From real-world problems to product-market fit

How to turn real-people problems into successful products

Many entrepreneurs come to us with the idea of an app with a completely defined scope, with poor or no research supporting their assumptions, and they just want us to develop it. Our experience has taught us that this approach tends to lead to the development of products and features with little or no chance of success.

We prefer to look beyond ideas. Before starting the development of a software solution, we need to know if it will solve a real world problem (pain reliever) and if it creates real value for the final users (gain creator). Qualitative and ethnographic research combined with collaborative discovery activities are the right start for successful initiatives. This research & co-creation process lead to a more sustainable business and long term relationship with our customers.

Let’s go through the process:

Product Market Fit process

Problem Validation

Is there a real problem that needs to be addressed?

What is the problem we are trying to solve? Why do we think we need an app? We’ll discover this by doing some qualitative user research. This doesn’t mean conducting an extensive or academic research. We only want to answer basic questions to frame the real problem, align the team, and be sure that it is worth enough to go to take the next steps. We apply some basic ethnographic research techniques such as contextual interviews, participant observation, diary studies and shadowing. We synthesize our main insights in personas, and start drawing our experience map that will be completed in the design sprint (see Solution Exploration and Validation below).

Could the identified problem represent a business opportunity for our startup?

In our experience, it is better to do some benchmarking before launching the design sprint. Again, it won’t be an extensive market research, we just use the information gathered during interviews to explore and test the most important existing solutions that are currently used. We also explore some search terms in Google Trends to compare the relative interest in the different topics and products involved. Our goal is to determine if the market is not already saturated with products that serve the same need or if, on the contrary, there is interest in the subject, but there’s no competitive solution yet.

Is the business opportunity aligned with the vision and values of the team?

If someone on the team has doubts about the “why”, it’s better to know at this stage, before committing to a long term effort.

Solution Exploration and Validation

Design Sprints

Once we have identified some challenges that are important enough, we are ready to run a Design Sprint. The Design Sprint is a five-day process for answering critical business questions through design, prototyping, and testing ideas with potential customers.
The sprint is the best way to quickly get real feedback from potential customers before committing to months of discussions, email exchanges, planning, functional development and money investment.
The result is an aligned team, with a shared knowledge of what users want and need, what things work and what does not. A team prepared to develop a great product in less time.

Other Validation Strategies

In some cases, when we or the startup team, believe that even the commitment of a full time week might be unnecessary, we suggest to build a conceptual MVP: a landing page, newsletter or Adwords campaign, to validate that riskier assumption in the early stage. In such case we could replace the sprint with other Design Thinking techniques.

Different types of MVPs

Solution Execution

The team is aligned, it has a shared vision and a deep knowledge of the problem and the solution that was tested in the design sprint. If we completed the previous stage successfully, we will have a robust and well-defined agile product backlog.
That is the ideal state to move forward with agile methodologies towards the first versions of a product that is ready to go to market (yes, it could still be called an MVP). The learning process does not stop here: within the agile sprints and after each release, the interface is tested and the key performance indicators are evaluated. All what is learned is then applied for continuous improvement, following the build-measure-learn loop.

Solution Evolution

We could help to evolve the product, adapting, extending or creating new offerings to reach new user segments, either based on what we learned from previous releases, or reflecting changes in the market, technology, competition and culture.
In mature products we implement and maintain design systems that allow us to develop news features at a higher speed while ensuring consistency within the product and between all its applications and channels.

Solution evolution
Ways to Grow Matrix – Tim Brown, Change by Design

The image of a solitary entrepreneur who creates a successful product from a great idea can be left to the movies. Building a digital product that fits the market requires a talented team, hard work, good practices and expertise. We are here to help you achieve it. Let’s talk