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Why Digital Products Fail... and How to Succeed

Daniel Wolf
Daniel Wolf Nov 24th, 2022

Do you know why we rarely hear about digital product failures? It’s because the vast majority of product failures were never actually witnessed by anyone. In some rare cases, a large company like Tesla, Google, or Facebook will come up short on a moonshot initiative. But, more often than not, product failures look like your average local business launching a website, but never getting any traffic or generating any sales.

There’s a formula for digital product success, but there’s also a formula for digital product disaster. My goal with this post is to help you avoid failure with your next mobile app or website and, instead, set you up for a long future of success. So, here are the three reasons most digital products fail and our most important advice for how to succeed.

There’s No Problem to Solve

The first reason many web and mobile apps fail is because they were created without any specific problem to solve. You might have an idea for a new product, but if that product doesn’t have an audience who is willing to spend their time—and even their money—on the product, then it will never gain traction and will ultimately fail.

Think about the apps and websites you use every day. What problem or problems do they solve for you? Why do you use them repeatedly? Every successful digital product was created to solve a unique problem or meet a specific need for a target audience. In order to succeed, you need to understand who your target customer is, what things they struggle with, and how your business can position itself uniquely to help them.

You Failed to Validate Your Approach

Now that you have an idea that solves real problems for your users, you’re ready to launch your digital product, right?

Wrong. At this stage, your idea is still an idea. You can add feature after feature to your product, but this won’t guarantee that your audience will necessarily adopt, use, or like it. In fact, studies show that failing to validate your product—meaning everything from how it’s designed, what features you build, and how usable those features actually are—can cost you extra time during product development, extra money to pay those developers, and extra rework after you’ve launched the product.

There isn’t a business owner on Earth who would sign up for those extra costs if there were a way to eliminate them early in the project.

The Tools and Technologies Can’t Adapt

If the previous point weren’t enough, it’s worth another reminder that the decisions you make early in product development can have long-lasting and potentially expensive consequences. The technology you choose to build your products with is an area that can throw your project off the rails.

For example, in the past several years, many “no code” or “low code” mobile app development platforms have come on the market. They promise business owners can have the app they’ve always wanted at a fraction of the price and effort. Unfortunately, there are hidden costs with this approach, and one of them is the longevity of your product. If you want to integrate your app with the latest and greatest features of iOS or Android, that can be difficult—if not impossible—to do using a platform. You might also be shackled into a design system that you or your users don’t like.

Similarly, you might design a website that looks spectacular on a user’s computer, but flops the second you open it on a mobile device or tablet. For more, check out our advice for designing world-class responsive websites that work on all devices.

When it comes to technology, think first about what you’re trying to accomplish and work with a trusted partner to choose the right tool for the job. Don’t go shopping for a tool with the hope that it will fit your project.

Success Requires a Roadmap

Good work. You’ve successfully increased the odds that users will love and continuously use your product over the long haul. You’ve done that by ensuring your product solves a real problem, testing your product idea and implementation with real users, and building it using modern, future-proof development methods.

But, there’s one more step you need to take. You need to document your long-term roadmap. A roadmap is just what it sounds like—it’s a list of the product features, enhancements, or upgrades you’d like to make to your digital product over time. It’s helpful to document these requirements in a way that spaces them out over time. Yes, it’s tempting to want to do everything at once, but rushing your roadmap only increases the chances that you’ll fall right back into the dilemma you had at the start of this post—too many ideas, not enough validation, choosing the wrong technology.

Ready to get started on your digital product roadmap? Reach out today.

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