What’s in your platform or app? (Product Definition)

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Taking your idea and making it into a product involves a very important step around defining what you want your product to do. This product definition (or product requirements) form the foundation for what happens next, so you need to take some time to understand what you need to look at.

Previously, I showed you how to write high-level and detailed requirements. In this article, I’m going to look at how a product or service is made up of more than just the thing you use it for. Think about the last time you used a platform or app. How did you interact with it? Along with the core thing that it did for you, what else happened? This will get you thinking about what your whole product will look like.

Let’s look at example:

AirBnB allows people with rooms or houses to rent them to people who are looking for rooms or houses. The core things that it allows renters to do includes:

  • Searching for rooms and properties
  • Making a booking (pay and reserve accommodation)

This is the essence of the service. There are obviously other things that you can do – like book experiences, cancel bookings, leave a review, etc. People supplying the accommodation (aka hosts) also have access to a whole bunch of other features – from listing their accommodation to managing their bookings.  All of these things are  functions in the product.

I want you to start thinking about the other things that are needed to make your platform work.  So, let's get started.

1. Privacy and Data Security

In order to make a booking on AirBnB, you need to create an account. To do that, the platform needs to collect a person’s personal information including name, address, phone number, email addresses and payment information. This information requires special handling and treatment because of privacy legislation. Privacy and data security are two very important areas to keep in mind when you're defining your product.

2. Legal

When you open an account on any online platform, you might notice a checkbox that says "I agree to the Terms and Conditions".  This little box is very important.  When someone checks that box, it creates a contract between you and that person.  This contract allows you to do things like charge the person for using the platform, and it also limits your liability if something goes wrong.  Get a lawyer to create your terms and conditions to ensure you get the best protection.

3. User Account Management

Once someone has created an account, they’ll probably need to update it at some point. User account management is another function that you need to think about. What information can someone change on the account? What other things will they be able to add or control in their profile?

4. Pricing

Your pricing model will have a big impact on the development of your platform or app. It’s pretty straight forward with AirBnB because you pay a rate per night and a cleaning fee (as determined by the host), and you also pay a service fee. However, some platforms are a bit more complicated – having different pricing based on usage, number or resources or accessible features. All of the rules for this kind of pricing have to be built into the platform.

5. Customer Servicing

What happens when a customer has a question about how the platform works? Or maybe they can’t login and access their booking? Customer servicing is an important part of any product – and platforms and apps are no different. Think about what methods you want to use to provide customers with a great experience – both on an everyday basis and when things go wrong. What process will be followed? What will you need access to in order to provide support to your customer?

6. Data and Reporting

On the business side of things, you need to think about what information you need to understand how well your platform or app is doing. Access to data and reporting are a must-have when running a tech business. Think about what metrics will be important to you, and how you want to receive that information – is it a dashboard, a report or a .CSV file, etc?

7. Admin

There are a lot of things that happen behind the scenes to run and operate a product. All of these admin functions need to be included in your platform or app.   May be a customer’s account needs to be updated? Or may be you need to add content on a regular basis? These tasks should also be included in your product definition.

8. Integrations

Integrations involve connecting your platform or app to another application. This might include email automation systems, a CRM, a payment gateway (to collect payments), an accounting system, etc. What other applications do you need to run and operate your product?

What this means for you…

An idea is initial view of the main thing that your platform or app will do. It describes the problem that you want to address and your high-level solution for it. However, a developer can’t build a platform or app from an idea. In order to get your product built, you need to have a better idea of all of the things that you want your platform or app do – this is your product definition.

More importantly though, you have to remember that a product is more than just the core things that it does. There are lots of surrounding parts that are needed to run and operate the product. Remember to include these pieces as you take your idea to the next stage. They’ll help you to get an accurate quote for your project and you’ll be in a better position to run and operate your product as a business.

Need some help defining your product for your developers?
Check out our requirements writing course.

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