Product development it really hard. Outsourcing product development is harder but it can be easy, if you pick the right people to work with and learn to let go.
It’s tough because you’re putting your entire company at stake when you choose a partner to build your product. Natrually, you feel like you have to protect yourself. So you start making yourself feel like you know what you’re doing. You prepare “wireframes” in powerpoint (or something equally horrible), writing long word docs and getting your logo made on 99designs. This makes our job a lot harder since we have to spend the 1st week to just convince you that you need to re-do all this.
Product development is also expensive. You don’t want to confuse product development and web development. Web development happens when you know what you want to build. Product development encompasses the whole process from the start to the end. From product planning all the way to deployment, qa and launch.
So now you start getting some prices and get scared. Instead of understanding why, you immediately look around to find a cheaper way of doing things. The internet never fails that test! It’s a sure way of making yourself feel good in the short-term. With all the lean methodology out there, clients really feel like somehow pasting together a designer and developer = a product team. This clearly produces really low quality products. You get to mix poor tech decisions with poor UX decisions. It turns out wonderful!
Product development firms are very deeply involved in your product planning process. Most of the time, we change our client’s ideas completely during the 1st phase of the project. You want to work with people that are honest and will help teach you how to organize yourself so you can effectively bring your ideas to life. Sending them the powerpoint you made is not going to help much. Learn from them. Put your guards down.
The key thing here is that you’re BUILDING a PRODUCT. Except that you’re not doing that. Someone else is doing for you. Yes… it’s your idea but your company will be defined mostly by what we end up building and not what’s on the napkin.
Building a cohesive, solid, polished product takes a lot of work and attention. It doesn’t matter where it’s produced or how much experience the person has. It’s a really difficult thing to pull off. It takes an extremely dedicated / multidisciplinary group of people to produce such a thing.
The core issue of engaging with a product development agency is that you expect a really loyal and dedicated service from them. One that can’t really be measured in hours. But many still conveniently think of it as a traditional service provider… I’m paying you x, you are performing a service for me and I want to get a good deal so… I’ll try to get MORE. Most people won’t admit to this but it’s true. You try your best to get more.
In this particular transaction, it’s the absolute opposite.
What you want to do is focus on getting less stuff (features, pages, modules, widgets, etc). Give the firm more time to polish. More time to perfect the same items. The more stuff you get, the lower quality each part will be.
More of a lot of crap is really useless for your users. Less of an awesome thing is pretty useful. I know it’s tough, it takes a ton of trust and a solid partnership but ultimately, it’s what I’ve seen produce great results for both agencies and our clients.