How Product Mindset Can Save Your Sinking App
When the Titanic set sail from Southampton on its monumental maiden voyage, there wasn’t a soul alive who believed it could be battered by the uncaring whims that Poseidon could muster. As was its namesake, there was no other boat, extant historically or contemporarily, that competed in its weight class. But we all know what happened. The ship isn’t the focus here, rather her captain.
There’s conflicting reports to what Edward J. Smith actually did in the ensuing iceberg-related chaos, but for our purposes here we’ll side with the compelling version of the story. You see, there’s a maritime tradition that gained cultural popularity following this tragedy. That tradition, as follows, is that the captain should go down with their ship.
To clarify, the captain of a ship is responsible for every life aboard their vessel. It’s then their duty to attempt to rescue every passenger and be the last to reach a lifeboat. Even if the water level should rise and take them to Davy Jones’ Locker, the captain should be willing to sacrifice their life attempting to save every soul they can.
An app can be, in many ways, just like a ship. It’s a vehicle for your organization, one that you pour love and effort into, providing a valuable service to countless people while floating through the Internet ocean. And, like ships tend to do, your app can sink.
As brave, honorable, and noble the idea of a captain steadfastly rescuing their crew on a flooding boat is, that’s one thing we’ll have to recommend against: do not go down with your ship. A sinking app isn’t worth burning your whole organization over.
The goal here, once you realize your app is taking on water, is a shift in perspective. Everything bears the capacity to be fixed if you set your mind to it, and a failing app is no exception to the rule. Undergoing radical digital transformation is a means to an end - delivering on the value that your customers have come to expect of you. What you need is to take on a product mindset.
What Is Product Mindset?
A product mindset involves leveraging technology as a way to constantly and iteratively transform the business practices, operates, and interacts with its customer base. Taking on a product mindset means to adopt an entirely unique form of business evolution.
Obviously, technology has always been a big part of doing business. Developing cars, trucks, planes, and trains was an integral part of transporting goods across both country and continent. The printing press revolutionized the production of literature. Even something as mundane as the wheel was once a world-changing innovation, affecting commerce and trade for millennia to come.
In retrospective, though, technology has always been a means to an end, nothing more. Companies have traditionally been compelled by the project mindset - essentially the alternative to the product mindset - wherein projects are embarked on and business evolution only comes in rare, mammoth-sized monoliths. The project mindset is always going to be an inherent part of doing business, but the software development history cannot afford to rely on it to carry its businesses else the sector as a whole would fall under its own wheels.
The reason why the product mindset didn’t take off until the advent of the Internet is, not only because it couldn’t, but because it didn’t need to. The nature of the software development field is based on a facet of technology that continuously strives to make itself obsolete. Historically, business could take its time developing projects, routinely comfortable in a rhythmic pattern of start, stop, and repeat. The product mindset thrives in a world that’s a bit more… fast-paced.
The key difference between project and product mindsets is that the latter is a user-centric approach. Project mindsets focus on the work, the process, and designating an amount of time to shift a product to market before moving on to the next one. There’s not a whole lot of room for customer consideration in there. That’s an issue - neglecting the voice of the customer unilaterally results in an inferior product.
Utilizing technology to meet the demands and challenges of a business environment that is incapable of slowing is the paramount reasoning that has led the software development market to embrace the product mindset. Capturing the customer mindset can be done via three potential ways of obtaining new information from customer insights.
Your users are not drones that use your app without a purpose, blindly immersing into a network of faceless data points. Everyone involved with your app’s usage has a goal in mind that they’re looking to complete. User research is a common technique used to gauge what your customers plan to use your app for, how they plan to accomplish these tasks, and how they use your product to reach their ends.
It’s important to note that this process is more than practical use application. If you want to cater a product to your customers, you have to understand your customers. You’re looking to gather data on your customers’ behaviors, needs, and motivations that compel them to utilize your product. If you’re doing user research well, you’ll be doing a lot of it. Human behavior is not a static concept; it changes. Proper user research, in turn, is cyclical and iterative to continuously observe the customer base.
If customers are unhappy, you’re doing something wrong. While no one likes their primary user base having storm clouds above their heads while using your product, keep in mind that all data is good data. More importantly, customers like it when what makes them unhappy is fixed. This is an opportunity to gather valuable intelligence that can be applied toward creating a better app.
There’s little else a consumer hates more than a deaf developer. You may start off with an imperfect app, but learning and correcting your mistakes gets noticed. Ask yourself: what is making your customer base happy? What’s troubling them? How well are they responding to your service? Satisfaction is an insight that lets you know whether or not you’re heading in the right direction.
