The importance of customer focused development
Whenever a new product is launched, the creators or makers already have to worry about a new question. What is the next feature, add-on or modification for the new product? Managing a new product and thinking about the vision, next step and roadmap of your product isn’t that easy and takes a lot of time.
You might want to look at similar products or on your competitors and see how they have dealt with this question. You will find a variety of answers and approaches to find the next big thing for your product. There are two approaches you will come across on many blogs and other publications, the product focused and customer focused approach.
The product focused approach is where a product roadmap has been laid out and after one version is finished and released, the next version will be worked on without taking the market and its demand into consideration. This approach is used when products have no precedence, they were brand new to the market for example when Apple released the iPod even though there was no real market or need for something new.
A customer focused approach on the other hand is the one where customers feedback and input is important to the development and maturing process of the product. Customer needs and feature wishes are considered and will be used in the creation of a product roadmap. This feedback and market analysis can come in a variety of ways, direct emails, comments on blogs, or simple surveys.
You could argue that a product focused approach is always the one used first and then you move away from it and focus on the customers. Many products are developed on that basis, while others a purely created to solve pain points such as Spotify, Hootsuite or many more tech companies. The goal is then to create a product to solve one specific problem and after the products first release, get customer feedback and find possible areas of improvement.
In conclusion we can state that it is more common for the initial release of a product to be purely product based, in these cases the customer is not previously aware of their need for the product (e.g. Facebook or Twitter) and therefore customer feedback is ignored for the initial launch. As we all know, sometimes the customers don’t even know what they themselves want. In other cases, like mentioned above, where a product is created to solve an existing problem, customer feedback is key to the development of the product as they know the problem best.
So if you want to design and develop a great product you will most likely need to use a combination of the product and customer focused approaches. This is how IdeaHunt is developed, by using a strong and diverse community with broad knowledge in many areas to make the product better. The feedback of customers and the internal vision of a team can be aligned to push your product to the next step.