Stages of Product Development: A Guide from Red Collar

Red Collar
7 min readMar 6, 2024

We’re excited to share how we build complex digital products from the ground up, detailing the phases of product development.

Meet us, Red Collar. If our name rings a bell, you likely know us as a digital agency. But we haven’t wasted any time. We’ve pursued our interests and evolved into a development company skilled in crafting intricate IT products from scratch.

Our role resembles that of a startup incubator: we navigate through all stages from pre-project analysis and hypothesis formulation to design concept creation, development, and even future product branding.

Over the years, we’ve honed these processes to ensure a smooth development pace for us and deliver successful outcomes for our clients. We’ll admit, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, but we’re now ready to share our insights, as our experience could benefit other development firms.

This article kicks off a series where we’ll dive deep into each stage of digital product creation and the functions of all teams involved.

Today’s focus is on the initial stages of bespoke product development and our key customer types.

Product Development: Clients

Everything starts with an idea.

Our clients approach us with a diverse array of digital product ideas, from building something entirely new, supporting existing solutions, digital transformation, and beyond.

We’ve synthesized this experience into a concise classification.


Typically, startups come to us with just an idea. More often than not, these startups are owned by entrepreneurs who already have a business in other offline sectors and see the startup as an opportunity for expansion and a foothold in the digital realm. Consequently, they might not have a clear grasp of the new domain, its market, and its needs. That’s where Red Collar steps in as a consultant, first conducting thorough market analysis and then advising on the ideal team composition for product development down the line.

Not all client ideas remain unchanged after our analysis. After delving into the reasons behind the idea and assessing the real-world situation (market and environment research), the concept might evolve. Our goal is to avoid replicating existing solutions and aim to fill any market gaps with fresh ideas. Ensuring alignment with our clients and co-creating a product that satisfies both parties is key.

— Olga Kulapina, Head of Business Analytics, Red Collar

Digital Transformation of Businesses

Some clients aim to digitize their existing offline business, either partially or entirely. It’s crucial to recognize that such digital transitions serve specific objectives, like attracting a new audience, automating current processes, or simplifying service operations (e.g., booking, purchasing).

Transitioning to digital can be particularly challenging, as issues present in the offline business can become exacerbated online. Imagine a store with a dysfunctional logistics system, lacking clear inventory management. This problem naturally extends to the online store, potentially hindering sales growth and customer loyalty.

Addressing these issues starts with traditional business analysis to identify and outline existing processes and design a solution that seamlessly integrates into the existing business model online, fulfilling the client’s objectives.

— Irina Zakurdaeva, Systems Analyst, Red Collar

Working with an Existing Business and Refactoring

We specialize in enhancing existing products.

Typically, our clients are businesses that have been successful in the market and are looking to modernize outdated technologies.

It’s vital for them to maintain operational business processes and accommodate their target audience’s preferences, initiating the project with a thorough analytical phase. We assess the needs of both the client and their audience, examine the current technological stack, and identify the most fitting solutions.

Accurately evaluating the project’s complexity and timeframe, as well as the required team expertise, is essential to avoid critical mistakes. To preclude such errors, we involve developers and systems analysts from the project’s inception.

Stages of Creating Digital Products

Regardless of the request — digital transformation, creating a new product from scratch, or refactoring — all projects follow the same trajectory.

This journey marks the commencement of digital product creation at Red Collar

Pre-project Analytics

This foundational stage is critical, helping clients and developers sidestep potentially costly mistakes. It sees the collaboration of Red Collar’s business analysts and marketers, with the research scope and tasks tailored to each project. A “gold standard” process includes briefing, examining business processes, defining goals and the desired product state, researching the target audience and the market, hypothesis validation, and selecting a leading hypothesis. Monetization strategies may also be explored.

This phase involves gathering as much information as possible from both the client and potential users, establishing whether there’s a genuine need for the proposed product.

A product’s success hinges on user satisfaction, not just the client’s preferences. There are numerous instances where the target audience shows little interest in what appeals to the client.

— Vyacheslava Vasetsky, Delivery Manager, Red Collar

Armed with this comprehensive data, we proceed to service design and MVP (Minimum Viable Product) definition, detailing functional and non-functional requirements, current and future product states, user roles, and the service map.

With a clear concept in hand, we advance to the design phase, which gradually involves our designers.

Merging Analytics and Design: Wireframes and Prototypes


Designing wireframes starts with determining the necessary minimum functionalities of the system and how and which blocks will interact. This task is performed by business analysts.

The wire is suitable for understanding content placement. It’s the very first and least detailed stage, a kind of static visualization.

— Alena Boldyrikhina, Business Analyst at Red Collar

Example of a wireframe


Analysts and designers participate in the prototyping stage: analysts explain the functional part and business logic. Designers handle the visualization of the prototype. As a result, we have the basic structure of the future product. We show the client a desaturated version of the prototype for more comfortable work — such a prototype will not distract with unnecessary elements.

Designing the Application Architecture

Following the prototyping, we embark on designing the product architecture based on the wireframes, involving both architects for system design and developers for actual creation. The choice of technology stack is informed by our thorough analytics.

Design Concept Creation

The approach varies based on the client’s needs. If we’re dealing with a business yet to establish its brand, we start from scratch, considering the client’s vision and current trends while differentiating from competitors to discover a unique angle. This may involve a separate branding phase, a story for another time. Our focus then shifts back to the design concept.

Typically, the design concept phase results in several key screens that provide a glimpse into the final product’s appearance. It’s crucial to remember that design transcends aesthetics; it involves a combination of experience, understanding effective UX solutions, and crafting a functional yet appealing solution that meets both the audience’s and the client’s needs.

During the design concept phase, we establish core principles, such as prioritizing speed over beauty or vice versa, and sometimes embed metaphors to guide the project’s direction. For example, one project was playfully nicknamed “Tinder for gravel.”

— Artem Fedorov, Design Director, Red Collar

Ultimately, we define the intended ambiance through the interface, considering the existing brand, sourcing references, and selecting elements tailored to the future product’s objectives. While the initial screens are drawn, they remain flexible, subject to refinement throughout the development process.

What’s Next?

We’ve covered significant ground: from conceptualizing to identifying the target audience, assessing their interest, planning functionality, and laying the groundwork with wireframes and prototypes to architecture planning, technology stack selection, and initiating design concept development.

Yet, there’s much more ahead, which we’ll explore in future articles to avoid overwhelming our readers with too much information at once. Next, we’ll discuss our transition from the waterfall methodology to Agile and delve into other stages our services undergo.

In Closing

The realm of digital products, services, business types, client profiles, development stages, and beyond is incredibly rich and complex. So much so, it’s easy to get lost, but we hope our insights will provide some direction.

As evident, launching a digital product, like starting any business, relies heavily on numerous factors: client objectives, market dynamics, customer and competitor landscapes. In this digital journey, the client and developer essentially become partners, ensuring a strong foundation for a successful product.

Thus, we immerse ourselves deeply into our clients’ businesses, serving not just as contractors but as consultants, grasping nuanced details. This partnership enriches both our domain expertise and the client’s service level, achieving a win-win outcome.

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Red Collar

🏆 An award-winning agency with over a decade of expertise, delivering design and development services globally | 🌍 | 📩