Voice of Customer
People have a right to agency, to have their voices be heard, and compiling that information directly from the source is the most actionable way to gain new insights into your product. The Voice of the Customer describes the feedback you receive from your customers, mostly involving relevant experiences and expectations regarding the use of your app.
Software development isn’t a one-way street. Just as much as you are gathering new data from your user base, they need to know that you’re being receptive to their voices. Drawing conclusions and solutions from provided feedback is paramount meeting your customers needs, expectations, understandings, and ultimately culminating this information into creating tangible improvements in your app.
The Business Value of User-Centered Digital Products
Yes, we’ve yammered on about how important the cooperative partnership of product mindsets and digital product design and development is, but what does that actually mean? Where is the collaborative proof of concept that rationalizes increasingly attentive workloads to maintain a quality app?
There are two vital concepts that tie into this: user app abandonment and user retention.
Every time you net a new consumer, and your app is downloaded onto their phone or computer, what would you guess is the going rate that that consumer is going to log into your app a second time? 90%? 80? Closer to 75% of your base is going to make a return trip to your app, leaving a whopping 25% of users completely abandoning it after one use.
User abandonment is the rate at which your base tends to drop your app like a sack of hammers after their first few experiences with it. The abandonment numbers, after all, continue to grow after that initial 25% with each subsequent visit.
Within three days, you’ve lost 77% of your new users. Within a month, 90% will have dropped it. Three months will leave you with only 5% of new users continuing to make consistent use of your product. If you’re going to have consistently returning users, your app needs to be direct, attractive, and valuable. The quicker and more effectively you can deliver value to your users, the more likely it is you’ll have higher app retention.
App retention is the opposite of app abandonment, based on how many users you keep with each subsequent use. User-centric design philosophies specifically align themselves with the interests of the customers, striving to raise the user retention rate while providing a consistently responsive, intuitive app that improves with every insight provided through feedback and research.
How to Identify Better Mobile Solutions Through User-Centered Design
Gathering data is one thing, implementing meaningful solutions is another. The task of delivering on your customers’ needs will need to be followed through on, one way or another. Successful improvement might be daunting, and there’s a rogue chance you could end up making the problem worse than it started or creating an entirely new set of problems, but that’s simply a part of the development process.
You, of course, need to focus on the users as always, but there are studied methods to guide you in bringing those solutions to life. Specifically, there are two best practices used for identifying important mobile solutions, and they’re the only two that you need to concern yourself with.
Find the Right Problem by Focusing On and Researching Your End-User
You don’t need to get inventive to find the right problem, your user base will tell you that for you. You do, however, have to put in the legwork divining that information. You’ve all the investigative tools you’ll ever need at your disposal for this line of work, but it’s important that you always keep the people you’re doing this for in your view.
Take the time to properly research the end-user, learning their problems, comments, opinions, personalities, and so on until you’ve got a picture of what the user base looks like. Chances are you might come across more than one problem. That’s important for another time, but you need to find the right problems to work on first. Thorough research is what gets you that.
Always Test Every Design Decision with Real People
The faster you can get a solution to the testing phase, the quicker your app will improve. Feedback is the critical live-or-die juncture that directs your app development. For instance, if you developed a solution to a recent problem with your app and updated it without putting it through the ringer, there’s a big risk that your “solution” will be a total flop.
Every design decision needs to be verified, tested, and greenlit for implementation. You want a fast turnaround, but you don’t want shoddy work to be reflected in your product. Ergo, effective testing for every solution is the only viable course of action if you don’t want egg on your face. Real people are naturally excellent at finding the kinks and flaws in your code.
Admirable as it is, you can’t afford to be the captain on a sinking ship, not if you can pull it out of the depths. While your current laid-in course may seem like it’s inevitably going down, there’s time yet to save your work. What you need is more than simple hard work, it’s a shift in mental process. The most important focus should not be your product, but the people using it.
Shifting to a product mindset may be challenging at first, but it’ll pay for itself before long. Starting off, you need to learn as much as you can about your user base, gathering feedback and then implementing effective changes to address the right problems. By developing a user-centric app, the likelihood that your app retention rates in turn will rise with focused attention to the people who deserve it most.
Rapid adaptation to an evolving environment, with technology as your source of inspiration, transportation, and transformation is the only method to grow in the software development field. To match every criteria, a product mindset capable of catering to the whims of the market and consumers is the best possible path forward.