As you develop your digital products, you must consider how they will scale in the future. This comprehensive guide will review the fundamentals of creating scalable digital products, including how to do it and why key components like design are so important.
What is Digital Product Scaling?
Before we get into the key to digital product growth, it helps to understand what scaling means. When you consider scaling at the business level, it means that your organization has a model that allows it to expand and grow in various markets and areas.
The easiest way to think about it is to look at brands like Google and Amazon. They are powerhouses for a reason – their business model applies to any market, geographic area, and individual. By addressing these universal problems, they can profit everywhere without having to adjust their value proposition.
We can also narrow the scope of scaling from the organizational level to the digital product itself. When your digital product is scalable, it can adapt to different markets, respond to changes in the industry, and handle variable loads – without sacrificing performance or cost-efficiency.
To prepare your digital product for this type of growth in the future, you must choose which way to scale: vertical or horizontal.
Vertical scaling is often called scaling up, as it requires you to add more power to the existing application. For example, you might increase your device’s disk capacity or RAM. Although this option is faster and easier than horizontal scaling, you will be restricted by the hardware’s limitations.
Horizontal scaling, on the other hand, involves scaling out. Instead of upgrading one machine you simply boost your resources by adding additional hardware. When you are preparing for digital product scaling, this is often the most effective option. It allows you to offer your clients more endpoints to connect to and better distributes the software load across nodes.
The Importance of Design
Now that you understand what digital product scaling is, let’s get into the key to doing it successfully: digital product design. In other words, when it comes to scaling, the software’s design itself can be a secret weapon.
The idea is to design a digital product that can respond to changes in consumer demand and preferences. Once you launch your software, even small changes can cause major impacts to users downstream – and designing with purpose allows you to manage those effects.
So, what should you do during the design process to ensure that you are ready to scale your digital product in the future?
Start by carefully analyzing the use case for the software. Ask yourself questions like these:
- What problem are you trying to solve for your users?
- What does success look like to your target audience?
- Does your value proposition align with that solution?
The information you gather as you answer these types of questions will fuel the design process and allow you to anticipate how the software will develop in the future. While doing this accurately is easier said than done, having an intentional process will get you one step closer to a digital product that can scale.
Consider allocating time and resources to developing a design workflow that allows you to continuously mold your product to address user needs. This will play a critical role in your ability to scale!
Rather than moving straight to action when you receive customer feedback, follow the design workflow. Doing so will help you understand the implications of the changes proposed, so you can prepare your organizations and users alike. It will also identify the costs and benefits of the change so your team can decide if it is worth pursuing.
While customer feedback is essential to driving your product forward and evolving, you cannot act on every suggestion and expect to succeed every time. Instead, collect the data and use it to gain a better understanding of the user pain point. Once you truly understand what they need, you can move forward with the design process.
As we talk about the importance of design, it is also necessary to address code scalability. This term refers to a flexible codebase. They allow you to modify it on demand based on the business needs, so you can implement new core features, integrations, models, and even expand your team.
Simply put, your code and software architecture will significantly impact how quickly your organization can respond to changes in the market and user needs. By addressing these concerns in the early design stages, you can avoid the painful – and expensive – process of trying to change a code that is not flexible.
Consistency is Key
Although digital product scaling involves being agile enough to adapt and grow in various markets and areas, consistency is still valuable. Scaling your software does not mean that everything needs to change – in fact, your design language should always stay the same.
Sure, you need to be able to add new features, upgrade your interface, and improve the tool’s capabilities. However, this should not come at the expense of your user experience!
You need to be thoughtful when changing your product so that you can reduce friction and ensure your users’ needs are still met. Consistency is the foundation that allows your products to scale without losing their effectiveness and original appeal.
For example, you don’t want your customers to have to completely re-learn how to use your product or lose the mental model that they had of your systems. As you add, remove, or change features, try to keep the product looking and feeling the same. By keeping the experience as seamless as possible, it will enhance the user experience and allow you to scale.
Consistency also applies to your design language. This refers to your internal guidelines for marketing and branding, such as your tone and voice and which products you offer. When you have the entire organization using this as a resource, you can build a cohesive experience for your customers.
Don’t just build a design language for the sake of doing so, though. Only develop features and tools that will improve the customer experience. When you consistently keep the focus of your digital product on the customer, you will find that scaling and growth are much more achievable.
Scaling your Infrastructure
Our comprehensive guide to creating scalable digital products would not be complete without discussing your IT infrastructure. The infrastructure determines your ability to respond to varied levels of users, connections, and requests. As such, you need a system that can perform well without going over budget.
Imagine that your software relies on one server that can handle up to 20 connections. Once you have more than 20 users, you will need to improve your infrastructure to handle that demand and maintain optimum performance.
However, not all users will be accessing your system at one time, so you must find the balance between meeting demand and keeping your costs down. Effective IT infrastructure will be able to start up and shut down servers accordingly to address these varying needs.
While this might seem basic on a small scale, consider the effort required for companies like Google to manage their search engines. If you have millions of users searching at the same time, your infrastructure needs to keep up without slowing down.
Performance optimization is even more crucial when you are trying to expand into new areas and grow your business.
Users don’t want to wait for their applications to load or experience lag – they want seamless, fast experiences that are still interactive and effective. You won’t be able to scale successfully if you can’t prepare for high usage levels as part of your digital product growth plan.
Track your page load rates to understand how much time is needed to download or view the content on your software. If the load rates are too slow, consider optimizing your assets, reducing HTTP requests, or minifying CSS.
Another way you can optimize performance to scale your digital product is to use caching. By allowing users to temporarily store reusable data, you can serve requests faster and more efficiently. You can leverage caching at various levels of the product too – from the browser to the server. Regardless of the size of your application, caching is one of the best ways to speed it up.
What About the Cloud?
You may be wondering, what role should the cloud play in your digital product growth?
Containerization and moving your application to the cloud may help you prepare for rapid growth and scaling. While this decision will vary based on your company goals and resources, a cloud solution can generally help you scale faster.
Many cloud providers allow you to customize your access based on demands and user base, so you can easily increase your servers and bandwidth accordingly – but you need to develop your product in a way that allows you to containerize and move to the cloud early on!