How Product Managers Use Product Ideation to Build Better Products
What’s product ideation? How to implement it in your SaaS?
If you’re after the answers to the questions, you’re in the right place!
In the article, we look at the stages of the product ideation process and popular ideation techniques a product manager can apply. We also explore different ways of collecting user feedback to inform the process.
Are you ready to dive in?
- Product ideation is a customer-centric process that aims to translate user research insights into actionable ideas for improving the product.
- Successful product ideation allows teams to understand user needs better and develop innovative solutions that address these needs. This reduces the chances of building a parity product and drives product retention.
- There are five key stages in the product ideation process.
- First, product teams need to prioritize user feedback to identify opportunities.
- Next, they generate ideas and test them to select the best ones.
- After that, it’s time to build the solutions.
- Finally, it’s important to close the feedback loop and let users know about the changes.
- “How Might We?” questions are a technique for identifying important user problems.
- Storyboarding is a method of visualizing processes and user journey touchpoints and finding ways to improve them.
- Brainstorming and brainwriting help teams generate ideas quickly but it’s best if first, users have a chance to prepare for them individually.
- The acronym SCAMPER technique focuses on manipulating existing solutions to achieve better results.
- To provide the necessary data for the ideation process, teams can collect user feature requests and feedback in-app. It’s important to collect qualitative as well as quantitative and active as well as passive feedback.
- In-app surveys need to be triggered contextually and target relevant user segments.
- Customer interviews are the best way to gather detailed insights from users.
- Want to see how Userpilot can help you collect customer feedback? Book the demo!
What is product ideation?
Product ideation is about collecting, selecting, refining, and delivering ideas to add value to the product.
Product ideation involves the whole product team and entails a sequence of steps.
What is a product ideation process?
While for many teams it may be synonymous with brainstorming, there’s much more to the product ideation process.
For starters, brainstorming is just one part of it. To make brainstorming sessions productive, it needs to be based on data, so it requires prior customer research.
Once the ideas are generated, the product ideation process guides the team and helps them choose the best product ideas, tweak them, present them to the stakeholders to get their buy-in, and then implement them.
Overall, the product ideation process is methodical and structured and goes beyond individual idea-generation sessions.
What are the main benefits of product ideation?
The product ideation process is an essential part of the product development process, critical to its success.
Identify areas of improvement
Product ideation helps teams identify ways of improving the product.
The process involves customer research. By gathering user feedback or customer requests teams are able to pinpoint specific parts of their product that need improvement.
Avoid product parity
User feedback and product usage data allow product managers and product owners to gain an intimate understanding of user needs. They can use the insights to create new and original ideas to solve user pain points and satisfy their desires.
This approach to improving the product is superior to simply copying the features that competitors offer.
That’s because the latter basically means constantly playing catch-up with your rivals. In the best-case scenario, it allows a team to build only a parity product that is very difficult to differentiate.
Become customer-centric and increase retention
Developing a product based on user feedback and customer requests enables you to satisfy their needs more successfully.
This in itself is enough to improve customer retention because such products deliver better value.
It also sends a clear signal to your customers that you care about them and this increases customer loyalty and drives retention even further.
What are the stages of a product ideation process?
Product ideation is an iterative process consisting of five key stages.
User feedback collection
Gathering user feedback and requests is the first stage in the process.
Listening to your users is essential to successfully diagnose the problems that you could solve for them.
This refers both to the problems specific to their business contexts as well as the pain points they’re experiencing while interacting with your product.
Idea generation based on data
Once you understand the problems, it’s time to generate creative ideas on how to address these problems.
There are different approaches to that, and we’re looking at some of them later on.
Whichever technique or method you choose, it’s key to keep these sessions relevant to ensure alignment between user problems and solutions.
Narrowing down selection stage
It’s natural that some of the proposed solutions will be better than others. That’s why the aim of this stage is to whittle down the options and choose the ones that are most promising.
There are different techniques you could use here, like dot voting.
Next, prototype testing and more customer research are necessary to validate these ideas and choose a single one to implement.
Mind you that at this stage we’re already looking at prioritizing different solutions.
However, a similar process should apply earlier on also the user problems. This is to make sure that the team is working on opportunities that will drive the biggest value.
Implement the idea during the development process
Having selected the best improvement idea, it is time to implement it.
Implementation is an interactive process and apart from building the solutions it also involves testing them to make sure they meet the QA standards. More importantly, they need to do the job they’re designed to.
Close the feedback loop
When you develop the solution and test them thoroughly, it’s time to close the feedback loop and let users know about the changes you’ve implemented.
