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Developing my own product – Creating a product vision

09 Mar

One of my longstanding dreams has been to develop my own product. My own creation, from start-to-finish, is something I’d really wanted to do. The goal is not to become the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, but it would be great to having something that people can actually use and that’s ‘my own’. So I decided to go through the ‘proper product development’ process as I would with any other product and apply the same logic and steps.

My first step was to determine whether a product ‘has got legs’. What is my product idea? Who are my target customers and which of their problems is my idea aiming to solve and why? Can the product be technically and commercially viable? What’s the best business model for the app? What are my expectations with this app? With all these questions flying through my head, I decided on creating a product vision as a starting point. My thinking was that once I had worked out what problem I was looking to solve and for whom, I could start assessing the opportunity.

  1. Let’s start with a bit of context first – For the past 4 years I’ve been running HipHopListings, a simple Twitter feed and blog that informs people of upcoming Hip Hop gigs in the UK and lets them know about new Hip Hop releases. HipHopListings has proven to be very popular, with approximately 4,000 followers on Twitter and lots of interaction around what’s effectively a list. Numerous users have been asking me to create a mobile app, providing an overview of Hip Hop shows on any given date for any UK location.    
  2. Now what’s the idea!? – Existing concert tracking apps like Songkick or Ticketmaster mostly enable tracking based on a user’s location (Ticketmaster or Seatwave) or based on specific artists that you’re tracking or that are in your music library (Songkick or GigsandTours). However, none of them seem to be doing ‘genre specific tracking’, providing users with an overview of shows in a specific music genre they’re interested in. Whilst doing HipHopListings, I’ve received a lot of feedback from users who liked the fact that HHL covers Hip Hop shows and releases in the broadest sense of the word and thus lets them discover things they might not have done otherwise (see Fig. 1 below).
  3. My main goal / vision – Before I did anything else, I started thinking about a clear product vision or goal to work towards. I tied this in with thinking about HipHopListing’s target users and their needs (see Fig. 1 below) and some very rudimentary sketches of my product idea (see Fig. 2 below). I believe that a good product vision has two main characteristics. Firstly, it’s succinct but very clear. Secondly, it needs to express a clear goal that you’re trying to achieve (and which you can validate). I thus started drafting a number of possible product vision statements (see Fig. 3 below).
  4. Can my vision be tested? – Whilst coming up with potential vision statements (see Fig. 3 below) I also started thinking whether my goals and visions could be validated. I’ve learnt the importance of being able to test a specific goal or aspiration. For instance, what does a possible vision statement stating that I want to create “A great overview of Hip Hop gigs and releases at your fingertips” actually mean? Is there a way to measure whether I’ve been successful in achieving this vision? Which metrics do I need to start measuring? With the rough product vision statements that I started outlining I also started thinking about potential metrics that could help to validate some of my assumption (see Fig. 4 below).
  5. Initial product vision – In the end I settled on “A comprehensive list that lets users filter shows by location and by date”. This vision encapsulates what I’d ultimately like to achieve with my HipHopListings app: a simple but truly comprehensive list of shows that users can interact with, wherever they are. This vision leaves room to add features like ‘upcoming release information’, but my key focus is to create a list that provide info on all Hip Hop gigs (big and small) across the UK.

Main learning point: applying some common product management tools to your own idea definitely adds a different dimension! I found that taking something that’s your own brainchild and being rigorous about can certainly be challenging at times. Mind you, at this stage no one hadn’t really heard about my idea or goal, nor had seen any of my – very rudimentary – sketches. However, spending a bit of time of upfront thinking about the “why” and “who” of my idea was very helpful in refining some of my ideas and assumptions. I believe that every idea for a product or service needs a starting point. Thinking about an product vision / goal was my starting point in thinking about creating a mobile app for HipHopListings.

Fig. 1 – Target users and the problems that the HipHopListings app is looking to solve

User 1 – Hip Hop fans who wish to find out about Hip Hop gigs in their local area

“King B” – “How do u find out about concerts & gigs in uk? Is there an app for iPhone?”

“King B” is a Manchester-based finance student and entrepreneur. He has been following HHL on Twitter for 3 years and checks it regularly to find out about Hip Hop shows in Manchester. His favourite artists are J. Cole, Blu and Trey Songz.

Main problem: would like to find out about Hip Hop gigs in the UK though a mobile app.

King B screenshot

User 2 – Regular concert visitors looking to plan city trips around shows

“Beth Jo Scott” – “Sappnin 23-26th Feb in London? Anything good/not sold out?”

