The runners crouch, knuckles to ground, knees bent, head down, listening earnestly for the gunshot. When it fires the runners put all of their available energy into their first few steps before they level out at their pace. The first two steps are critical. One slip, one misstep, and your finish is shot. So it is with product development. Learn more about how we focus on Human Factors in Product Development!

I have had the privilege of working with literally thousands of entrepreneurs and startup companies over the 26 years that I have been doing product design and development. One of things I have seen as a consistent indicator of a successful finish is the quality of the start.

What does a quality start look like?

In my experience it is discovering what the user needs to do to be successful using the potential invention, before you even know what your innovative concept will actually be! If your users are successful in meeting their needs with your device, the device is much more likely to be a market winner. How can you figure this out before your device even exists? Here are 3 ways to ensure you know what they need:

  1. Observe them in the natural environment, struggling with the current state of affairs. You wouldn’t be coming up with something new in this space if there was not a reason, right? Take it from me, there is more than one reason, there are many. I like to call these the “little needs surrounding the big need” and without discovering what these are, you might end up with a great technology that nobody uses.
  2. Find out what steps they take in their overall experience with the device. This means understanding what they are struggling with during device interaction in the early, mid, and late stages of their interaction. You can develop this by recording all of the pain points you discover during your observations.
  3. Develop criteria to guide the design that come from your findings. All of those little needs can lead to little features on your device that can add up to a product with a considerable market advantage over the competition. This means you will have to pay attention to more than just the typical things in a requirements document. Things like knowing who extended users are, what the limitations of the users perception of the device might be, and how the user interacts with the device before and after the actual usage scenario.

Do you have a new project that you are kicking off? If so, resist the temptation to come up with a solution before you have done these three steps. Your users will thank you when your device meets their needs in a more meaningful way, and you will be thankful that the market demand for your innovation is more than you hoped it would be.