The Steps of Product Development

The Steps of Product Development

Process Overview

There are many models for product development, but most models have the following phases:


Notice the dual arrow between steps three and four: the results of beta testing will often necessitate a return to the design phase to make minor adjustments and fix issues.

The model that you use will depend on the type of product that you are creating, but your processes should be documented before you begin product development. Let’s take a closer look at each phase of the model.

Idea Development

This is where you describe:

  • What the product is and what problem it solves
  • What the general aim of the product is
  • Who is buying the product and who is using the product


Next, it’s time to plan out the details of the product by creating four requirement documents.

Market and Customer Requirements

  • What problem exists in the market?
  • What does the problem look like to customers?
  • What do customers want in a solution?
  • What do customers need in a solution?
  • What are our competitors doing?

Functional and Non-Functional Requirements

  • Functional requirements describe items that solve particular problems for users. (Example: Coffee machine sanitizes itself after each brewing cycle with water temperature of 212°F.)
  • Non-functional requirements involve the background operation of the product or service. (Example: Coffee machine will weigh less than two pounds.)
  • It can be helpful to prioritize requirements, particularly for early product designs.

Engineering Requirements

  • Describe the technical specifications of the design.
  • Define terms that will be used in the design of the product, particularly jargon or ambiguous terms.
  • Describe what materials will be used in the product.
  • Include patents and technologies that will be used or developed.

Testing Requirements

  • Describe how testing will be performed and documented. Create use cases if appropriate.
  • Outline performance targets. (Example: Coffee maker must start up within 15 seconds.)
  • Allow for variation where appropriate. (Example: Coffee machine will weigh between 1.8 and 2.2 pounds.)
  • Include any external inspections, approvals, etc. that will be required.
  • Create procedures for re-testing, rejection, and production changes.


Now it’s time to design the product. The output of this stage will be your product’s prototype. Be sure to set and enforce design timelines so that this stage does not drag on forever while the team tries to create the perfect product. Emphasize that this is a starting point. Encourage the team to add to the requirements documents as new issues are raised.

Beta and Quality Testing

Once the prototype is complete, it can be tested. Testing procedures will vary depending on the product, but can include:

  • Checking the product against the requirements documents
  • Use cases conducted in a lab
  • Usability testing with real people (in focus groups or within the company, for example)
  • Safety inspections

Once this round of testing is complete, the product either proceeds to limited production or (more often) goes back to the design phase for minor tweaks and adjustments.

Limited Production and Quality Testing

After the prototype has passed beta testing, it goes into limited production for a trial run of your production and quality testing procedures. If this trial run goes well, then you can proceed to the final stage.

Full Production, Quality Checks, and Product Release

At the final stage, your full production and quality assurance procedures are put into action. Minor revisions and adjustments will probably need to be made, but the general process should remain the same.

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