The Journey To Manifestation: How Successful Apps and Digital Platforms Develop, Grow, and Thrive

The digital boom has irrevocably changed our lives as consumers. But behind the many successful apps and digital platforms that promise to make life more convenient, more interesting, and more connected are many more that fail despite being fueled with a brilliant idea or concept.

We are in an age where a good idea does not necessarily make a good product. As product development methodologies try to evolve new best practices to create high-engagement digital and mobile apps, it’s the simple principles that can truly help uplift your product’s essence and experience.

Forge an emotional connection with consumers

Finding an unmet need and devising a practical solution to meet that need is a necessary step, but not sufficient in itself to creating a successful product. If you are the only one who is providing a solution to a real pain point, you may be successful at first – until someone who does it better comes along.

You have to mean more to the consumer than the service you are providing. Whether the consumer realizes it or not, the products that they continue to use after the initial curiosity and excitement have passed are the ones that they like not only for the function it performs, but also for the feelings it evokes. Fundamentally, humans are irrational beings with rational problems. A successful product touches both of these aspects of the consumer’s personality.

Understand human nature, not just behavior

Behavior is a pattern; it’s doing something a certain way repeatedly with little deviation. It’s what your consumer does, and you have to understand their pattern in order to build a streamlined product experience.

This isn’t limited to interactions with your platform either, but in the context of the problem you are trying to tackle at large, well beyond the boundaries of your product.

But only understanding behavior is not enough. Behavior changes as consumers grow, their situations change, and something new comes along. It is their intrinsic nature, their values and motivation, their insecurities and needs, that carry forward even when they learn and adopt new behaviors.

If you get caught in the trap of assuming that you figured out the best user flow for your app or platform, remind yourself that knowing or even understanding behavior isn’t as valuable as understanding nature. Knowing how is important; understanding why could make all the difference.

Build your strongest Minimum Viable Product

Most entrepreneurs and product developers understand the constant tension between wanting to release new versions faster and the desire to build better features. In recent years, the principle of “good enough” has gained a lot of traction in many industries, but it is perhaps most applicable to software.

As a creator, you want your product to have the most interesting and useful experience but also to get consumers hooked on your product – and more features do not mean better engagement. The principle of creating a “good enough” product is not to compromise on the value of your platform but to focus on its most crucial tenants that package together your product’s competitive advantage and unique value propositions.

Building the right Minimum Viable Product rests on the art of prioritizing. Weigh all your desired features and interactions against your prioritization criteria from time to time to assert if a desired feature adds real value to your product’s function and experience. Keep in mind that software products can be revised, updated, and upgraded, and in today’s market, users have gotten accustomed to that cycle. You will make a much better impression on your users by releasing your product with well-built and designed core features than giving them a bundle of many half-baked features scrambled together.

Test, don’t assume

Despite your best effort and your team’s expert points of view, be open to the possibility that you’ve probably got it wrong or at least not quite bang on the first time around. The thing with designing and building apps that stick with consumers through an emotional bond is that people are unpredictable and, as already established, irrational. Despite following the textbook process of building a great app that is destined to be love at first sight, you need to be open to the possibility that it won’t be. But that’s a possibility that can be avoided by iteratively testing with consumers and refining the product as it goes.

Build lean, build quickly, and test often with real consumers. See if your assumptions check out: Do users like the interface, does the value proposition resonate, and do your features reflect your vision? Test before you go too far down a rabbit hole or get too attached to a particular version of the concept.

There is a gap in imagination and its manifestation. Making the journey across this gap is the art of product development. Be open to your vision evolving, and be open to your product manifesting in its most desirable form – not necessarily in a form closest to your imagination of the initial concept.

Featured in the MISC 2015 : The Creative Process Issue.

Sahaj Cheema is an innovation strategist at Idea Couture. She is based in Toronto, Canada.

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Sahaj Cheema