ideas, follow these steps:

1. Prepare a list of industries to target

If you ignore this step, you’ll likely explore random ideas without any specific direction. By preparing a list of industries to target, you can focus your ideation efforts and generate relevant ideas. 

While preparing your list, make sure you’re considering their market size and growth potential, competitive landscape, regulatory and legal requirements, and various other factors. 

Targeting an industry with high growth potential doesn't make sense if it’s highly competitive and you’re planning to bootstrap. Also, choosing an industry that aligns with your experience, skills, and interests is highly recommended. 

Don’t prepare a long list; focus on 2-3 promising industries. 

2. Look for customer problems

The next step is to identify problems people in those industries are facing at that moment. 

There are many ways to do this like:

  • Interviewing experts in those industries (you can do this over a call or using a simple Google Form).
  • Following them to see what challenges they face the most (if many of them face the same challenge, it’s likely something to focus on).
  • Staying updated on the latest news.
  • Keeping an eye on the hottest conversations on Reddit or Quora.
  • Joining industry-specific Slack or Discord communities.
  • Talking with experts in those industries at meetups or events. 

If you’ve been a part of an industry for a long time, you may likely have identified the challenges people face the most. You might have faced many of them yourself. Add these challenges to the list of problems you’d like to solve — based on which you can develop ideas for a product.

Tip: Rather than flooding your list with hundreds of ideas (which will be too hard to manage), only focus on a limited number of ideas you feel have been left unaddressed and have a good market fit. 

2. Idea screening 

By now, you may already have a few ideas on the table. But you can’t possibly turn every single one into a product concept unless you have a large team and a world full of resources at your disposal.

In this step, you must screen every idea in your list (no matter what industry it belongs to) to see if it makes sense to focus on it. While doing so, make sure you have all the relevant stakeholders sharing their inputs. This will help ensure that you’re considering multiple perspectives and everyone’s being heard. While evaluating ideas, see if:

  • There’s a market demand for it.
  • Many people have reported the same problem(s) your idea has been built around. 
  • Implementing this idea aligns with your business goals and vision (if you’re an already-established company).  
  • You have the resources and budget to pursue it without running out of cash, especially if you plan to bootstrap.
  • If there are any risks with implementing the idea, including but not limited to financial, operational, legal, regulatory, and market risks.
  • The idea has been implemented before. You don’t necessarily need to ditch an idea if it has already been implemented. But you need to evaluate if you can offer a unique or improved solution compared to existing competitors.
  • If there are any existing patents — you may need to consult with your lawyer before implementing an idea. 

Note: we’re not asking you to filter your list down to just one grand idea. If you can do that, that’s great, but if not, aim to shortlist a handful of viable ideas. And once you’re done, it’s time to move to Stage III.

3. Concept development

Having an idea is not enough. 

The next step is to turn the shortlisted product idea(s) into product concepts. But before you do that, make sure you have narrowed down your list to not more than three ideas — as building a product concept is a time-consuming task. 

A product concept, also known as a concept statement, is a description or vision of a product during its early stage. 

For example, if your idea is to help content marketers solve their content distribution problem, you need to first think of things like:

  • How can I bring this product idea to life?
  • What will my final product look like?
  • What is the business case for the product?
  • Who are my target customers? 
  • What challenges is the product helping them solve?
  • What features should I focus on? If we build an MVP, what should the core features be?
  • What integration options should be offered?

And based on answers to these questions (and others), you can build your product concept. 

This stage is all about imagining your product before its implementation. 

In this case, your product concept can be something like: 

"An AI-driven, comprehensive content distribution platform that streamlines sharing and tracking content across various digital channels. Equipped with a user-friendly interface, this platform will utilize machine learning algorithms to optimize content distribution based on a user's specific audience behavior patterns. It will offer extensive integration options with popular content management systems, allowing marketers to manage content distribution from a central hub. This platform aims to alleviate content marketers' common challenges in distributing and tracking content, making the process more efficient, effective and data-driven."

Be as specific as you can with your product concept. You can also mention the specific features or integration options you want to implement. Building a minimum viable product (MVP) in the initial stages is highly recommended.

What’s an MVP? It’s a version of your product that includes the core features and functionalities needed to provide value to your customers. Building an MVP helps:

  • Save time and resources.
  • Mitigate risks associated with product development.
  • Enter the target market sooner.
  • Test the market demand, identify potential challenges, and make informed decisions about further investment.
  • Attract investors and stakeholders. 

If you don’t run an already-established business, you won’t necessarily need any executive buy-ins, but having a product concept can guide you and your team in the right direction. A well-articulated concept can also help you attract potential stakeholders and investors.

On the other hand, if you are part of an already-established business planning to add a new product to your lineup, having a well-defined product concept is even more critical. You need to make sure:

  • It aligns with your business mission, vision, and goals. 
  • It complements your existing product range, serving your customers in new and better ways.
  • It can integrate smoothly with your current operations, distribution channels, and marketing strategy.
  • And more!

This will eventually help you get executive support and buy-in.

After building the product concept, the next step is market research and validation. But before we dive into it, we’d like to highlight that the product development process is iterative. You need to make sure that your product concept is flexible enough to accommodate changes based on feedback from market research and validation.

