How Product Developers Can Make What They Want, Not Just What They Say

Posted on December 3, 2019 by Kevin Crots

Taking a product idea that has been rattling around in your head, bringing it to fruition, and being able to sell the finalized product is a challenging and sometimes laborious road. The market definition, customer voice, competitive force, and other barriers to entry are just the beginning of the process to help align your idea with what the market can absorb. In this alignment however, are the core fundamental ideas that still make your product unique and special because they are something that you have thought of and owned.

When working through what that product development looks like however, it’s necessary that the concepts, ideas, visions, and strategies in your head get translated to the innovative group designing and developing the product. There is a certain picture you have in your mind as to how the product will be used, handled, and integrated into the larger society by the customers. Translating those thoughts and visions into a successful product requires more than just putting words down on paper.

It’s simple to write a bunch of requirements on a piece of paper or in a spreadsheet and tell someone, “Here is what I think I want.” Those words may tell the functional aspects, size, shape, configuration, etc. but they don’t tell the vision of what you want.

Words are only part of the narrative that should detail what your thoughts and dreams are for the product.

Avoid Misaligned Goals

One of our recent clients needed help with new product development, and we met with them to work through their plan.

Initially proposed was a concept test board that would verify key items of concern and reduce risk. The customer thought it would be too expensive at the beginning, so the product design process adhered strictly to the requirements.

After the key components were designed to meet those requirements, the customer was finally convinced that an initial prototype board was needed. Once the prototype came in, the customer said that it was not what they were expecting, even though it met the design requirements.

A common phrase heard throughout the project: “We wanted it to be like ‘this.’”

What the customer had envisioned and what the written requirements had detailed were different, which led to a communicative disconnect in execution. It is critical that envisioned ideas get translated to the development team clearly and effectively, as a matter of helping them:

  • Understand the end customer
  • Understand how the end customer will use the product
  • Understand the expected user interactions
  • And understand the variety of environments in which the product will be used

Build a Development Narrative

The development narrative is a refinement process with the collaborative engineering team that works both ways as your product is built. The vision that you have should be broadcast and communicated orally, visually, and by examples with current available products. The team needs to take those examples and work to develop proof of concepts for you to touch, feel, and use for both yourself and your potential customers.

The styling, interface, functionality, response, haptic feedback, data collected, and user experience in general all provide insight for the narrative of your product. Using iterations of these concepts allows the engineering team to ask good and challenging questions about your ideas to evaluate what is feasible, as well as provide their own insights that will probably enhance your vision even more.

The narrative will unfold with several iterative rounds of quick concepts and maybe even an initial prototype. With that bucket of information and feedback, the team can work to refine and document the narrative in a way that will ease them into the detailed technical design of the product’s technology and physical implementation.

Written words can be considered in a design, but the engineering team must view things through their own observational lenses and ideas, and not through the subjective viewpoint of your own. They need to make sure that they understand your view of the narrative. The narrative story must provide a great “pair of lenses” for the team to see through and design what you expected, not just what you said via words on paper.

Designing and developing the product comes from this narrative definition. The definition process itself is something that is key for a successful product design as to ensure that all of your expectations and your customers’ value expectations are met.

Even abiding all of the requirements in the world can’t take into account the one item that you had in the vision but didn’t communicate because you couldn’t find the right phrasing to describe it. The collaborative engineering team is best equipped to help define this narrative story and bring it to paper and design.

Adapt to Change

The narrative can and probably will change throughout the design process. The practical realities of design don’t always follow the planned narrative even if the initial conceptual designs show it might be possible. Engineering challenges are meant to be overcome but sometimes cost and time don’t allow for that.

Together, the narrative can help the engineering team work through and around the practical issues that might come up because they understand your vision and your expectations.

Experience is required to ask the right questions, develop concepts, and walk with you as the narrative develops. You want a group of engineers that is both passionate and experienced in taking ideas to a product design and solving problems.

Use the Right Hammer

Expert engineers from very niche areas may think they can solve your problem with their very specific hammer. However, not everything is a nail and so their hammer may not be the best. A group of engineers with both experience and expertise in key areas is the best asset for guiding you through the development narrative.

DornerWorks has spent years developing products with customers, bringing ideas to fruition and to production. From video processing applications, algorithm processing systems, IoT, and even data capture and off boarding, we bring a range of talents to each project. We work with our customers to understand what problems they are solving for their company or their own customers, and leverage both our experience in product development and engineering expertise to help them succeed

Let us help you write the narrative for the idea or problem that you are trying to solve. Schedule a free consultation and together we’ll make sure that you build the product you wanted, all along.

Kevin Crots
by Kevin Crots
Engineering Operations Manager
Kevin Crots is Engineering Operations Manager at DornerWorks.