Product Development Life Cycle

Every product developed has its own life cycle. The idea product life cycle has four stages: concept, design, develop, and release.

After reading about product lifecycles in Understanding Your Users, I was immediately reminded of a video I created for MIT Sloan. In this video, students were separated into two groups and tasked with creating a bridge made entirely from tape and cardboard. They had two days from start to finish to create the bridge, which had to hold the weight of a golf cart. You can see the whole product life cycle here:

Stage 1: Concept

This is the idea phase. In this stage you are developing goals and objectives, creating personas, and executing UX research activities. In the video, this is when the students are given their objective– to build a bridge with a goal of holding the weight of a golf cart. They also needed to perform research to answer key questions like: What is the weight of a golf cart? How much material do I have? Etc.

Stage 2: Design

This is where you begin to use the information gathered in stage 1 to create designs. It is recommended to create low-fidelity prototypes that can be tested and modified. The idea of iterative design is to fail early because it’s much easier to change the product at this point. In the Sloan video, you can see sketches and paper prototypes of their early designs.

Stage 3: Develop

In this stage the engineers begin to create the actual product. This stage includes activities like preparation, planning and execution of the product. In the video, this is when the teams agree to the design and tested prototypes and create the bridge from cardboard and tape.

Stage 4: Release

The last stage is when your product is finished and released to the public. This stage blends with user experience research activities to gauge users’ feedback on the product. These activities include usability testing, surveys, and field studies. The last stage in the video is when their final bridges are tested with the golf carts.

Design Thinking

Design thinking is an approach to innovation and isn’t a formal step-by-step process; It is a framework and a mind-set. The 4 stages of the product life cycle provides great context to understanding design thinking. The core idea is deeply understanding the goals and needs of a product and refining ideas through prototypes. Throughout the video, two different designs were created for the same goal, and both passed the golf cart test.