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12. 6. 2023

6 min read

Product discovery minimizes costly mistakes for startups

Ideas are a dime in dozens. Execution is what sets successful startups apart. Prioritise user satisfaction! How? Let’s take a look.

Jan Koscelansky

Why product discovery matters

Today, competition is fierce, with at least nine similar competitors trying to achieve the same goal. Digital products are now part of our daily lives, and users have much higher expectations.

Product discovery is a critical step in digital product development. It involves market research, analysis, and validation to ensure the final product meets audience needs and is likely to succeed.

Sudolabs’ approach

At Sudolabs, we have worked with many clients who have approached us with initial ideas, looking for help in turning those ideas into successful digital product strategies. For non-technical founders with strong business and market knowledge, we step into the role of their tech partners.

Before we jump into the development and invest a bunch of resources (understand money), we need to be sure we are building the right product, so we look for the answer to this key question:

  • What are the main user’s issues/pain points this product is trying to solve?

Start with user problems, not solutions

A lack of ideas is never an issue when we cooperate with startup founders. They typically generate many ideas about what features should be included in the product. However, it's important to separate Problem Space from Solution Space.

The problem space refers to the set of challenges, issues, or needs that users are facing, and it's where Sudolabs’s product managers focus their attention on identifying opportunities for creating new products or improving existing ones. This involves researching and understanding the users, their behavior, and their pain points.

On the other hand, the solution space refers to the possible ways to address the problems identified in the problem space. This includes brainstorming, prototyping, and testing different solutions until a suitable one is found.

Separating the problem space from the solution helps you take a user-centric approach and understand the problem before jumping to conclusions and developing a solution.

Define the market segmentation

Starting with market research and defining a user segment will help to better define the product roadmap. Why? The next step for future product scaling does not have to be just another functionality, but a completely different market/user segment.

Let me explain with an example from one of our clients, EzTenda. EzTenda is a UK-based digital marketplace that provides bars, pubs, and drinks brands with an easy way to secure drink listings. Even though drinks and bars are already a niche market, it is still possible to segment them further (see the picture below). For EzTenda, the next step should not necessarily be just adding another functionality, but rather expanding into a different segment, such as wholesalers.

Identifying and targeting specific market segments can help you tailor your digital product to meet their unique needs.

Structured interviews with users

Typically, people/startups postpone user interviews until later when the MVP is released. At Sudolabs, we conduct them as soon as possible and as structured as possible. We recruit users, who are not familiar with us so to avoid any bias.

There are many studies that suggest that the optimal number of testers for any tech product user research is around +/- 5. That's right, only 5 users are enough to uncover 85% of issues or user insights.

We went deeper into this topic in a series of two articles - User testing best practices 1/2, covering details about how to recruit your testers and why are live video sessions the best user testing method, and User testing best practices 2/2, where you will find how an ideal testing session should look like.

Definition of product hypotheses

Without proof, an idea is just a hypothesis - we need evidence that the product would work.

Not only it is important to ensure that we're developing the right product and only adding items to the backlog that have already been validated and received feedback from the market. It is also necessary for raising funds. Investors want to know if a product will succeed and generate a return on their investment. Proof of market demand shows that the product is likely to succeed and generate revenue.

During the discovery phase, we identify the main risks associated with the development of the product. We can simplify it a bit and say that technological products mostly face these three risks:

  • Feasibility risks - A product may not be technically feasible due to limited technology, a lack of technical expertise, or its complexity.

  • Desirability risks - The product may not satisfy the needs, wants, or preferences of the target market, leading to low demand.

  • Viability risks - Scalability problems may limit the effectiveness or profitability of a product as demand or growth increases.

Let’s use an example of EzTenda product once again, we mapped the main risks/hypotheses for each of these three risks. We defined a total of 15 hypotheses, primarily all of them related to desirability risks.

In the next step, we prioritized the hypotheses using the charter. On the y-axis, we ranked them based on urgency and importance to validate them as soon as possible. For example, we wanted to determine to what extent users in the bar and beverage industry can use digital tools in practice, and to what extent they are willing to switch from personal contact to the digital online marketplace.

On the X-axis, we measure the confidence level or amount of proof that the hypothesis will actually occur. As a result, this gave us the most important quadrant in the upper right.

Now the question arises: how are we going to validate these hypotheses?

Validation of product hypotheses

The best way to validate product hypotheses is using an experiment - simple, undemanding, and above all it must ensure real feedback from the market.

Figma and other tools offer the possibility of creating prototypes. Prototypes are great for usability testing, but it is questionable to what extent a clickable prototype will realistically give feedback from the market. User interviews are another option, but still may not yield the desired feedback.

Programming something simply by cutting the scope may seem like a good option, but it can still be challenging. Once something is programmed, it can be difficult to start again from scratch if negative feedback is received from the market.

At Sudolabs, we follow the low code, no code approach using tools such as Bubble, Webflow, and Retool. With these tools, we build an entire application in 3-5 days and onboard users quickly to receive direct market feedback. This process helps to identify the main user journeys, create customized UX designs, and build a solid MVP. After successful validation, we accelerate MVP development using our standard tech stack, which enables fast-paced development and scalability for the future.

If you truly want to build a user-centric product, that has a high probability of success, product discovery is something you should definitely not skip. And if you need help with that, reach out to us. We can get you from the initial idea to the first real users in weeks.


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