Product Development Life Cycle: 7 Stages & How to Nail Them

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July 17, 2023
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Ideas are exhilarating. Once you come up with a good one, it may seem like half of the job is done and success is within arm’s reach. Sadly, products don’t design or sell themselves (yet), so turning an idea into a real product is quite a journey. To make it more organized and manageable, you can follow the product development life cycle stages. 

In this blog post, we’ll explore the concept of the product development life cycle, present product development life cycle stages, and discuss why each of them is so important. 

What Is Product Development Life Cycle?

The product development life cycle is a framework that outlines the stages and processes involved in bringing a new product from concept to market. It provides a structured approach to the product development process, allowing teams to stay focused and create a product that finds traction. 

The product development life cycle outlines the key stages of the product development process such as ideation, validation, prototyping, marketing, development, launch, and improvement. By completing each stage one by one, businesses can ensure there are no gaps or confusion in the development process

Product development life cycle vs product life cycle

While they sound similar, product life cycle and product development life cycle are terms that cannot be used interchangeably. 

Product development life cycle follows the process of creating a new product starting from idea generation to launch. Product life cycle, on the other hand, looks at the sales volume and market share of an existing product and analyzes how they change over time. 

Product Development Life Cycle Stages 

The product development life cycle typically consists of seven stages. 

1. Ideation

Every product starts with an idea, but for many, it’s one of the hardest parts of the product development life cycle. Some team members might be more creative than others, so it’s important to have a diverse team, include everyone, and create a safe space for brainstorming. Besides, product ideation is more about research than it is about creativity. 

Start your ideation journey by digging deep into customer feedback and searching for unfulfilled needs. Combine customer research with competitor analysis and market research to find customer pain points that you can address with your solution. Remember, your product starts and ends with your user, so you need to prioritize the voice of the customer from day one. 

2. Validation

While ideation is the stage when you should let your imagination roam free, validation is when you determine which ideas are feasible and worth pursuing. Ideally, validation should include quantitative and qualitative research. With quantitative research, you can cast your net wide and determine whether your audience is interested in your product by conducting online surveys or A/B tests. 

After you narrow down your list of ideas, you can take a closer look at them by conducting qualitative research with potential customers. At this stage, your goal is to understand customer needs, determine how your product can fulfill them, and gauge customer sentiment toward your solution. Consider various aspects of your product such as price, features, and other potential deal-breakers. 

3. Prototyping

Once you find an idea your audience is excited about, you can start prototyping. Based on user feedback and market research, determine the essential features of your product and build your prototype around them. If you’re creating an app or a website, use Figma or other wireframing tools to create a visualization of your product. Make sure your prototype includes sketches of every screen, links, and buttons.

After finalizing your prototype, turn to potential users for feedback. Is the app easy to use? Does it have a natural, logical flow? Is the design visually appealing? Users should be able to navigate the product with little to no assistance, so keep editing and refining until user experience is as simple as possible. 

4. Marketing

Even the best product is not going to sell itself, so after prototyping, it’s time to start crafting your marketing strategy. If your product is based on a market gap and an unmet customer need, it should be relatively easy to coin your unique selling proposition (USP). With a clear USP, you can differentiate yourself from your competitors and create marketing messages that will resonate with your audience. 

To make sure your marketing (literally) speaks to your audience, go back to customer feedback and explore how your customers talk about the product to inform your tone of voice. Finally, identify the channels and KPIs that will help you reach your target audience and track the success of your marketing efforts. 

5. Development

While you’re preparing your marketing campaign, you can start developing your actual product. That means turning your prototypes into something more tangible. Your goal is to get to the market as soon as possible, start gathering user feedback, and iterate on the go. To stay flexible, start with a minimum viable product (MVP) that includes the essential features.

With an MVP, you can stay flexible and follow real user feedback instead of an arbitrary plan. Once your MVP is out, create an agile roadmap that will help you prioritize product improvements and stay on track. 

6. Launch 

In the run-up to the big day, finalize everything and test relentlessly. Make sure billing is smooth, the marketing campaign is in full swing, KPIs are ready to be tracked, and announcements are plentiful. Communicate through your own channels, send out press releases, and leverage professional forums like Product Hunt

To help your product reach its customers and generate buzz, come up with incentives for first users and encourage them to leave feedback. The more people you get to use your product, the more user data you’ll have. Of course, don’t forget to give credit to your team. While it’s just the beginning, it’s a huge milestone too. 

7. Improvement 

Improvement is a stage that is never over. Once you’ve launched your product, you’ll start gathering user feedback, the key driver for product development. Looking at how users interact with your product, you’ll be able to prioritize improvements and iterate your product roadmap to tweak existing features and add new ones.

User data can tell you a lot, but you also need a customer feedback management strategy that will keep you up to date with user opinions. Regardless of where you are on your product development journey, you can optimize your feedback analysis with Essense, an AI-powered feedback analytics solution. With Essense, you can conduct competitor analysis, find out what your customers feel about particular features of your product, and set up recurring reports to help you stay on top of customer needs.

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