Building a digital product that works

Sarah Lee
0 minutes

Having an idea is easy. Turning an idea into a digital product is hard. Building a digital product that works is – off the scale – hard! And ‘doesn’t work’ can mean anything, but always leads to the same outcome. You try it once. And if it ‘doesn’t work’, you don’t go back.

12 months after starting our project to revolutionise PR I am happy to say, we have built a product that works. And that means, we might just succeed in revolutionising the most traditional of industries: PR.


Our biggest challenge was to keep going. Every time we broke through a barrier, another lurched into view, just as we ran smack bang into the one we didn’t spot. It never really occurred to me to give up, but that determination could also be seen as misguided obstinance. One woman’s vision is another’s delusion.

Trust is a big challenge for any project like this. You are putting all your trust in people. A big learning for me was to recognise that other people involved in the project could feel as passionately about it as me. Things became much easier once I trusted that we all wanted the best for PingGo. The most important thing for us was to keep communication channels open, particularly working in two cities and a team made up of Millennials and Generation Xers.

But it was cashflow that could have brought the whole project to an abrupt halt. We had to pay 100% of the costs upfront and then claim back 70% quarterly. This was tough for a small business without any additional investment. PingGo was ravenous and we had to work our sister company hard to keep feeding it. Without an extraordinary team around me who believed not only in the idea of PingGo but in me, the project would have collapsed.


Most of our time went not into the code, but into understanding how people used the product and why. The first quarter was spent talking to our target market. A series of interviews gave us a clear picture of the type of customers we were attracting and their motivation for using PingGo. I didn’t always understand why that was important. We were building a PR product. I had worked in PR for two decades. I knew what I needed. I knew what the customer wanted.

Now, as people use PingGo and make it their own, I see why challenging my assumptions was important. It is not me using PingGo. It is everyone but me. And that is why we know ‘it works’. Because strangers can use it without me having to step in. Less is more and PingGo is a triumph of minimalism. Its simplicity belies the mountain of work that went into its design.

Fortunately InnovateUK understood how lean development works. That the days of creating a fully scoped product with detailed specifications are over. That we needed the space to be able to flex and pivot, listen to feedback and alter course. Compromise, trust and patience. It’s all so important. It is the human element of a project that can often derail things. Lack of trust. Failure to compromise. Big egos. The most successful thing about PingGo was the team building it.

Hope for the future

The next three months will be critical. We need to give PingGo time to settle, let folk use it, play with it, understand how they can get value from it. Then we can decide what comes next in terms of features. Our launch on Product Hunt last month drove a huge number of signups and we have learned a lot from our early adopters. The month’s free trial comes to an end tomorrow and our single focus will be to convert sign ups to customers and get the first 50 over the line.

PingGo has always been envisioned as a global product. The principles of a company building credibility through being reported in the media is the same in every country. The formula for writing news – who, what, where, when and how – is universal.

At the start of this project, my ambition was to revolutionise PR and make it possible for companies with no budget or in-house skills to get media coverage. We have proved that can be done. We have a digital product that works. Now we need to persuade the market to use it. Then we will have a revolution.

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