“You know what someone should make…”

If you’ve ever said that, you might just be onto a successful product development opportunity.

Today there exists the opportunity for anyone to be a product developer and perhaps launch a successful business around it. The sharing and DIY movements are converging and you are in the middle. To get you started here are a five tips to think about when working out your idea.


Who exactly is going to use this awesome new product, and what problem does it solve for them? Understanding the problem you are working on is key to a successful solution. This is absolutely the first and most important step in the process. Develop your product with the customer in mind. Why would people want or need your solution? Where will they be using it? Understanding how users, can, want and need to use your product will make it easier for them to put it to use and as such, make the solution more successful. After you have a rough version or even just an idea for a product, put it out there and let potential customers use it. Ask them what they think, listen to them or better yet observe their use. Use this feedback to inform the next iteration.


While we might imagine the mad artist/engineer working frantically on a product, locked away in lab behind headphones late into the night. The truth is products that are developed by a team are more likely to have taken multiple viewpoints into consideration and thus be more thought out. So invite collaboration. Brainstorm in private, then bring the ideas together. Having multiple viewpoints from varied disciplines helps to eliminate decisions that may not be feasible and sheds light on other that we may have not seen. Communication is critical to this process; with out it you will end up with many opinions and run the risk of working at odds with one another. So meet regularly. A good team will help us avoid the mental logjams that occur when we can’t solve a problem and can’t seem to get out of our own way. It short a product development team provides more eyes, ears, arms and actions.


Remember why you are working on this. Beware of mission creep, which is the tendency to add additional scope or features to a project beyond those needed to satisfy the core problems your product is looking to solve. It is easy to get caught up with new add on features and clever variations. While it is helpful to brainstorm and try lots of things, this advice works best when focused on a single problem. Adding additional problems and solutions will make the project far more complicate. Learn to hone your ideas. It takes time and money to do development work. Make sure your spending it doing what is important. Keep an eye on the goal. Basic often becomes complex, which takes work to make simple. If you could only have one feature, what would it be?


It is important to remember to keep an eye on the total cost to produce and deliver your product to the market. Building the right budget will help to keep you on track and deliver the needed solution for the right price. Be quick to test you ideas. Can people afford you product? While there is no better way to waste time and money than working on the wrong problem, building on failed assumptions can run a close second. Be resourceful in the ways that you develop your product. Take advantage of local resources that help you keep your costs down. Sharing space and equipment is a great way to reduce the costs needed to develop your ideas. All resources are limited, so spend them well.


Establishing your goals in a clear and precise way will help you stay on track and measure your progress. Strategize about your plan for developing your product, document the process and communicate this with potential buyers and anyone else who will listen. Setting milestones will help you to celebrate the small victories you will achieve along the way, which will then help get you to the next one. By developing a clear story line, and inviting users to help you iterate the product you are more likely to keep them engaged and invested in the product.
Remember that the first thing on that time line is always the same, it is simple… get started.