“Beth Jo Scott” lives in Blackburn, follows HipHopListings on Twitter and is passionate about music and Hip Hop music in particular. Beth Jo is 23 and loves going to Hip Hop gigs across the UK. However, she often tends to find out about shows once they’re already sold out or have taken place.

Main problems: (1) finding out abouts shows as soon as details are released and (2) planning trips to UK cities around a Hip Hop gig.

User 3 – Hip Hop artists or promotors who wish to promote their gigs and releases

“Skillit” – #skillitbang album launch party on @hiphoplistings tumblr#skilllitmusic make it down there http://instagr.am/p/VuD2nImSgx/

“Skillit” is a London-based rapper who does a lot of gigs in small venues across the UK. He’s not yet big enough to be picked up by big ticket resellers such as Tickemaster or See Tickets. He therefore uses a much more ‘grass roots’ approach to marketing his upcoming shows, using HipHopListings and other UK Hip Hop sites to promote his gigs. Main problem: being able to promote my gigs and releases across a wide audience of Hip Hop fans.

Skillit screenshot

User 4 – Hip Hop fans who wish to be alerted on upcoming Hip Hop shows in their area.

“Joey Del Negro aka DJ Skoundrel” – “why am I only hearing about this now??!!”

Joey Del Negro is a London-based DJ and regular visitor of Hip Hop gigs. He finds that’s he often (too) late in finding about Hip Hop gigs in London and wants to receive regular alerts about Hip Hop gigs coming up. Joey doesn’t have a specific Hip Hop artist or DJ he’s interested in, he likes to be kept up to date on upcoming Hip Hop shows, so that he can then decide what he really wants to go and see.

Main problem: wanting to find out about upcoming Hip Hop shows as soon as possible.

Joey Del Negro screenshot

Fig. 2 – Some initial sketches of possible user interface 

A basic way to list gig information, outlining date, artist, location, venue and ticket resellers: 

0306'13 Gig outline sketch V1.pdf

A basic way to filter gig information, with the user being able to select using a number of filters:

0306'13 Gig filter sketch V1 A basic way to list release information, outlining date, artist, release title and link to buy / download: 

0306'13 Release outline sketch V1.png

Fig. 3 – Possible vision statements for the HipHopListings mobile app

Long version:

“HipHopListings is a mobile app for Hip Hop fans in the UK who want to be kept up to date on Hip Hop events across the UK and Hip Hop releases. Our app lets users find about Hip Hop shows or releases by artists they might not even have heard about, but will be triggered to go an check it out. Our app goes beyond specific artists you wish to track and gives you a complete overview of upcoming Hip Hop shows and releases, making sure you have full access to what’s going on and letting you filter this info by location or date.”

Shorter vision statements:

  • “A great overview of Hip Hop gigs and releases at your fingertips”
  • “Enabling Hip Hop fans to access gig and release info where and when they like”
  • “A comprehensive list that lets users filter shows by location and by date”
  • “A single source for all Hip Hop concert and release information”
  • “An app that doesn’t track artists but tracks all the releases and shows in the genre you’re passionate about”

Fig. 4 – Assumptions and metrics to validate

  1. Assumption: Users wish to receive alerts not based on a specific artist. Instead, they wish to receive alerts on all gigs within a specific genre and within their local area. Possible metrics to validate this assumption: (a) number of alert sign-ups (b) ‘click-through‘ on alerts and (c) conversion on concerts listed (i.e. ticket purchases).
  2. Assumption: Users like having immediate access to a list of Hip Hop releases and gigs on the go using their smartphone. Possible metrics to validate this assumption: (a) number of app downloads (b) cohort analysis, e.g. comparing usage by recent sign-ups to non-recent sign-ups (c) number of retweets and shares of release and concert info and (d) conversion on releases and concerts listed (e.g. ticket purchases and purchases/downloads of releases listed).
  3. Assumption: Artists and promotors wish to interact with the app by providing gig or release info. Possible metrics to validate this assumption: (a) number of artists providing release or concert info to HipHopListings and frequency (b) number of promoters providing release to HipHopListings and frequency and (c) conversion on releases and concerts listed (e.g. ticket purchases and purchases/downloads of releases listed).

Related links for further learning:

  1. http://www.digitalmusicnews.com/permalink/2013/20130206concert-attendance-down
  2. http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/JimHighsmithonProductVisi.html
  3. http://www.svproduct.com/product-validation/
  4. http://www.slideshare.net/JasonDavis5/jdavis-strata-eubigdatabigchanges
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