Product design failures are one of the most common problems faced by companies today. These companies continuously develop and release products and services that are badly misaligned with the actual demands of the market. Effective product design requires a careful, measured approach to ensure that you’re moving in the right direction. The industry recognizes many ways to verify that your design is aligned with customer needs, and you should implement at least a few in your production processes as tightly as possible.
1. Measure and analyze market data
It’s important to know where you stand in the current market, so make sure that you have good systems in place to measure the current trends and collect all that data in an organized way for your needs. You’ll want to make sure that you’re working with fresh data as often as possible too, so there should be some systems in place to verify the validity of everything you’ve collected, and to prune the data sets from older entries that may not be relevant anymore.
2. Communicate with your customers
This may sound like the most obvious one, but it’s a factor that surprisingly many companies are missing in their work. You have to make sure that there is a good channel for communication between you and your customers, and that you actually take what they say into account. It’s wasteful to not have any way for your customers to get in touch with you, but it’s just as wasteful to have such a system and discard everything that gets submitted to it too! And as odd as it sounds, this is exactly what happens in some organizations, and is a major contributing factor to their failure to meet customer demands.
3. Use the product internally
This is a great way to gauge exactly how well it works and to figure out where its shortcomings might be. This is informally referred to as “dogfooding,” and it’s tightly integrated into the work of some organizations. It can provide you with some great insights into what you’re doing right and wrong, while also giving you a good opportunity to see things from the customer’s perspective. Just make sure that you have good systems in place for capturing the impressions your workers have of your own product.
4. Look at the competition
Another one that might sound like it’s too obvious, but many companies choose to bury their heads in the sand and never look at what their competitors are doing, be it right or wrong. This isolated style of development can lead to many problems, and your inability to meet market demands will actually be the least of your concerns. You might eventually find yourself in a completely outdated market, in a situation where all of your competitors have moved on and your line of work is not even relevant. And this can be easily avoided by just taking a more careful look at what they are doing, and what the general trends around them are. Of course, you shouldn’t outright copy the work of your competitors, but if everyone is dong a certain thing that you are not, then it makes perfect sense to follow the trend.
5. Conduct experiments
Sometimes you’ll have to get a little creative to gauge the current situation correctly. If you’re not sure what to do as the next step in the evolution of your product, you should try being a bit more experimental. Make some spontaneous changes that are not driven by strong findings but are based on a hunch. Of course, don’t push this too far and don’t make it a risky venture that could destroy your performance on the market! It’s okay to make a few experiments here and there, but you should do it in a controlled manner that leaves you with a good margin of safety in case things go wrong. And of course, you should try to communicate these experiments to your customers as best as you can. You don’t want to end up losing loyal customers because they got the wrong impression from a recent change to your product line.