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Developing a Tech Product? Don’t Make These 10 Common Mistakes

Rudy Mutter
June 16, 2016

Sometimes, good companies make bad product development decisions. Those can lead to failed products like Microsoft Bob, a living room-like user interface designed for novice PC users circa 1995.

But most often, mistakes dig a pit of “soft” costs — wasted developer time, buggy software, or poor user acquisition — that gulps down a product’s profits. As technology experts who work with startups, enterprise corporations, and any companies in between, these are the technology product development mistakes we see most often:

1. Taking the waterfall approach to development

As the name implies, the waterfall method calls for sequential development, with progress flowing through stages such as conception, analysis, design, construction, and production. But tech products rarely move smoothly towards production, and you’re likely going to waste a whole lot of developer time as you realize the product you designed isn’t exactly what users want. Choose agile development instead, which Yeti uses to build user-centric products with predictable costs and quick delivery.

Devin Fountain working on a prototype for WikiHow

2. Not prototyping before building

Jumping into product development without first prototyping your product is a fool’s path. Between time spent on unwanted features, poor UX design, and unnecessary component development, skipping the prototype can cost companies a lot of dough.

3. Architecting inefficiently

No matter what users see on the front end, the back end of your product needs a solid foundation. But inexperienced developers can make mistakes — we often see inefficient databases and asynchronous component design — that damage product functionality and slow down software. Before you construct a house of cards, check out stack overflow’s application architecture checklist.

4. Ignoring technical debt

Just as it’s easy to run up a credit card bill, developers can quickly amass technical debt if they’re not consistently paying up. A debt-ridden product means your team will be stuck chasing bugs or rewriting code, not building new features. Ask a third-party firm to audit your product’s code to keep its technical debt in check.

Rudy Mutter and Dean Mercado

5. Building blindly

No matter what you might think, you can’t truly know what’s inside users’ heads. While it’s easy to push forward and guess what features users want, that’s not the path to a successful product. Instead, use Yeti’s empathy-mapping technique to better understand a product’s users. Remember to check your work with user testing after building each feature.

6. Insufficient infrastructure monitoring

If you’ve weathered the first few product development cycles, you’re off to a great start. But to progress further, you’ll need somebody to monitor the launched application’s production environment. While it’s possible to outsource this task, issues like crashed production servers and application instability are best managed internally. During the debut of Chelsea Handler: Gotta Go!, our servers became overwhelmed, which we caught quickly thanks to a suite of application monitoring tools we use to check performance.

7. Launching too late

While it’s tempting to put every bell and whistle on a product before release, that’s neither the quickest nor the safest path to market. Instead, save money and developer time by building a minimum lovable product, shipping it to users, and then crafting additional features that consumers actually ask for or need.

8. Siloing teams

Everyone knows the dangers of siloed teams, yet they continue to hamstring companies’ product development. Especially at larger companies, splitting teams leads to ineffective collaboration, longer development cycles, and inconsistent experiences between products. Agile development is a great way to bust down these silos — one of many reasons Yeti prefers it to waterfall methods.

9. Bureaucratizing development

One of the worst ways to develop a product — other than with siloed teams — is by committee. When too many people have different opinions about a product’s user interface, product development invariably grinds to a halt. To keep it humming along, limit teams to 3 to 8 people, and give them creative freedom to make tough product decisions.

10. Utilizing old or unstable technology

When a consumer buys a tech product, he wants it to be cutting-edge. So don’t doom your product to a lifetime spent collecting digital dust by building with old technology. On the flip side, don’t use new technology for the sake of new technology — you might find yourself bogged down in a learning curve, applying the technology incorrectly, or accidentally “beta testing” buggy software.  Product development is a long trek, fraught with unforeseen foxholes and hard choices. So let Yeti be your bridge across the gorge between you and your next tech product. Together, we’ll find firm footing no matter how arduous the journey.

Rudy Mutter is a CTO + Founding Partner at Yeti. He found his passion for technology as a youth, spending his childhood developing games and coding websites. Rudy now resides in the Yeti Cave where he architects Yeti’s system and heads up project production.

Follow Rudy on Twitter.

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