The guide to Hardware Product Development - Part 1
Updated: Jun 7, 2022
Criador Labs | Product Design and Development Studio | USA | India
You are a startup and want to build a hardware product. But how do you ensure whether it will be a success or failure? The answer is simple - users should love your product. This can be the make or break for your product and the difference between a successful company and a failed company.
In a software world, you can achieve a product-market fit after a series of iterations. This is because software development limits the time and cost of iterating. But in the hardware world, it’s the opposite. One iteration of product launch to market itself takes an enormous amount of time and cost. And if it fails, then you are more are less bankrupt. This makes building a fantastic product - “a must” thing.
Hardware product development mandates much more planning than software development. This is driven by the multitude of things that must be done correctly before shipping a hardware product. These things typically have long lead times and high associated costs if done improperly. This means that a small mistake is good enough to force you into bankruptcy.
Now, if building a great product is so crucial, a hardware startup should have a good hardware startup development process. The below process shows you what a good product development process for a hardware startup looks like.
The research stage allows you to understand the problem you are solving for, the customer who has the problem, and the market in which your product will sell and compete. This can be conducted in the below stages:
Design Research helps you to define the requirements so that the product solves the problem in the most efficient and effective way, offering value to the end-user and other stakeholders. Design research uses methods that include anthropology, ethnography, strategic thinking to gather information from multiple stakeholders synthesize the data into actionable insights and requirements for the design and engineering teams.
The process demands empathizing with the users and other stakeholders. It helps us to narrow down and pinpoint more accurately problems that may not be apparent at the superficial level and also helps you to uncover the ‘real’ problem.
The process includes:
Doing research online to gather trends
Doing customer interviews and observations to gather insights on the problem
Analyzing the data into actionable inputs
Creating customer personas
Market research is the process of collecting, analyzing, and interpreting information that will help you to identify the target consumers, target market, direct and indirect competition, and the industry as a whole.
The process includes:
Conducting user surveys and interviews
Conducting focus groups
Conducting online research to gather data
Analyzing the data collected
Creating a report with final actionable information
Though the Design research and Market research might seem similar in terms of process, the objectives and outputs are completely different.
Market research aims to improve the business side of the product. This provides an understanding of the ‘who’ and the ‘what’ of the consumer landscape. E.g., “Who might buy this.”
Design research aims to improve the solution side of the problem. Design research provides a deep understanding of “why” and “how.” E.g., “How to increase customer satisfaction.”
The goal of the research stage is to arrive at a thorough understanding of the problem and the market. This leads us into the next step of the development process, which is Proof-of-concept.
A proof-of-concept / PoC prototype helps you to validate the major assumptions uncovered during the research stage. This can be divided into 2 phases:
Design assumptions (Eg: Can users figure out how to use the product on their own?)
Technology assumptions (Eg: Does the technology being envisioned in the product can actually work?)
Note: In some cases, the technology would be already proven and available in the market in a different use-case product. In this case, there may not be any assumptions.
Then the prototyping process will be initiated to test the above assumptions. This is an iterative process done continuously until you find the right answers to all the assumptions.
The process includes:
Brainstorming lots of ideas before building anything, evaluating them, and shortlisting the best ones to prototype
Building mock-ups using a design methodology called rapid prototyping, testing them with the users, and gathering feedback
Developing the minimum viable technology for validation and testing of assumptions using off-the-shelf components and kits
The process ends with a conclusion on assumptions leading to a good understanding of the problem, how to solve it, and the feasibility of the technology.
Now, it’s time to optimize the solution so customers can use it. Part 2