It's natural to have a great idea and follow your vision no matter what. This type of confidence is a good thing, especially when you need to inspire and lead the team. However, from a business point of view, you should be critical about your ideas, validate ideas, and listen to users. Otherwise, you can end up spending large amounts of money and time on a product nobody needs.
I have just mentioned an important phrase, 'idea validation.' This is what helps you check if your idea will succeed in the real world. If it doesn't sound convincing enough, look at the statistics. #1 reason why startups fail is the lack of Product/Market fit. This basically means they didn't validate the idea, market, or assumptions.
All in all, validating product ideas matters if you don't want your product idea to fail. In this article, I'll tell you what product validation is? How to validate a product idea correctly? And show you how we validate ideas at Uptech.
What does it mean to validate an idea?
Let's go back to the basics and look at the definition of the word 'validation'. As the Cambridge Dictionary puts it, to validate something means proving that something is correct.
In the software world, idea validation is the process of testing business ideas to understand their viability. Let’s say you have an assumption that people need an app that tells where to find local language classes. Through the product validation, you find proof that people and the market not only demand your product but are willing to pay for it.
Why is it important to validate product idea?
When you validate a product idea, you study how significant the problem you want to solve is. How painful the problem is, if people search for a solution, are they ready to pay for it. Many entrepreneurs fall into the same trap. They overrate the importance of the problem they want to solve. During the idea validation, you study the market and meet reality.
When you validate your idea, you can save yourself a lot of time and money. Instead of betting everything on a "big bang" launch, you check if your idea is worth it.
Savings in time and money come from the fact that when you validate a startup idea, you get to know whether it will work. This prevents you from creating a product that is sure to fail.
Overall, the product idea validation serves 3 main purposes:
- Study the market;
- Save time&money;
- Mitigate risks of failure;
Uptech Tip: We always recommend starting with Discovery Stage / Research to understand your target audience, market, and find the best market fit for your startup.
How to validate a startup idea: 8 Key Steps
There are some necessary steps in the product validation process that you can follow to understand whether your startup is likely to work or not.
● Analyze your competitors and potential target audience. You should understand the reality of the market and your users’ needs to build an app with high demand.
● Choose a relevant user group to provide feedback on your idea. The group that you choose should be reflective of your ideal customer base.
● Interview each member of the user group you have chosen. Doing this allows you to gather their thoughts and feelings about your startup idea. It’s usually enough to talk with 5-10 potential users to get 80% honest feedback about your product.
● Make sure every user is sharing honest feedback during user testing. This is important if you want to get accurate and unbiased feedback
● Review your startup idea and make any necessary improvements/changes. It may even be required to reject your initial idea or ideas and go back to the drawing board.
Uptech Tip: It’s usually enough to talk with 5-10 potential users to get 80% honest feedback about your product.
This is a reflection of the basics of how to validate an app idea. However, if you are making a start as an entrepreneur, there is a lot more involved in validating your startup idea. Let's take a closer look at the 8 steps of product validation. :
- Analyzing the competition;
- Talking to the target audience through the surveys;
- Preparing proto personas;
- Creating a Customer Journey Map;
- Conducting User interviews;
- Creating and testing prototypes;
- Conducting user tests;
- Using the Design Sprint.
Analyze the competitors
There is no doubt that any effective entrepreneur needs to have a good understanding of the market. This allows them to see if their product is likely to succeed.
For instance, there are millions of apps to purchase on Google Play or at Apple's App Store. What makes your app likely to succeed? Analyzing your competition can help you to answer this question. It's an essential factor when you are looking at how to validate an app idea.
This is because it's easier to see whether your idea is likely to be successful when you know what other similar products are out there. You need to understand what your competitors are offering and what they are doing right or wrong. This helps you to establish where your app stands in the market. Here’s what the competitor analysis includes: a
● Gaining an understanding of who your strongest competitors are.
● Determining the content of your competitors' applications. You should look at areas such as what problems they solve and how they are designed.
● Looking at the SEO strategy of your competitors. This can help you to see why they are succeeding.
● Considering how you can improve your product, based on competitors' disadvantages.
When we started to work with our new client - Carbon Club, a UK-based environmental startup that helps users reduce their negative impact on the planet - we, of course, did our research of the competitors to understand the market better. The closest competitors we researched were: One Today, GiveTide, Coin Up, Aspiration, Wonderful, Just Giving. We checked every app by ourselves to understand the disadvantages and advantages of each product.
