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Start-up tips: How to build a great product

By Suhaas Kaul
June 10, 2016 09:30 IST
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Do you really know what the consumers want? Is your product user-friendly?

How to build a great product

Every entrepreneur dreams of having a great product that causes ripples in the ecosystem and among the masses alike.

I have learned a thing or two along the six years of my product building and managing experience.

This list will help you create a product that people love to use, is solving some problem and is making a meaningful impact on the lives of people.

So, without much ado, here are the five important things you can follow in order to create a great product.

1. Vision for the product

You should be clear about the product, audience and the way this product will impact your intended audience.

This doesn't mean that you will have all the product specifications documented.

That will obviously happen over time and iteratively. But you should know what problem your product will solve.

2. Being in the customers' shoes

You shouldn't just know but feel exactly how the customer feels. If this means you have to go through their journey, be near your audience, and observe their lives, do that.

DILO: 'Day In Life Of' is a very important concept. You can derive enormous insight on how to build your product from just observing your target user's behaviour.

You need to put yourself in your customers' shoes, trying to use the product the way they will, to understand user behaviour completely.

If you want to create a product for restaurants, work at a restaurants for a month; if you want to create a product for writers, try to write a book for a month and see for yourself the problems and the challenges writers typically face. Observe the system from the inside.

You will feel the customer's pain now, and it is highly unlikely that the product you create will go wrong, as this time you will be making the product for yourself.

3. Design having a basic understanding of customer psychology

This is to define the look and the feel of the product. In the previous sections, you defined the problem that the user has and what you are going to do to solve his/her problem.

Understanding design and basic user psychology will help you define and design your product in such a way that you solve the problem in the best possible way. This would ensure the intended audience uses it effectively.

Simple things like understanding the attention span of the user on mobile is less, as people are mostly on the move when using mobile devices.

Mobile screens, if loaded with too much information, have very less usability as too much information causes cognitive load.

Now use design thinking to create your product.

If you are creating something of value for the user and users are consuming it on mobile (web or app), you need to understand from a design perspective that the screens on app or the mobile web pages should be minimal, have one objective, with a maximum of two calls-to-action.

In this example, you used the basic understanding of the behaviour, psychology and design to create your product in the most optimal way. This will ensure your product was built to solve users' problems, and will be used by them

4. Balance between not reinventing the wheel and sometimes actually reinventing it

Standardisation is killing creativity. We now have so many apps and design standards for app, web, and flat UI paradigm.

In the process of following standards, we tend to forget that someone out there has created and used those standards.

If we follow too much of what already exists, we will never create something of our own.

Rather than blindly following standards, we should understand users and their behaviour completely and then try to see how best you can solve their problem.

It can be by following what already exists, or creating something entirely different that will solve the problem.

5. Understanding the number game

Clear KPI (Key Performance Indicators) to measure your actions and initiatives.

After you have done your research and implemented your hypothesis, an important thing is to instrument the usage of the feature.

You have to keep monitoring these numbers to see the delta between the expected impact and the actual impact that your product has made on the intended audience.

If there is something important I have learnt over the years of my creating products, it is that an idea of a perfect product or a feature is a myth.

The better six-step approach that I suggest is:

  • Roll out an MVP
  • Instrument the feature usage.
  • Monitor the usage numbers.
  • Analyse what worked and what didn't.
  • Improve upon what worked to further or extend/scale that to other sections of the product.
  • Keep trying different initiatives and measuring their impact.

The author Suhaas Kaul is founder of Plovist, an online platform for visual artists. He can be reached at

Lead image used for representational purposes only. Image: Adriano Agullo/Creative Commons

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Suhaas Kaul