by Eran Weinberg, founder and CEO of the personalized health and wellness platform Liv360
Let’s face it – your first product will most likely fail. Creating a successful product or service is about constantly prototyping, tweaking, refining, making mistakes, learning, and repeating. That might sound like a chaotic mess, but there’s a process behind it – one that can be applied not only to your first product, but to your first startup, website, or small business.
Drawing from my experience as a serial designer, inventor and entrepreneur, here are 10 steps to creating your first product:
1. Know yourself.
The life of an entrepreneur isn’t for everybody. It’s filled with failure, uncertainty, and sleepless nights. But, occasionally, there are those tiny thrills only an entrepreneur can know– a new insight, an “aha moment,” a baby step toward your goal. If you think you’re ready to commit your life to your product and handle the ups and downs—then read on…
2. Fill the gap.
Maybe you have an idea in mind already, maybe you don’t. Either way, identify the gap you’re filling. It could be a physical or emotional gap that the market needs. For example, a better designed walking cane fills a physical gap by improving a person’s immobility. Fun, toy-shaped speakers (my first product, Headphonies) filled an emotional gap, creating satisfaction of happiness. In order to understand what product to make you have to understand consumer behavior and where the gaps lie.
What’s already out there? This is a very important step in order to determine if and how you should develop your product. Identify your competition by reviewing features, price, competitor size, distribution and design. If you find a product that is similar, maybe there is a gap in the market that could position it in a new way. Some people decide to take more risk by creating something brand new, while others prefer the safer route of following another inventor’s footsteps. Revisit step one—know yourself. Decide what level of risk you’re willing to take.
4. Define the requirements.
What are the minimum requirements to fill your gap? When you are first starting out, don’t add a bunch of “features” to your product that you think will dazzle your customers. By creating the minimum requirements, you will learn what your customer truly wants. Do one thing well first – You can save the bells and whistles for Version 2.0.
5. Design multiple versions.
Sketch up as many design versions of your initial concept as you can imagine. Here’s where you put your creative cap on. Think wild and big and impossible, and you will come up with solutions that are unique and innovative. Your sketches can be rough, unfinished, or ugly –anything but perfect.
6. Pick your top contenders.
Pick 1-3 of the concepts you like the best and decide which features you like about each. Compile those ideas together, creating different mockups and versions. Continue refining until you’re ready for the next step.
Create your first 3d printed prototype or even hand-made prototype. If you are creating a website or app, use a wireframing tool. There are plenty of inexpensive ways to make prototypes these days including buying a cheap 3D printer, carving foam and wood, as well as web tools such as Mockflow or Adobe Illustrator.
8. User testing.
Get your potential customers to test and give you feedback on your prototype. You don’t have to have a fancy working prototype. The most important is to see how they interact with and understand your product.
9. Refine your design.
Once you understand what products and features are working (and not), begin improving the function and aesthetic. Here’s where you bring in the beauty.
10. Bring it to life.
Once you have validated your product fills the gap and finalized the product it’s time to build! Start small, start simple. Order the minimum units you can get, or build the simple version of your website or app. This is your first exposure to real market insights and there are still many lessons to learn.
Rinse, wash, and repeat. Remember, this is an evolving process. You’re constantly building, prototyping, and refining. Regardless of the success or failure of your first go-around, take the knowledge you’ve discovered and start all over. Each time you will be moving closer to that success.
Eran Weinberg is founder and CEO of the personalized health and wellness platform Liv360 and Inclusive Design & Development, a product development consultancy. He has designed and invented over 100 products ranging from children’s toys to consumer electronics to healthcare products. He teaches business and product design at his alma mater, Pasadena Art Center College of Design.