Building digital products: What I’ve learnt so far
At the end of last year I wrote a post about how my main goal for the year was to work on developing and releasing digital products. This article is the first review of my progress towards that goal.
Always reduce scope
I started with an idea and began thinking about the initial feature set for the MVP. A lesson learnt the hard way, everything but the most essential features should be considered tasks for later iterations. This has been my biggest mistake so far, I thought about multiple features that would be required by the end user and built ‘aspects’ of the features that were mutually required. The idea being that this would serve as a base that features could be built from. For example, users of my app can invite other users into a shared ‘space’. The problem, however, users can’t (currently) do anything in the shared space 🤦🏼♂️ If I was to start over I would focus on building just one feature that gives the user value and launch with that.
The real life impact of this error is that the product launch is delayed longer than it has to be. No launch means no customers and no feedback. I’m still in a position where I don’t actually know if what I’m building will serve the people I’m creating it for.
Learning and personal development
Over the last few months my skill as a web developer has increased substantially. My day to day work has benefited from the app development as I’m able to complete the same tasks faster. I’m putting this down to an improvement in my problem solving skills, I’m working on complex problems and constantly pushing myself outside of my comfort zone.
I’m also starting to think a lot more about how to build relationships with potential customers. The app I’m building is B2B so I’ve been spending a lot of time on LinkedIn researching potential customers. To my surprise I’ve actually started reaching out to these potential customers, sending messages to the people I’ve connected with. I would never usually message someone out of the blue, in fact I’m not the type of person to message full stop but I’m determined to succeed in building a product that people love and that means finding out what people want.
Understanding how to ask for feedback
When I first started ‘cold messaging’ people I was doing it completely wrong. I was being too direct “Hey, we’ve never spoken before have you got any pain points?” I quickly realised this is not a good type of message to send someone who you’ve never spoken to. This forced me to start thinking about the aspects of what I’m building and how it is relevant to the people I’m messaging. My messages turned into “I’m researching X problem area with the intention of making people’s lives less stressful, is this something you’d consider having a chat about?’ So far this approach has worked far better and I’m in the process of arranging my first meeting, hopefully it’ll go well!
You need to guard your time furiously
I lead an extremely full life, I have 2 children, I’m training for iron man and constantly working on my side project on top of my full time job. I learnt very quickly that there’s only so much one person can achieve in a given day. The pursuit of my goals has meant that I have very little time for simple things in life like watching TV. It may seem like Iron Man and building a business are two things that shouldn’t be done in tandem and yes that probably is true. However I would argue that my training is forcing me to look after my body which in turn is helping my mind complete the work that it needs to do. It’s just a shame that there’s not another five hours in each day!!
Lastly, I’m thankful
None of what I’m working on this year could be accomplished without the love and support of my wife. At the end of last year we sat down and discussed my plans and she agreed to support me in anyway she could. I wouldn’t have gotten as far as I have if it wasn’t for her. And for that I’m extremely thankful.
The next time I write a review of my progress I hope to be sharing a link to my MVP but I’m realising more and more that patience and consistency is the key. So even if I don’t haven’t launched within the next three months it’s not the end of the world because eventually ‘brick by brick’ I’ll get there.