Why your software needs a clear product vision

Increasingly, we find that clients are coming to us with ideas for software but without a precise plan for how it should work. We love projects like this, where collaborative thinking often results in something that exceeds everyone’s expectations.

If you find yourself in this situation, here are some helpful things to consider, to help drive out a clear product vision before you launch into designing it.

What do we mean by product vision?

Your product vision is an aspirational statement about what that product does. It describes the ideal scenario for the person using it. Here's an example of a great product vision statement by Microsoft, for their Surface:

For the business user  who needs to be productive in the office and on the go, the Surface is a convertible table that is easy to carry and gives you full computing productivity no matter where you are. Unlike laptops, Surface serves your on-the-go needs without having to carry an extra device.

Should we build that feature?

Picture the scene - you’ve come up with some new features for your existing software but you don’t have the money to build them all.

Unless you’re Google or Apple, chances are, your budget is limited.  You need to spend wisely and not get swayed by those around you. It’s easy to add features because one member of the team (looking at you Sales!) or an influential client wants it but suddenly you find you’ve accidentally become  a custom web development shop without the commercial model and those costs are stacking up.

Stop. It’s time to develop your product’s vision. Gather your core team and take a top down approach, starting with the ideal vision and working out how to turn that into real life software.

Some of the Natural Interaction team working on a product vision for a new web app.

Defining your product vision will provide a clear filter through which you can make strategic, thought out decisions so don’t even start exploring that new feature or web app unless it ticks these three boxes:

  • Does it add value for our users?
  • Will it add value for our business?
  • Is it in line with our vision?

Start by doing one thing well

To ensure that your product achieves market fit you need to be seen as providing the best solution to a particular user problem. To own that market, you need to offer something better than your competitors.

Rather than building every feature imaginable in an attempt to reach the top, focus your valuable time, money and people on the one feature which will help people understand that vision.

User Research is a good place to start. If you’ve done this already, you’ll know the big problem your target users have. Your vision therefore, should be of a world where you’ve solved that problem with your product or new feature.

Spend time looking for the point where a single feature can add the most value to your web app and before launching head long into an all singing, all dancing digital product design roll out, test it with an MVP (minimum viable product).  

Starting small with an MVP will give you confidence that the product does indeed achieve the vision. Once you have validation, you can invest further. Want to find out more? Watch our UX Easy video which explains what an MVP is in under five minutes: 

Make it easy for users to know what you stand for

Your product vision should be easy to articulate and something which resonates with your target user. Although the end user won’t know what that vision is, it should be obvious with the product in mind.

We see a lot of companies make the mistake of filling their value proposition with corporate waffle or refusing to take a firm stand. This leads to something middle of the road which will ultimately lead to weak digital product design which fails to deliver something stand out.

Remember, as with anything consumer facing, if your prospective customers are looking for software that solves a problem. If they can’t immediately see what it does and how it’ll benefit them, they will go elsewhere.

This vision also helps you align your team, reducing the tendency to add features on a whim and encouraging everyone to concentrate on what matters.

If your execution fails you can go back to the vision

Don’t be disheartened if the first feature or web app you build fails to gain traction. You may still be solving the right problem, just in the wrong way. Maybe the answer is quite different to your original idea of how the vision would come to life.

But... there is a chance that your product vision is wrong. If all the evidence indicates that to be the case, go back to the original problem and re-test your assumptions. It may be that you can articulate a new vision or approach the old one in a different way.