Through designing and making I've learned the early warning signs a failing product. Look out for these indicators of a digital product going downhill fast.

Here is an overview of the warning signs:

  1. The Product Is Based on Assumptions
  2. You Haven't Looked Into Other Ways Potential Customers Solve Their Problem
  3. The Product Has a High Churn Rate
  4. You Are Not Making User's Feedback Actionable
  5. The Product Has a Wandering Roadmap
  6. (Bonus!)

Read till the end, I've included a sixth bonus one specifically for you. 😁

1. The Product Is Based on Assumptions

That you are scratching your own itch is very nice. But have you looked into the product's potential?

Smart companies invest money into market research before the product even exists. It is too expensive to build a product and then test whether people actually want it.

Wrong assumptions within an existing product can be even more harmful. Adding features based only on a 'what if' is foolish. It is only for companies that can afford to take the risks.

If your product is based on you and your team's opinions of what it should be, you are in dangerous waters.

2. You Haven't Looked Into Other Ways Potential Customers Solve their Problem

Competition is not only the companies that have the same product as you do. It is any method, product, or service that solves the need of your potential customer.

Why download a cumbersome grocery list app when pen and paper can do the job?

Give people the reason. Why use your product instead of the alternative? Or see your hard work sink into the abyss.

3. The Product Has A High Churn Rate

When people uninstall the app as soon after they downloaded it there is something off.

There could be a myriad of reasons for that. Here are a few:

  • Your product is not what the potential customer thought it was.
  • The application is clunky and hard to use (bad usability).
  • The competitor does it better and more convenient (lacking in User Experience).

The higher the churn rate, the more risk of failing. (Unless the designers made the product to have a high churn, but few do.)

4. You Are Not Making User's Feedback Actionable

Make action items in the product's strategy of the the pain points described in the reviews.

If the reviews keep piling up, but the product shows no improving – that is an early sign of the product's failure.

5. The Product Has a Wandering Roadmap

A wandering roadmap is a very big sign that nobody knows where the software is going. That the product is lacking a mission statement, and has no real purpose or definition. It is a telltale for disappointment.

Be extra wary of stakeholders, managers and marketing teams that do not have 'plans for the future'.

Bonus: You Do Not Have A Pivot Strategy When Sh*t Hits the Fan

What happens if Apple solves your customer's need with the new update of iOS? Is your product flexible enough to change? Can it differentiate and compete with something else?

If these risks are not thought, I can tell you: sh*t will hit the fan. And all the hard work will be gone in the time of one short Apple Event.

There you are. As promised: early warning signs that you will now recognize. How to solve these specific things are for other posts. When I publish them, I will link them here too.

What early signs we can look out for that I didn't discuss? Leave them in a comment.