Top 3 Product Development Tools to Optimize Workflow

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One of the biggest challenges any software start up can face is implementing product development processes that help make the development life cycle as efficient as possible. With so many moving pieces from product managers to designers to engineers, you can waste days, or even weeks, going back and reworking issues that could have easily been prevented the first time through.

From a product planning standpoint, there are a few tools that can make your life much, much easier. Obviously each tool goes quite deep, but let’s take a quick look at a few of them.

LucidCharts

Lucidcharts is where everything begins. It’s essentially a visual communication tool that allows you to create flowcharts to diagram the high level user experience of your product. From here, you can focus on spec’ing out individual features and then having your development team implement them.

lucidcharts

Lucidcharts is great for mind mapping as well!

There are a lot of tools out there with similar capabilities, but I have found Lucidcharts to be one of the best. Some of the features they offer are extremely valuable when it comes to effectively collaborating with team members. They offer in-editor chats, revision history and even a change log to maintain a solid record of what changes were made and which team member you should refer to regarding those changes.

Check out LucidCharts here

Balsamiq

One of the biggest challenges you can face when developing a product is communication. Its essential that everyone on the team is on the same page and working towards the same goals. If that can not be achieved, you’ll most likely have to waste time going back and fixing things. This is where Balsamiq comes in.

Balsamiq is a tool that allows your product managers and designers to clearly depict the design, and functionality for each page, button and action a user can take. Its a slightly time consuming process if you’re an overly detailed person, but the effort you spend on this step pays dividends down the road. Your developers will have a clear idea of what to code and exactly what the end vision is.

balsamiq

Check out the detail you can go into!

From a process overview, Balsamiq  would be used by your  design and product  team to more clearly conceptualize the ideas captured in Lucidcharts. Each page of the application would be designed out in a wireframe, each button would be appropriately linked and the copy (text) on each page would be written and finalized.  From there, your development team would take over and transform the wireframes into features within the live product.

Check out Balsamiq here

Trello

Trello was developed by Fog Creek as a web based, project management tool.  It uses the principles of kanban and allows you to create boards (projects) that contain lists in which individual cards (tasks) reside. Cards are small tasks that progress from one list to the next via a drag and drop feature. The progression from list to list is intended to mirror the flow of a feature from idea to implementation.

trello planning board

Potential Planning Board Lists

Trello Development Board Lists

Potential Development Board Lists

In the realm of product development, Trello is an extremely useful tool. It allows you to create multiple lists that each member of your team has full responsibility over. When a card is placed in their list, they take responsibility over accomplishing their role in the implementation of that feature and then moves it to the next list in the progression so the next team member can begin their work.

Check out Trello here

Overall, only you and your team will know what process will work best for you. The tools and example operations outlined above are just examples to give you an idea where to start. Test out different roles, responsibilities and tools to find what works best and then hit the ground running!

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