This competitor analysis is the step#1 to take when it comes to the product validation plan. The next thing you should do is to understand your customer base. This is why creating proto personas can be so important.
A survey is a quantitative tool of user research, and it's an inevitable step in the product validation process. Often surveys are in a questionnaire format. This is an economical way of gathering user feedback for app development. We conduct surveys manually or digitally, depending on the target audience size.
Uptech Tip: Start your survey with close-ended and simple questions and continue with open-ended and in-depth questions.
It's essential to plan the questionnaire properly and make it easy to operate. By asking clear and essential questions, you'll receive meaningful answers. My advice is to start with close-ended and simple questions and continue with open-ended and in-depth questions. This trick will help you keep participants till the end of the survey.
Examples of good questions:
What smartphone do you use?
Did you make any charitable donations in the last 12 months?
How much in the last 12 months did you donate, and which events/charities/causes?
These are questions from a user survey we made at Uptech, so I'll give you a context. The first 2 questions are filter questions as we were interested only in iOS users who donate to charity projects. The third one is open-ended, and we placed it at the end of the questionnaire. It was important for us to get a bigger picture of the users' charity habits and know what social issues matter to them.
Create proto personas
Proto personas differ from standard personas in that they are based on a series of assumptions backed up by data. Creating this type of persona allows you to validate an idea quickly and effectively than it takes to create standard personas
Uptech Tip: A proto persona is a live document that you should update with the progress of understanding our target audience.
This understanding of your ideal customer is essential if you want to validate your startup idea effectively. But, take in mind, a proto persona is a live document that you should update with the progress of understanding our target audience. Still, after all, based on user testing and Target Audience interviews, a proto persona should be turned into a Persona as a perfect reflection of your target audience.
To create relevant and accurate proto personas, you need to:
● Brainstorm the information you have gathered about the goals and motivations of your customers.
● Discuss and visualize the data and information that you have.
● Give an identity to the persona or personas you have created.
● Take all the information you have about the persona and use it to determine what problem your app can solve for them.
For example here is proto persona for Plai, we created a proto persona depending on the conversation with a startup owner. We mentioned location, age, occupation, and user needs.
Creating proto personas in this way is essential when you are determining how to validate an app idea. You need to understand your customers and their problems to determine how valuable your app will be.
Create a Customer Journey Map
Taking time to validate an idea is not just about understanding who your competitors and customers are. You also need to appreciate what the customer journey is. Without this knowledge, you can never really understand whether your startup idea will work.
Many entrepreneurs find that their business fails because they start with tunnel vision. This comes from a lack of knowledge about the customer journey. So, how can you create a customer journey map to validate your business idea?
Let's start by saying that a user journey map is a record of user interaction with your product. The map measures this journey from the user's or customer's point of view. Every touchpoint along the way is measured on the map.
Let’s go back to our idea of an app that tells people where to find local language classes. The first step of the journey would be when the user understands that he/she needs language classes and starts to read advice about which language to choose. Other points along the journey may include logging into the app for the first time. They may also involve finding the address of a local school.
Examining a journey map for your app helps you understand the user experience fully. This can help to show you how successful your startup is at solving the problem that customers have. It can also help you to see if you need to change something in your app idea. But don't forget to update your customer journey map while discovering your target audience.
When you are mapping and understanding the customer journey, there are several questions that you should be asking yourself. These questions could include:
● Why choose to use the app in the first place?
● Is the app easy to understand straight away?
● How long does it take for the user to solve the problem they have, using the app?
● Are there any gaps in the user experience that need to be filled?
These questions are all critical when you are trying to validate a startup idea.
As you can see from our Carbon Club example, our Customer Journey Map consists of Proto persona, user’s needs and desires, the scenario of the app using, actions according to phases of interaction with the app, user’s thoughts, user’s emotions and opportunities for each phase. You updated the Customer Journey Map after every interview and user testing.
So, understanding the customer and their journey is important when validating an idea. What else do you need to think about, as an ambitious entrepreneur?
Conduct User interviews
You may be wondering how to validate all your hypotheses based on Customer journey map and proto personas. The answer is a user interview. The fact is that having conversations with your potential audience allows you to make a useful analysis. This data can then be used to help you find users' needs, pains, concerns, and motivation. This is more efficient, and less time consuming than simply diving into all the data that you can find.
