How to Build a Great Product

Jan 29, 2022

9 Min Read

Those who believe that sales are the key to a successful company should know that most startups fail, whether small-scale or large-scale. It happens when they don’t ship outstanding products in their target industries. So how do you create great products?

Building a great product starts with a brilliant idea followed by solid execution. Unfortunately, no good model for analyzing a product and its features makes it more challenging to categorize them. Some people are blessed with good intuitions, while others are not.

The good news is that a lot of data on user statistics can provide some guidance on what makes a good product. It forms a never-ending feedback chain if you have access to user data. In this article, we’ll cover a model that utilizes analytics and predictive analysis to develop a great product.

Categorizing The Features: The Three-bucket Framework

Features categorization is the most significant aspect of product management. For example, the three-bucket model incorporates game-changers, showstoppers, and distractions. 

Imagine you are introducing a new mobile phone. Basic features need to include voice calling; otherwise, no one will purchase it. However, just having a call function wouldn’t move customers to buy your phone because all other phones have the same feature. So, voice calls fall under the showstopper category for your mobile phone product. No one will buy your product without this feature, therefore the showstopper bucket.

Conversely, assume your phone is packed with enticing features, such as video projecting onto a surface, iris recognition, smell detection, etc. If only your phone came with these advancements in the market, such features could be game-changers, attracting hordes of consumers. Or, it is also possible that most people won’t care about these features and consider them extra, in which case it’s just a distraction.

With this example, you can utilize the three-bucket framework to categorize any given feature in a product:

  • A game-changer: A feature that makes consumers purchase your product
  • A showstopper: Consumers won’t buy your product if this feature is missing. However, introducing it won’t possibly increase the product’s demand.
  • A distraction. The addition of this feature will not cause people to purchase your product.

Factually speaking, successful products should offer two to three game-changing features, multiple features that offset the show stoppers, and one or two features that could fall under the distraction category. You should effectively build an instinct about your working niche to categorize these features into relevant buckets. Though that’s still a question of whether the iris recognition is a game-changer or distraction, at least you get an idea of where to focus using this model.

Time and Resource Allocation

The three-bucket model helps allocate time and other resources on features that matter. Of course, if you have no time constraints, you could pass over these categories and repeat the product development process until your product meets the market’s requirements. But the clock is ticking. The more time you consume in introducing a great product, the more likely you are to become short of funds, lose confidence, or most likely miss the greater opportunities in the ever-changing market.

Putting in any effort other than the absolute minimum required in distractions and showstoppers is a resource wastage in both cases. For example, the first iPhone lacked the copy-pasting feature, which might have been a showstopper. However, Apple ensured that enough consumers would still stick to this product and quickened the process.

Initially, the iPhone had relatively poor voice quality; however, many users considered it good enough to serve the purpose. As it fulfilled the basic call needs, many people were willing to compromise and continued using this product. However, if the voice quality were further improved by 10%, it would have positively impacted the adoption.

Game-changing features help tip the scales in your favor, but shipping them is complicated. If you are offering over three game-changing features, you are wasting resources. Even game-changers should not be over three in a single product. 

Last but not least, not showing much creativity when working on a game-changing feature wastes resources too. If your game-changing feature doesn’t sweep consumers off their feet, then it is not much of a game-changer — it is a mere distraction.

At product launches, most product managers fail to meet these criteria. Product managers repeatedly disobey these rules, probably because they are not mindful of them. You can learn by making a few mistakes but, the fewer mistakes you make relative to your competition, the better the chances are to succeed. Every mistake can cost you in the long run. If you keep on making mistakes, odds are stacked against you.

Mastery

What makes product development even trickier is learning how to differentiate between these three categories, followed by determining when a given category is full. For example, is the built-in iris recognition a game-changer or a distraction? If this feature is a game-changer, is it sufficient to increase demand in the market? Or, is there a need to introduce another game-changing feature? Suppose you developed a technology for improving the voice quality by 50%. Will it be regarded as a game-changer? Or, does it still fall under the showstopper category? What if you increase the quality by 200%? How many showstoppers are needed to send out an attractive product?

Intuition can be best developed by communicating with many people. Talk to potential users and find out their thoughts. Talk to those who tried to create a product similar to yours but failed. Learn what you can from their unsuccessful attempts. Talk to your competitors and businesses in adjacent spaces to understand their pain points. Talk to engineers working in leading organizations and learn about the current state of technology. Talk to investors, journalists, professors, students, even the naysayers. The best approach would be to ingrain yourself in the market and connect with as many people as possible.

