Digital product development is an increasingly important part of a publisher’s everyday processes, especially as the emphasis grows on creating value for readers over and above the competition. But it can be a challenging area, especially for businesses who may not be au fait with development methodologies outside of the publishing world.
At Making Publishing Pay, Immediate Media’s Product Director Laura Jenner explored what publishers need to do to successfully develop digital products. From focusing on the customer to defining the right success metrics, here are her tips.
1: Be clear about WHY
Before starting any project or developing a product, it’s crucial to ask two questions. The first is simply to ask why this is being developed.
“Why are we doing this? What is the outcome we’re trying to achieve? And by outcome, I mean a change in human behaviour that delivers business value,” Jener explained. “What is the thing that you want human beings to do that will deliver value for your company?”
Whether that’s returning to the site every day, purchasing something, downloading a new app or buying a subscription, it’s important to keep that goal in mind for the product as something that will enable this change in behaviour.
The second question is around why are we doing this? “You need to ask yourself how you got to the point that we’ve decided that this is the step to take towards the outcome we’re trying to achieve,” Jenner said. It may well be, that with reflection, a product is not necessarily the answer to the particular issue or question.
2: Focus on the customer
But it’s not all about driving value for the business. Jenner has developed both print and digital products during her career, and for her, the biggest difference between the two is the focus on the customer.
“One of the joys of writing for a print magazine is that you don’t actually know if anyone read your column, but you know that it was in a magazine” she explained. “Now with digital, you can know pretty much everything about everything that happens with the products that you build. And so it’s very, very important to focus in on those customers; what they’re doing and why.”
3: Prioritise the discovery phase
This focus on the customer should drive everything about product development, and Jenner recommends prioritising this early on in the discovery phase of a project, before any work is done.
“Discovery is about building the right thing. It’s not just on one person…it’s often data, UX, product design, marketing, editorial and more working together in what should be quite a fast, iterative process,” she outlined. “Some key themes for discovery are around who is the audience for this? Who is the customer? Who are the people that will come back every day? Who’s the target audience? What are their pains and needs?”
“There’s a big piece of discovery around the actual audience themselves and what they’re trying to do…it helps you stop falling in love with your solution, with the focus being on the research of the problem, not the solution.”