8 Questions To Ask Before Creating a Digital Product

Today, everyone wants all of the latest, greatest web tools – a website, a mobile app, a blog…
However, when developing a web presence, the latest, greatest web tool may not be the best place to start.

A brand’s presence online goes far deeper than the tool it’s communicated through. And unless we’re willing to take a few steps back, we risk missing the greatest potential for a brand online.

Here are the 8 questions we, at Metacake, try to have every potential client ask themselves before we ever write a line of code. The first four help you discover what kind of digital product you actually need to create and the last four assist in deciding who to hire to bring it to life.

1. What are my goals?

To define our business goals, we must first understand the commonly misunderstood difference between strategy, objectives, tactics and goals.

  • a STRATEGY is the approach you take to meeting a goal.
  • an OBJECTIVE is a step you take within your strategy.
  • a TACTIC is a tool you use to accomplish an objective.
  • a BUSINESS GOAL, however, is a primary outcome, and the very best place to start when trying to determine what kind of digital product you actually need.

Here are a couple examples of online goals:

  • “To produce $600,000 revenue from online sales this year.”
  • Or if you’re not looking to monetize, “to educate 200,000 people about my cause.”

Once we have our target, we can intelligently evaluate how the web tool we thought we needed could (or couldn’t) help us hit it.

2. How would this web tool help me meet my goals?

We get tons of clients each year asking how much it would be to produce a mobile app. And why wouldn’t they? Every customer has a mobile phone in their pockets and every competitor seems to be creating an app of some kind.

However, after evaluating our client’s business goals, 1 out of every 3 times, whatever web tool they thought they needed is in fact NOT what they need.

Take our above example, “How will a mobile app help us get $600,000 in revenue this year?”

As it turns out, although mobile traffic to retailer websites and apps is growing, shoppers are still much less likely to make purchases using their mobile device, as compared to a desktop. (While mobile sales grew 64% in 2013, it only accounts for 13.2% of the estimated total of 2013 e-retail sales).

This alone tells us that a mobile app may not be the best solution to increasing revenue. A better solution to capture their mobile users, while saving time and money in the process, may be simply optimizing an already-functional website for mobile.

But then again, the type of tool needed can’t be decided only by our 50,000 foot goals. We must also know who we’re trying to reach.

3. Who am I trying to talk to?

“In order to persuade your audience to consider, try or purchase your product,” says Jason Falls, the Founder of Social Media Explorer, “you must, beyond all other requirements, know that audience.”

Defining our future audience and/or studying our current one is the quickest way to determine what web tool we actually need and how to go about reaching them.

We don’t use the same mechanisms, language or strategy to sell luxury glassware to senior citizens that we do when trying rally millennials around our company’s cause, do we? Of course not! Therefore, we must become apprentices of who it is we are trying to talk to online and let their interests and common avenues of communication architect our web plans for us.

See 3 Steps to Start Defining Your Target Audience, by TELL, for more help.

4. Do I have a brand?

This may seem elementary, but the importance of getting back to the basics is imperative in building a lasting brand online.

The truth is we can build you the nicest website possible, but it’s absolutely impossible to effectively digitize a brand that doesn’t have a brand. Imagine that!

Here are a few places to start defining who you are and how you want to communicate that to the world:

Now, once you’ve narrowed your sights on the type of tool that will best suit your brand, you must begin asking questions about the ACTUAL execution of the project. 

5. What would I consider a success for this digital product?

Defining exactly what you want your new web tool to accomplish helps set expectations on the front end of a build. What would be an exceptional ROI? Moderate ROI? Poor ROI?

For example, “if this tool made my brand look classy, sound professional, and turn at least 20% of visitors into customers, it would be worth the investment.”

And once expectations are in place, we must define a good product versus a great one.

6. Do I know what a quality digital product looks like?

“The only valid measurement of quality code is WTF’s per minute.” – Anonymous

There are hundreds of developers that will claim they can build anything online that you can dream up. Unfortunately, there’s a massive difference between good code and bad code. This is why so many of our new clients come to us to try and salvage a mess that was previously made.

Just because a website or app looks pretty does not mean it’s a good or quality or functional product. And let’s be clear, the most important long-term element of a web tool is the quality of its experience – i.e. great design + great code. Without quality development, a project full of hope and promise can forever be a thorn in a brand’s side.

Don’t take it from us. Take it from Derek Halpern and others in this post, “Have you ever hired a web developer and felt cheated?” (Be sure to read the stories in the comments)

Also be sure to check out Ugly Mug Marketing’s “How to avoid getting ripped off by a web developer.”

But, don’t lose heart. There are also very talented and capable developers out there. You simply must do your due diligence in finding them. And just so happens that the next two questions may help you determine exactly who it is you’re looking for to build this tool.

7. What are my plans to evolve this web tool?

The only thing consistent on the web is change. In building anything online, you must expect to both iterate the product and maintain it with ongoing support.

This evolution can play a significant role in what you build and more importantly as we’ll see next, who you get to build it.

8. Do I want a short-term tasker or a long-term partner?

Not only is it important to thoroughly check the quality of a developer’s work, but you want to make the hiring decision based on whether you want a short-term or long-term partner. Do you want someone to step in for a season, build it, and move on or do you want a partner to build, iterate, and maintain your tool over time?

We strongly recommend the latter.


That’s all that stands between a good experience and a potentially terrible experience with your brand online.

This may mean you don’t hire the first or the cheapest developer that bids for the job. Or it may mean that you take some time to develop your brand and your voice and your vision before green lighting the writing of a single line of code.

All we recommend is that, regardless of the tool, you don’t rush into building anything online. Take the time to ask yourself these 8 questions. We can guarantee that it will make all the difference for a better experience, a better product, and a better brand online.


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