Updated: August 1, 2023 - 6 min read
Ever found yourself pouring heart and soul into a shiny, new product or service, only to watch it stumble and fall either before or shortly after launch? Don’t worry, you're not alone, most Product Leaders have been there, done that, and got the t-shirt. However, you can change that narrative for upcoming projects. How? Your secret weapon is iteration.
Iteration: A New Beginning, Not an End
Iteration in product development refers to the process of designing, testing, analyzing, and refining a product. The process aims to improve the quality, functionality, and usability of the product by continuously learning from feedback and performance data. In essence, it gives you the opportunity to turn back time. Without it, Product Leaders would be forever churning out identical products, riddled with the same old flaws, and left with no room to rectify them.
Let’s be clear, iterating a product is not equivalent to starting over. An iteration cycle is pretty straightforward: you make something, you test it out, you learn from it, and then you make it better. This process is then repeated, or iterated until the product meets the desired standard of quality and functionality.
The iteration cycle can vary depending on what works best for your team. However, a typical workflow includes the following stages:
When the product is launched or deployed to the end users for further real-world testing.
Even after the initial launch, testing should continue (also called beta testing) and users interact with the product to provide feedback on any bugs or issues they encounter.
After the product has been deployed and tested by real users, you must evaluate its performance. Are users satisfied? Are there unexpected issues? Do certain features need tweaking? This assessment can provide valuable information for the next iteration.
Planning for Next Iteration
Based on your evaluation, you plan the next iteration of your product by identifying what needs to be improved or added in the next version. This step completes one iteration cycle, and another begins, continually evolving and improving the product over time.
As you can see, the opportunity for refinement is inherent to the creation process itself.
7 Key Strategies for Becoming a Product Iteration Expert
Before we delve into each strategy, you’ll need to come to terms with the idea that when it comes to product development, the notion of 'done' is a bit elusive. Unlike incremental design, where you build piece by piece until a final product emerges, iterative design throws that concept out the window. Your product is never truly 'finished' and you are perpetually in a state of learning and enhancing.
Here are seven key strategies to maximize the benefits of your product's iterations:
1. Build from the end up
First things first, have a clear vision of your end product. Every feature you iterate should align with your ultimate goals. This foresight will guide your development process and keep you on track.
2. Start small
Remember, the essence of successful iterative design lies in attentive listening to user feedback and applying the necessary changes. Even if you're tempted to go big, resist. Start small. Only construct a little before garnering that crucial first round of feedback.
3. Be open-minded
Once you have feedback, don't rush to settle on a solution. Explore all possibilities and gradually narrow them down over time, continually testing as you go. This could involve designing multiple prototypes that solve the same problem differently and letting users decide which works best.
4. Re-vamp 'til you die
While we don't condone physical discomfort, we do urge you to build as many prototypes as you can handle. The more versions you have, the more potential solutions you can explore. The winning design is out there somewhere!
5. Thrive in failing
Embrace failure as a learning opportunity. If you never allow room for error, you'll miss out on discovering alternative opportunities. As the saying goes, "Value experimentation and user testing over clean design only exist on paper. Every time."
6. Carry on asking questions
Your users are the best source of information. So, keep the questions coming. Ask them if the product is bringing value, meeting their needs, and what's not working. Their answers can guide your next iteration.
7. Set it aside
Lastly, iterative design sometimes involves letting go of your cherished ideas in favor of what truly resonates with your users. It's tough, but remember, it's all in the best interest of your product's success.
Keep these tips in mind as you navigate your product development journey, and you'll be well on your way to creating great products.
Iteration Example: Productivity, Trust, and Loyalty at Spotify
When it was first launched, Spotify had a simple goal - to provide users with access to a vast library of music. However, they didn't stop there, recognizing the immense value of iteration.
Spotify constantly analyzed user behavior, gathering feedback and insights to understand how people interacted with the platform. This continuous process led to productivity gains as they efficiently introduced new features and improvements. For example, Spotify noted that users often struggled to discover new music; in response, they iterated on their product and introduced the "Discover Weekly" playlist - a personalized music recommendation feature that quickly became a hit among users.
Stakeholders, including investors and music industry partners, could see Spotify's growth and innovation in real-time. This not only fostered trust but also reinforced their relationships.
But perhaps the most crucial benefit of Spotify's commitment to iteration was the loyalty it fostered among its users. Spotify showed that they were listening and committed to improving their platform. This dedication was evident in features like the "Wrapped" year-end review, a popular and highly anticipated annual feature that gives users a rundown of their listening habits over the year. This was a clear indication that Spotify wasn't just focused on its growth - it also deeply cared about its users experiences.
Through consistent and iterative improvements, Spotify evolved from a simple music streaming platform into a personalized music experience that users love and trust. Spotify's success story exemplifies the power of iteration in enhancing productivity, building trust, and fostering loyalty.
A successful iteration implies an ongoing commitment to enhance and create an exceptional user experience – a crucial component in creating great products.
Updated: August 1, 2023