Whether you are building a new product, or maintaining an existing product, understanding the product you are building is vital. This might seem like a given, as you know your product, you know what you want it to be and what you want it to do. That being said, do you understand the product you are building, from your users viewpoint.
Understanding the user narrative
You may think you know the value of your product to a user, but that is not enough. You need to know the full narrative of the user, from them identifying they have a need/problem, through to how they go about looking for a solution, choosing a solution, using a solution and their use of the solution potentially becoming a habit.
Write a short narrative/story
Put yourself in the users shoes and write a short story from their viewpoint. Create a character on paper, give them a name, job title, location, age, hobbies and interests. Explain the problem they have or the reason they might need a software application like yours. Walk through the options they have available to them. Are they likely using another means to solve their issue? Why would they switch to your product? How would they know they needed your product? How would they find out about your product in the first place? Your story should finish with your character having used and been fully satisfied with your product.
Once you have written your short story from the users perspective, read through it and challenge it. Would a real user who was unaware of your product have followed the story you have written? Make amends to your story if needed. Then once you are happy you have got the narrative. Ask a few independent people to read through your story and see if they agree.
Using your user narrative
Finally, now that you have your user narrative, and understand your product from a users perspective, can you improve your product to make it more receptive to the user? How can you improve the story for your user, their journey, their usage and build a user habit?
Understanding the product your building
Understanding the product your building, is understanding two concepts. The first is you understand what you want your product to do, the second, why a user would use your product to achieve this. Once you understand these two concepts, keep them at the heart of everything you do. Keep sharing your user story with new potential users and see how it changes as your product develops. Remember a wise man once said, Successful users make successful businesses. Stay close to your users and your product will remain current.