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How to create a product vision backed by users

Imogene Robinson
Imogene Robinson
7 min read
21 June 2022

“Product” in the digital world is a catch-all term for things like apps, software platforms, and websites. 

An effective product is one that has a meaningful purpose that is beneficial to the people using it. 

That purpose is created with a product strategy. 

Product strategy encompasses quite a bit. Everything from how the user navigates the product (the UX), to the design of the product’s components and features, to the long-term plans for the product’s future. 

That said, how do you go about creating a product strategy? And what can you do to ensure that it leads to a successful product? 

It all starts with the product vision.

Here is how to create a product vision, led by user research. 

woman writing on post its

Put your users first

In her book Escaping the Build Trap, product management expert Mellissa Perri defines “the build trap” as what happens when organizations measure their success by outputs rather than outcomes.

Put another way, it’s what happens when organizations focus on simply launching products or new features instead of thinking about what value these provide for the user. 

In defining your product vision, you need to pay attention to the value you’re trying to provide with your product. 

For instance, DEPT® recently assisted with a homeowner’s insurance app that wasn’t performing well. 

When we unpacked the original product vision, we learned that the app was created to help policyholders complete routine maintenance tasks on their homes and, if they used it, they would receive a financial reward when they needed to file an insurance claim. 

The problem with the company’s original product vision was that the value of the product came late and, moreover, came during a comparatively unhappy, stressful time for the user: when they needed to file an insurance claim. 

By assessing the product vision behind the app, the company was able to pivot on its vision, doubling down on home care reminders and education. In doing so, they successfully increased the app’s performance. 

Creating a product vision is a vital reference when building out a product. It’s also important to have in the future when updating or adding on to the product. With a clearly defined product vision, brands are able to take a proposed new feature and measure how well (or not well) it serves the app’s intended purpose.

Conduct user research to eliminate assumption

Once you have created a clear product vision, it’s time to turn to the users themselves. 

User research eliminates assumptions in your product vision and strategy. It gives you direct insight into your user base’s wants, needs, and expectations. Ideally, these all align with your product vision and provide a foundation for what needs to be accomplished as you flesh out your product strategy. 

Here’s an example

Last year, we helped the financial planning company eMoney conduct user research. They wanted to attract a new audience to their product: millennials. 

Traditionally, financial planners and tools have been used by older generations. But with the world on the cusp of the greatest generational wealth transfers in recent history, eMoney needed to recalibrate its product strategy.

DEPT® kicked off eMoney’s user research by interviewing millennials. We needed to understand how they seek financial advice and what they want from it. We also wanted to identify how they interact with their money.

Through this research, we learned that millennials require greater control, access, and adaptability when it comes to financial advice. An educational component was important to have too. 

These key learnings were distilled into insights, potential opportunities, and idea creation. Working with the eMoney team, we came up with five concepts to implement in their product strategy and connect them to their new user base. 

Some of these were a part of the original product vision, and some were new opportunities.

Ultimately, eMoney’s user research stage became one of the main drivers for their new product strategy. It all goes to show, that it’s a vital part of the process and not something to miss out on. Skipping user research, whether it be because of time, budget, or even Melissa Perri’s build trap, can result in a product vision and strategy that fails to provide for your users by relying too much on guesswork. 

product vision meeting

Put one dumb foot in front of the other

Barry Diller, the famous American businessman, once said that the secret to building a successful business is to “put one dumb foot in front of the other and course-correct as you go.”

As much careful thinking and research as you do, the best way to strengthen your product strategy is to put it to the test. Take the plunge, and then assess and course-correct as needed.

One of the best ways of doing this is with a technique pioneered by Google and practiced by product professionals, the design sprint.

Sprints are a great way to test the viability of your product and your product strategy without spending your entire budget building a product that might flop.

Over the course of five days, a selected group of internal and external stakeholders work together to create your product vision, research, create a prototype of the product, and run it through a round of user testing. 

Our work with both the homeowner’s maintenance app as well as eMoney included a design sprint and in both cases affirmed the direction we were headed with product strategy.

When it comes to assessing the viability of your product strategy, it’s important to note that the user testing component of design sprints acts as the determining factor. It puts your product in the hands of the audience you’re trying to attract and allows you to assess whether or not your product strategy is working. 

If it is, make plans to launch your product. 

If it’s not, think about what you need to do to course-correct and try again.

Product strategy is a careful balance of knowing and not-knowing 

It’s creating and understanding your product vision, and users, and confidently making an educated guess. Along the way, steer clear of assumptions by remembering, at the end of the day, you don’t know everything. 

A good product vision can also come as the result of a less-than-good one. Sometimes stumbling once or twice is the best way to learn how to strike that balance. As long as you remember to course-correct and keep putting one dumb foot in front of the other, you’ll find your way.

And, of course, if you’d like to work with DEPT® on creating a product strategy, we’re happy to help! Feel free to get in touch with our experts.

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Imogene Robinson