In case of bigger updates, like those that involve substantial changes to the UI, it may be necessary to amend your support materials, design new onboarding flows, and train the customer success team.
That’s not the end though, because as soon as users start using the new feature or functionality, you need to get back to collecting user feedback. That’s to assess how successful the feature is and find fresh ideas for improvements.
Popular product ideation methods and techniques
There are plenty of product ideation techniques that you could use to identify problems and create ideas. Let’s have a look at a few product team favorites.
“How might we” statements
“How Might We?” questions are a powerful technique that allows teams to turn their research insights into opportunities.
How do you use the “How might we” statements?
Start by generating as many statements as possible. They need to be related to specific user problems and detailed but not constraining.
For example, if user feedback shows it’s difficult to find the demo booking button, the statement could be ‘How Might We change the UI to make demo booking easier?’
Next, choose the questions which have the potential to deliver the most value and use them as a springboard for idea generation.
Brainstorming and brainwriting
Brainstorming sessions are a very popular means of generating ideas and sharing them with other team members. They also have the potential to energize the team and increase their engagement.
However, research shows they achieve the best results when participants have a chance to prepare for the sessions individually before sharing and discussing ideas collectively.
That’s because individuals tend to generate more ideas individually and it helps teams avoid such antipatterns as groupthink or social loafing
If you still want all members to generate ideas together, why not try brainwriting instead?
Instead of shouting out their ideas, give participants time to write their solutions down individually. When the time is over, they pass them on to another person, who then builds upon them.
Storyboarding is a technique for designing the user journey or improving existing processes.
A storyboard is a visual representation of the solutions and how they fit into the user experience.
It allows teams to focus on the impact that their ideas could have on the user. It also helps identify assumptions underpinning the solution and problems they could come across.
SCAMPER is a simple technique that encourages the team to look at existing solutions and tweak them to address the problem better.
What kind of tweaks are we talking about? The acronym stands for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate, Reverse.
For example, if you have problems with users reaching the activation stage, your team could look for ways to combine a few steps of the process to remove unnecessary friction.
How product managers should collect user feedback for product ideation
To realize the benefits of the product ideation process, the product manager or product owner needs to implement a comprehensive customer feedback workflow management system. This means harnessing various methods to continuously collect feedback.
Collect feature requests in-app
One way to collect ideas for product improvements is by collecting feature requests in-app. After all, your users, especially the most committed ones, know their own pain points better than anybody else.
You can design the right form with tools like Userpilot. Next, you add the widget to your resource center or place it in another prominent part of the UI so that users can easily access it.
Of course, you still need to analyze and filter the requests. But even if you decide not to proceed with the feature development, you can still gain some valuable insights into how to improve the product.
Gather user feedback with microsurveys
Just like feature requests, user feedback is fairly easy to collect in-app.
Modern adoption tools allow you to build fully customized microsurveys without the need for any coding.
There are three main things to remember when it comes to feedback collection.
First, make sure to collect qualitative feedback. While quantitative feedback, like NPS or CSAT is great for tracking trends or segmenting users, it’s not enough to get an in-depth understanding of their needs. To make up for it, simply include follow-up questions in your surveys.
Next, make sure to target the right user groups. Power users may be a good group to start with, but only if you’re collecting feedback on features that are relevant to them.
Finally, trigger your surveys contextually, that is at the right time and in the right place. For example, asking for feedback immediately when the user interacts with a feature is more effective because the impression is still fresh in their minds.
Use multiple UI feedback widgets
No matter how well you think through the timing of microsurveys, it may not always be right for the user.
As they are rushing to complete their tasks, they may not be in the right mind space to respond, no matter how short or simple the questions are. It doesn’t mean they don’t want to help though.
That’s why apart from collecting user feedback actively, it’s a good practice to incorporate feedback widgets and collect passive feedback.
This gives your users the opportunity to share their thoughts at the time that is best for them.
Regular customer interviews
Customer interviews are an essential part of the product ideation process.
Collecting user feedback in-app can signal there is an issue that needs your attention and shed some light on why it’s occurring. However, to truly understand the nature of the problem, you need to talk to the users.
That’s why always schedule interviews to follow up on your surveys.
Better yet, make a habit of interviewing your customers regularly to facilitate the continuous discovery of new opportunities.
A rigorous product ideation process helps teams develop relevant solutions to important user problems.
To be effective, product ideation needs to be research-driven.
If you would like to see how Userpilot can help your team conduct user research, book the demo!