Building Digital Products Conceptualization, Prototyping, Development

What goes into building a digital product, like an app or website? What does it cost? How does the process go? Who will you need to work with?

An overview of the process will help you understand how to establish the efficacy, scope and development costs of turning your idea into a product. This will help you determine if the project is going to meet your goals.

You first need to determine what the goal is. By doing something for its users, it will do something for you. What exactly is that? If you plan to monetize it, decide what your best strategy is. Your basic options are to sell the app as one time purchase, charge subscription fees, or offer it for free with ads.

There are other ways to profit from an app. As a branding move, you could use it just to improve the experience the customer has with your brand. You could offer something nobody else is. Or you could develop an e-commerce app to make your product more available, thus increasing sales volume.

The process

Research is something you’ll have to do throughout the entire process. This will include, of course, some market analysis. Is there demand? Is there competition? The worst thing to learn after sinking big money into an idea would be that an existing app already has the market cornered.

Conceptualization

This is simply the act of sketching out concept drawings and coming up with a visual representation that makes sense. If you don’t have ability or time to do the concept work yourself, you can hire a Concept Artist or Graphic Designer. Even if you do do the drawing yourself, it may be helpful to hire a professional. You can then consult them on things like how easy to interpret your art is and what details to add.

Prototyping

To really test your idea and work the bugs out, you can bring the concept sketches to a UX Designer(User Experience Designer) or Wayfinding expert. They’ll develop a digital prototype so you can test your current design for the quality of the user experience. They’ll also advise you on what really makers and breaks a user experience.

Development

Finally, you can bring the prototype to a developer, an app designer, a coder, or a digital product engineer. At this point, you’ll be able to establish some rough estimates about total development costs.

What to keep in mind

The point of every step is to determine:

1. whether or not the return your digital product brings will justify the cost of further development

2. the scope of the project

You might find that there is a need or opportunity to pivot. If so, you’ll want to re-define the goal you hope to accomplish. A new idea or new angle might better serve a different goal. You also might learn that its simply not going to be as profitable as you hoped. Be careful not get so invested in what you already have invested that you end up investing even more into what is simply an unprofitable project. Either pivot, or cut your losses and chalk it up to the cost of learning.

Also realize that, in a competitive market, your development/maintenance costs will continue long after you launch. If competitors try to get in on the market, you’ll have to keep improving your app to stay competitive. Either way, there will probably be some additional costs for updates, maintenance, and bugs.

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