During the interview, all the team should take notes and record important points. Then after the interview, we always collect our notes together to create the combined stickers of pros and cons. On the red stickers, we write points to improve, on the green — what users liked, on the blue — general comments/insights. It gives the team the ability to make sure all the ideas are mentioned and that the team is on the same page.
Uptech Tip: It’s recommended to schedule 5 user interviews for 1 day.
It’s recommended to schedule 5 interviews for 1 day. When we organized user interviews for Carbon Club, we decided to go with 6 to receive valuable insights from more people. An important lesson that we learned that day is that conducting user interviews is hard. And 6 interviews in 1 day is too much, 5 is enough. At the end of the day, the team could be very tired.
Create& Test Prototypes
You can see how crucial knowledge of the customer experience is when you start to validate a business app idea that you have. You also have an understanding of how important data is. All of this information and knowledge can be used to help you create a paper or digital prototype of your app.
Having a prototype in place is essential if you want to fully evaluate your startup idea. A prototype is simply a primitive version of the product that you have in mind. It's used so that the flow of the design can be tested and feedback can be gathered. This is an important part of the validation process that you should complete before you start development.
Paper prototypes are often used to recreate what should appear on an app screen. Stencils and cardboard are usually used during the creation of paper prototypes to ensure that they are accurate. The mockups of the app can be accompanied by other items such as informative post-it notes. Many paper prototypes are used early in the design and validation process.
Uptech Tip: A person usually interacts with the paper prototype and a digital one in the same way.
You may think that a paper prototype can’t show you the full picture of a user experience. Because it’s limited and it doesn’t look like a product. But what we have noticed is just the opposite. When testing a paper prototype to validate an idea, A person usually interacts with the paper prototype and a digital one in the same way.. They take action and make changes, based on feedback from people who are asked to use the prototype.
Digital prototypes are usually made in black and white, or painted in neutral colors. To make a digital product that can be used in user testing. It can be an important part of how you validate a startup idea. The main benefit of creating a digital prototype is that it's realistic looking. This means that the testing is often closer to using the actual product.
If you are looking at how to validate an app idea, you may use both a paper prototype and a digital prototype. The type of prototype is chosen based on what we want to test:
- validation of the early idea - a paper prototype that can be developed quickly.
- validation of user flow - digital prototype with the help of specialized software
Conduct User Testing
Testing is part and parcel of the development and helps provide feedback on the app. You can go for user testing only with a prototype or an MVP in your hands. It is an excellent tool for looking at the product from the user's perspective, testing UI while creating a product, and, of course, validating your app idea.
There are 2 most popular types of user testing:
- Moderated testing
It usually involves a facilitator and a participant. The moderated testing flow looks like this: the facilitator provides tasks to a participant and observes how he/she interacts with the design in real-time and asks follow-up questions.
- Unmoderated testing
This type involves a participant only. Participants get instructions and follow-up questions while testing the product. The tasks and questions appear on the screen, so there's no human effect on the process.
Uptech Tip: The tasks in user testing must be realistic, so that the participant can perform them in real life.
User testing is intended to create tasks and questions for the participant. The tasks in user testing must be realistic, so that the participant can perform them in real life. It can be very specific or very open-ended, depending on the research type.
Conduct the Design Sprint
As a business owner, validating a startup idea, you may want to hasten the process. One way to do this is to use the Design Sprint. We at Uptech have embraced this process and have written own review.
A startup can greatly benefit from the Design Sprint, which can help to resolve significant challenges quickly.
The Design Sprint takes 4 days to complete. It involves designing, prototyping, and testing ideas that a business has had. It's a valuable process when it comes to how to validate an app idea. A startup can greatly benefit from the Design Sprint, which can help to resolve significant challenges quickly.
Here’s an in-depth case study of how Design Sprint works for us.
A startup can validate an app idea without development. This means that if your business has an idea that it wants to validate, it can do so affordably and quickly. To do this you need to start recognizing your customer personas and creating a customer journey map. You also need to understand the use of data and the creation and testing of prototypes.
We at Uptech always recommend starting with the discovery and validation before jumping right to the development process. The feedback and data you collect come in handy during the development. On top of that, by product idea validation, you increase your chances to succeed and build a product users love.
Uptech has broad experience validating startup ideas using all of the methods above. If you have any questions left or looking for a trusted partner to validate your idea, contact us.