4. Market research and validation 

Once you’ve built the product concept, you need to conduct market research to see if it’s the right market fit and later validate that your product is something the target market will actually pay for. We’ll be repeating some of the steps from the idea screening section, but now with a strong focus on the product concept. 

During the market research phase, it’s advisable to:

  • Conduct competitors’ research to see who your potential competitors are. You need a unique value proposition, so ensure your product concept highlights it. 
  • Learn what the market demand for such a product is.
  • Identify whether there are any risks with implementing the idea, including but not limited to financial, operational, legal, regulatory, and target market risks.
  • Identify any gaps and opportunities.

Also, now that you have a product concept, you probably better understand your target audience. You need to see if it’s something that they resonate with and would be interested in purchasing. To do that, you can reach out to your potential customers across different channels like Reddit, Quora, Slack or Discord communities, LinkedIn, or social media platforms they hang out on.

You can also interview them to hear their thoughts. To get more interviews, you can maybe incentivize them. But while doing so, make sure you’re talking with the right people. Also, the point of these interviews isn’t just validation. You can also ask questions like:

  • What core features would you like us to implement?
  • What price would you be willing to pay for a product like ours?
  • Would you prefer a one-time fee, subscription-based pricing, or a freemium model?
  • Would you be interested in beta testing our product when it’s ready?

You can analyze these responses to fine-tune your product concept. However, ensure you’re gathering inputs from multiple customers before changing your product concept. If you have more than one product concept, you can use this step to validate each one of them and decide which one to proceed with.

Also, make sure you are:

  • Estimating the costs involved in developing and launching your product. This includes costs of the tech stack, number of team members, number of API integrations, third-party services, or any other expenses related to the development and launch processes. After all, you don’t want to run out of money.
  • Building a talented development team.
  • Prioritizing your Go-To-Market (GTM) strategy.

5. Product design

Now, it’s time to move to the initial design for your product. The first step should be collaborating with UI/UX designers to create your product's visual and interactive design. 

Provide your UI/UX designers with your product concept and Product Requirements document (PRD) to help them understand what you’re trying to achieve and looking for. Also, share user research and insights to help them gain insights into your target customers, their needs and problems, how they interact with similar products, and any specific design considerations. 

If you’re working with multiple designers (freelancers or agencies), use a collaborative space to share and discuss design assets, provide feedback, and maintain effective communication. 

Once you have provided everything, give them the green signal to get started on:

  • Wireframes: Basic visual representations of the layout and structure of the product.
  • High-fidelity mockups: Showcase the look and feel of your product.
  • Interactive prototypes: Experience the flow and functionality of your product. 

Throughout the design process, you or the right people in your team need to maintain constant communication with the designers. It doesn’t matter how many feedback loops it takes, but ensure you’re providing your designers with the necessary feedback and suggestions to improve the design.

Once the design has been implemented, it’s time to move to the product development process.

6. Product development and launch

Time for the development team to work their magic. 

Different companies have different product management/development approaches. Some prefer the traditional waterfall model, whereas most startups and mid-sized companies prefer the agile philosophy. 

We highly recommend adopting the agile philosophy as it:

  • Allows for flexibility in response to the changing requirements.
  • Promotes a culture of continuous improvement.
  • Helps build and ship faster.
  • Prioritizes customer collaboration and feedback. 

But at the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide (if you’re building a new product) which approach works best for you. If you’re part of an already-established business, you likely already have a set process you need to follow. 

Apart from this, some other things to take care of:

  • Identifying technologies, tools, and platforms to use during the development process.
  • Considering technical limitations or compatibility requirements.
  • Concept testing.
  • Developing a product roadmap that outlines the key milestones and initiatives for developing and launching a product. The product roadmap shows the "how" and "when" of bringing the product concept to life.
  • Setting timelines. 
  • Determining the roles and responsibilities of different team members.
  • Deciding on the testing methodologies, test documentation, tools and criteria.

You can also use alpha or beta user testing on your product, depending on what approach you’d like to take. It’s also a great idea to build in public — it helps attract investors and key hires and build hype around your product launch. But after your product launch has been rolled out to your target audience, you need to:

  • Gather user feedback. You can use various channels like surveys, interviews, and feedback forms. This will also help you get product improvement suggestions and understand which features your customers want to see, ultimately allowing you to build a stickier product.
  • Analyze usage data with tools like Hotjar.
  • Monitor server logs, performance and success metrics, and error reports to ensure your product performs well.
  • Work toward your product vision.
  • Focus on marketing, sales, and customer support to acquire new users and retain already existing ones. 

Streamline your product development process with Scribe

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‎Product development is hard. 

Don’t make it harder by not building SOPs, user manuals, and how-to guides

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Use Scribe

‎With Scribe Pages, you can combine multiple guides and enhance your documentation with multimedia like videos, images, GIFs, hyperlinks, and more.

And the best part is — you don’t need to start from scratch. You can use one of Scribe’s readily available product documentation templates to get started right away.  

In this video, Scribe user Jack Herrington shows how Scribe makes developer documentation easy.

With Scribe, you can streamline the product development process by automating your documentation, product training, product walkthroughs and more. Ready to get started? Try Scribe out for yourself today!

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