5 Simple Ways (And Tools) To Improve Product Development

As with product development of any kind, process design is often the most difficult (yet most valuable) part of your project.

Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of designing and developing too much of their product without soliciting feedback from their target customers. Customer-centric product development is about continuously adapting and learning from your user’s experience.

For example, we cater to a diverse group of customer segments, and we faced a significant challenge understanding user experience. In the early stages, we realized we needed to develop a simple way to collect UX data and create systems to organize it, analyze it, determine necessary changes and upgrades, and then execute on them in the most efficient way possible.

Observing your customers through multiple channels is key to uncovering opportunities for optimization. It is also a great way to quickly catch problems and keep development costs low. A faster feedback loop means tighter testing, more efficient development and production, and ultimately, increased user satisfaction and growth.

This data collection and analysis process can be categorized into five main stages: discover, capture, analyze, plan, and execute. Find software tools for each of these five main stages and ensure each tool can be integrated into the same analysis stream. Here are the tools we use in these five stages.


1. Discover

This stage is all about your team, communication, and goals. It’s all about facilitating the management of resources, determining desired outcomes, and aligning the development process with other departments in your company.

We use Slack: Every team needs to communicate regularly, and inter-office email can be cumbersome. Slack’s alternative to email allows you to keep project conversations fresh and in real-time. Its chat feature integrates with other software services (like Intercom) for instant notifications and assignments requiring technical support or sales calls.


2. Capture

This is the stage where we collect user data from as many observation points as possible. Moving beyond the vanity metrics of traffic, clicks and referrals, in this stage it’s important to pull data that highlights every part of user interaction.


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We use:

Google Analytics: Go one step further than the basic data created in the default GA account. Create dashboards relevant to each department and keep close tabs on your metrics and trends.

Intercom: The ability to give instant support to your customers (and instant access to interested leads) is important as a service tool. But as far as data collection is concerned, this customer messaging platform also provides front row access to frequently asked questions, points of frustration and design opportunities. Collect customer interaction data using customized feedback surveys.

FullStory: Watch how users interact to see exactly where they drop off, get confused or need additional support. Using FullStory, you can recreate the complete user experience so you can see user flow and points of frustration, as well as how new customers browse and interact with your sales content.


3. Analyze

In this phase, you need to take all your user experience data and convert it into actionable data. Reverse engineer the final numbers you need to make better decisions and design.

We use Mixpanel: Mixpanel, an advanced mobile and web analytics platform, integrates with your data and presents it in customized dashboards that can help compile answers to your main design questions. It also highlights opportunities for growth and areas of weakness. We think of it as “analytics on steroids” when it comes to making informed business decisions.


4. Plan

Turn analysis into action plans to address gaps or deficiencies, as well as areas you can fine tune for your goals and KPIs.


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We use Asana: Finding a project management system that can grow with your team, is user-friendly and manageable from every level can be challenging. Asana stood out to us because it allowed us to implement our OKR (Object Key Results) processes and scale up with project, department and individual task management and productivity. With each department’s calendar visible to everyone in the company, we can easily maintain higher levels of productivity and focus on key objectives.


5. Execute

Automate actions based on analytics. In this final stage, you need to use everything you’ve learned and execute as quickly and efficiently as possible. The more you automate processes, the better you can leverage insights.

We use:

Mixpanel Webhooks: This is the automation extension of Mixpanel that allows you to trigger actions based on data. Webhooks can be tied to other apps.

Intercom: Again, we use Intercom to address the gaps of automated messages. These are based on predefined conditions, like if a customer doesn’t have a set booking schedule or if their subscription is about to expire.


Lastly, there is no better way to learn how your product is received than by actually using it yourself. We use our own product to link our CTAs so that customers can instantly book a demo or call with our support team. We integrate our scheduling system into Intercom and our website.

As with product development of any kind, process design is often the most difficult (yet most valuable) part of your project. By shortening the feedback loop using readily available software tools, you’ll be able to leverage your own growth. Numbers mean nothing until you can convert them into valuable actions.


This article has been edited.

Arash Asli is the CEO of Yocale.com, an online scheduling and marketing platform for small service businesses.


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