Consumers, Stakeholders, And Industry Experts

Learning about the history of the niche, the state of the technology, feedback of potential users, and the direction for your market competition sooner is crucial to building the concept of the space and a distinct product vision before long. Still, you should be cautious as you may receive advice from inexperienced people.

Let’s take an example of designing a walkie talkie which comes in handy for construction workers. The way to sell it to those construction workers is via managers from top-down order. Vivid color schemes and eye-catching icons might appeal to construction workers. In this case, your feature is a game-changer. But ultimately, it’s the decision of the manager who will be paying for it. For the construction manager, a luxurious design doesn’t help make more money than the previous product with a typical color scheme and features. In this scenario, your feature isn’t a game-changer.

For complex business sales, it is essential to concentrate on all tiers and parties and work for the satisfaction of all project stakeholders. Do the construction workers’ interests strongly impact the manager’s ultimate decision? If so, working on a unique design might be of use. Otherwise, you might be wasting your time.

The same goes for consumer products. For example, if you build a luxury product and price it more than similar products in the market, do your targeted customers have to convince their family members before purchasing? Do most people make decisions with cooperation or splurge on luxury items independently? If they have to make mutually agreed decisions, can you offer a feature to increase your sales? Find out!

Learn to differentiate between those who will be your potential customers and people who are only commenting on your products. Everyone expresses their opinion, and initially, it can be interesting to build a product around the feedback from experts. But the feature is only a game-changer if people recognize it as one. Otherwise, it is merely a distraction. While industry gurus can play a significant role in understanding the market, they are hardly the buyers of your product. If your product design is based on their opinions, you’ll see nobody buying it eventually.

This outcome is you won’t be able to produce an excellent product unless your product meets your users’ interests and needs. So learn about your users: who they are, their problems, how they perceive your product, and who influences their buying decisions. Feature categorization is only helpful if it predicts your actual users’ responses. Otherwise, you are just wasting time and resources.

Final Game-changers

When combined, certain features aren’t appealing enough separately but can strike as game-changers. For instance, a distinct set of classy icons added to your phone will not be a game-changer on its own. Similarly, providing an individualized color scheme or a group of eye-catching phone cases will not be game-changers either. But, when all these features are put together, a unique design direction will probably sound like a whole package. 

However, these aggregated game-changers can add risks in three different ways. First and foremost, telling what combination of individual features do and do not work as a game-changer becomes harder. Next, working on aggregate game-changers costs more. Lastly, it is comparatively easier to convince yourself that adding only one additional feature will make it a game-changer. Instilling subtlety to an already complex process of building great products will only make it more challenging at the developer’s end.

Although many products succeed in precisely this approach, you should avoid it as much as possible. If you are left with the only choice of turning to aggregate game-changers, it indicates that you have entered a considerably mature industry. In many instances, that is okay. However, it should elicit you to go on and do some soul searching. You might brainstorm with questions like, “Is it worth being in this industry, or should I find another one where innovation is easier?”

Product Mission

Let’s assume you have built product intuition to apply the three-bucket framework to your industry. Now, you can categorize your product’s features into the relevant buckets effortlessly and successfully. As a result, you have gained some ground against most product managers in the market. However, there are still some common risks and challenges: 

  • You’ll be required to be involved in all decisions during the product development to ensure the proper guidance of your team.
  • Your engineers will show irritation, as they will think your decisions are made without careful considerations.
  • Before completing the product, you’ll need to convince others to help you, including customers, investors, and journalists. And convincing people is not easy if you’re making decisions as you go.

To overcome these problems, prepare a product mission for the product. Consider it a function that takes a given feature as an argument and gives back one of the three categories mentioned earlier. Conciseness, understandability, and persistence make a function definition suitable. Furthermore, it is believed that after reading it, many people on your team will be able to categorize features on their own, like you.

Have a look at the exciting product mission for a database company.

The sentences above don’t depict much, but it provides essential information about the product’s mission if you read between the lines. For example, these lines say they create a database and treat the product as a programmer tool first. As a result, this solves the issues between the developer (like the query language) and operations features (like monitoring). 

All of the game-changing features were developed around programmers’ needs. Operations are treated as showstoppers. It describes the users’ expectations of doing with the database tool (develop real-time, data-centric applications). This mission shows how much we would go on designing certain features. We want to make the experience is pleasant for programmers who spend many hours a day using the software. It also suggests that the company is receptive to complex implementations to simplify their users’ lives. This also serves as a guideline on developing features that help programmers build unique applications every time, not just the ones that already exist in the market. This gives people an essence of the company’s goals. This product mission can be further used to test given feature proposals against it. You can test feature proposals against this mission. Finally, it enables team members to consistently categorize features using shared knowledge consistently and independently.

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