How to Build a product right? The 5W1H Method

Two people with only their hands visible, sitting in front of their laptops and discussing notes on a sheaf of paper. Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

We all want to build a product that gets immediate acceptance from our consumers. Some do, some take time, and many do not.

Apple iPhone was initially launched in 2007 and by 2009, it had been released in all major markets (source: Wikipedia)

There are some which take time to gain traction in the market. It could be because of their high prices when they were introduced. But over time, they become quite affordable for more consumers to purchase the product. For example, solar panels were prohibitively expensive when they were initially introduced. But now they have become quite affordable for regular individuals to purchase them and install them in their houses.

For those products that did not become a success, the Product Managers might have wondered what went wrong. As per them, all the signs might have been there for the product to be a great success (but was it a user-friendly solution?). There, indeed, could have been a gap that the product filled (but was it a permanent gap?). There could be people who might have been waiting for such a product (but was it a small set of people or endemic to a larger population?).

So, while developing the solution, did they merely follow their instinct or did they base their development on some inputs.

We might think that the product that we are building might be the best there is and the people are just waiting for such a product. Truth is we are never cent per cent sure about the acceptability of the product by the target segment.

Product development is inherently risky. We can, however, increase our odds of success if we follow certain processes while gathering information of the problem that you are trying to solve. One of which is the 5W1H method.

This method was suggested to me by one of my leaders when I initiated the product development of a reporting and analytics application for our internal users. Following this approach has helped me not only during the initial phase of development, but also for any new features to the application that we have developed and launched.

Sometimes, just asking “why” doesn’t give a complete understanding of the problem. Asking additional questions could make all the difference. And these are: What? Why? Who? When? Where? How? Asking these questions help to provide a wide perspective on the problem that you have identified, the solution that you plan to develop to plug the identified gap.

What?

Stacked Question mark puzzle pieces with the word What written on top. Photo by Vadim Bogulov on Unsplash

This determines why you want to develop a product. Answering this helps you to clearly state the problem or the gap that you have identified which your product will solve/plug. It could even be a copy of an existing product in the market. That should be fine if the market is big enough to accommodate multiple competitors.

Why?

Why would you want to solve the problem? This helps you to articulate the reasons that motivate you to solve the issue. Whether there is a personal connection to the problem which prompted you to investigate the issue.

For example: Kamlesh, or “Jugaadu” Kamlesh as he is more famously known is the son of a farmer. While pitching his product on Shark Tank India, he mentioned the daily struggles of his father as the reason behind him inventing devices. He wanted to reduce the physical strain that his father and other farmers faced while carrying heavy loads on their backs every day to till their farms.

Who?

Crowd of people walking in all directions in a busy shopping district. Photo by Luca Vavassori on Unsplash

When would you want to launch to the market? The timeline determined for the product launch in the market. This would help to develop a roadmap of the features that would take care of the core needs of your target customers as part of your Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

When?

Man with a tattooed arm holding a compass. Photo by Ralph (Ravi) Kayden on Unsplash

Where would you want to introduce your product? Geography or the market where you would want to introduce your product. This should give the reason for the decision behind why the market/geographical location was selected.

How?

Two people discussing on a whiteboard. Photo by Kaleidico on Unsplash

How would you want to solve the problem? This details the product information and how it would help solve the issue/gap of your users that you have identified.

For example: MyGate app is an India-focused apartment management system which was initially developed as a mobile-based security management solution for gated premises (source: TheNewsMinute)

It is not necessary to have answers to all the questions even before you have started building the product or solution.

The “what”, “why”, and “who” should be identified. You can go with the “what” and “why” to the “who”. Through regular interaction with your stakeholders — your “who”, you will be able to determine the “how”.

The “how” will undergo multiple discussions before you determine the final version of the one that gets launched as a beta version and finally as an MVP.

By the time the final version is determined, one should have already identified the “where” and “when”. This would help the Development Team to provide good estimations of pending work and the time required to bring the product to a proper shape that could be shipped to the market.

Following this approach is not a guarantee that your product would be a sure shot winner. But it would weigh the scale in your favor when you introduce it to your potential users, thus increasing the chances of success. And as Product Managers, that is what we always strive for.

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I will be sharing my Product Management journey here with my thoughts and views covering the different stages of the Product Development process

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Adi Nukala

Adi Nukala

I will be sharing my Product Management journey here with my thoughts and views covering the different stages of the Product Development process

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