Avoid the crash and burn

What Pitfalls To Avoid In Digital Product Development

Bojan Bajić
© Shutterstock / Kelly Marken

Getting a digital product started on, developed, and published to the world is a huge task. As much as 70 percent of digital transformations fail. Even if they succeed, up to 90 percent of newly launched products end up with a desperately low market adoption rate.

Pitfalls during a digital product development project can be crippling to your success.

Designing products is not an easy feat. Production teams need a clear vision, roadmap, and definition for success. Your product must be imaginable and your process efficient. No roadblocks.

As much as 70 percent of digital transformations fail. Even if they succeed, up to 90 percent of newly launched products end up with a desperately low market adoption rate.

So, how do you avoid the crash and burn?

Here are the six pitfalls to avoid in digital product development.

1. Unclear Product Development Strategies

Having a clear and compelling product development strategy is a must-have for a successful company.

Starting off with one of the most basic – yet costly – mistakes out there, unclear product development strategies is just like talking to yourself: you have an idea but no one’s listening. Anything and everything about the flow of work, communication between co-workers, and the coherence of all the developers must be perfectly in line. Otherwise, a simple communication problem could mean weeks of delay, thousands in extra costs, and a tired workforce.

Thankfully, avoiding this problem is relatively simple. The important thing is keeping everyone on the same page, both in work, goals, and vision. When everyone knows “why?” they’re making something, they can easily visualize features that make the “what?” better. Keep everyone looking at the same target with optimized workplace management systems, such as Slack, ClickUp and Trello, just to name a few.

It’s always better to plan ahead. When it comes to developing a digital product or a web design project, it’s not an understatement to say that you should plan months’ worth of work ahead of time. Following a schedule, seeing the progress, and knowing how much of a product is done makes developers feel much more motivated to work.

SEE ALSO: Product-Led Growth in ITOps Puts SREs in the Driver’s Seat

2. Vague Products

This is closely related to the previous pitfall. Vague products can put entire development teams at a standstill.

Unclear instructions and vague details can be productively crippling. You could have a dedicated and inspired team of developers, but if they don’t know what the goal product is, then their efforts go nowhere. It’s like bringing a shotgun to a sniper battle. Yes, you have more bullets, but good luck hitting anyone.

A clear and imaginable product can massively improve an entire team’s rate of productivity. By having all your developers focused on the same product and vision, there’s a bigger chance that everyone makes exactly the same thing. You can easily implement this by what, how, and why strategies. Your developers should know what you’re building, how it works, and why you’re building it.

Many of the world’s greatest companies have been led by this principle, like Steve Jobs and Apple as well as Phil Knight and Nike. Amazon and Jeff Bezos are included in this as well.

3. Incompetent Management

Some of the best leaders start from the lowest positions.

Management experience shouldn’t be the only consideration when it comes to digital product development. Managing a digital project requires a more technical approach and experience. Having the wrong leader, especially one who isn’t familiar with coding or the technicalities at all, can easily waste time, destroy morale, and squander talent. Digital product development requires a keener view, and is better when your manager has direct coding experience, or understands programming technologies.

Consider outsourcing product development instead of doing everything in-house. A Product Owner is ideal if your company needs guidance in adapting business processes for digital product creation.

Check out this resource if you want to learn more about the difference between Product Owners and Project Managers.

4. Developing out of Budget

Developing a digital product isn’t just about coding, making sure it works, then putting it out to the masses. There’s a whole process dedicated to beta, compatibility, and integration testing that companies need to respect. In fact, delays in production are more common than most people think. This is especially common with companies that are managed by non-programmers.

The next mortal sin in developing out of the budget is creating more features than your development team can handle. Sometimes it’s better to have few features that are seamless and optimized, than have a bucket of functionalities in your app that are bug-prone or subpar. Budgeting your development team means knowing what you’re paying for, and understanding the core features that your dev team should focus on.

There are two things that you should take note of about budgeting digital products. One, you can save a lot of money by asking for quotes and being completely transparent about your idea, features, and schedule. Two, you should always prepare an emergency budget.

5. Unclear Roles and Responsibilities

A common problem in development teams is a feature getting either completely forgotten or unaccounted for.

Making sure everyone knows their roles and responsibilities is an essential part of oiling your team. This avoids confusion, miscommunication, and even wasting time. There’s nothing more careless than having two developers go to work, only to find out they’re building the same thing.

This ties in closely with developing within your budget, too. If your developer is only expecting to develop two core features, but then you want the front end done as well, then that adds another role to your developer’s plate. Having clear roles also means that everyone gets to stay on the same page, knowing who’s responsible for what.

Unclear roles and responsibilities are a common pitfall that can be easily avoided – by having a list of features that need to be accounted for, with the developers in charge of the features.

SEE ALSO: 7 Powerful Benefits of Data Visualization for Your Small Business

6. Ethical Agreement

It’s no secret that software has become more invasive, collecting information after information.

The fact that most consumers don’t read the terms and conditions on websites and applications can open the door to a lot of ethical problems. Data mining platforms like Amazon, Facebook, and TikTok collect a ton of data every day, which puts users at risk all the time.

Ethics are important now more than ever, especially with the surge of so many digital products on the Internet. Everyone’s connected to the cloud in some form, and getting a little more out of each client (like what they’re saying, how they browse, and so on) can feel tempting.

Part of managing a happy development team is making them feel proud of what they’re doing. Startups that don’t have an ethical agreement have a higher chance of disagreements and fallouts.

Avoiding The Pitfalls

Getting a digital product started on, developed, and published to the world is a huge task.

Like all big challenges, product development takes time, consistency, and determination. You have to be willing to change and innovate when you need to. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and address them as well. More often than not, the biggest pitfall is giving up.


Bojan Bajić

Bojan is the Head of Marketing at Infinum, an award-winning agency that helps companies transform their business with digital products. He graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology and has his head wrapped around digital ever since. With experience in automotive, scientific publishing, FMCG and IT industries, he enjoys discovering new ways to reinvent products and services with technology.

Follow him on LinkedIn.

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