How to validate an idea

Okay, you have your idea now it’s time to start building right? Wrong. First you should vet your idea through an idea validation process to make sure what you’re about to invest a lot of time and energy is worth it.  There’s nothing worse than building something no one wants or no one will use. I’ve experienced this first hand and it’s painful.

photo by Alejandro Escamilla

photo by Alejandro Escamilla

Ever since the book Lean UX by Jeff Gothelf was released in 2013 I’ve referenced it often in the process of designing and building apps. If you’re unfamiliar with Lean UX, think Lean Startup but focused on UX (user experience and product design). I’ve based the outline below largely on the process defined in the book with a few added guidelines and questions that I think are also helpful when creating a MVP (minimum viable product) in the marketplace. I hope you find it useful, I’ve personally benefited from asking some of these questions and following the guidelines.

Questions to ask before starting:

  1. Will this app solve a real pain point for users?
  2. Is there a need for the solution I’m designing?
  3. Would this app be used daily?
  4. Is there value in the solution I’m proposing?
  5. Is this pain point best solved by creating a mobile app or should it be something else like a web app?
  6. Are there similar apps in the app store that are popular?
  7. If there are similar apps in the app store what are their users saying? Take a look at the reviews.
  8. Will your friends buy it? Ask them, not jokingly but seriously ask them to pay you for your product or invest their money so that you can build it. If you do this, make sure to pay careful attention to how they respond.

Guidelines that will help you determine your idea is worth building:

  1. Define what are you trying to learn.
  2. Be clear – Invest time clarifying your idea to focus on it’s core value proposition.
  3. Present to customers – Take your core value proposition and present it to potential customers, take notes on what they like/dislike.
  4. Simplify – Focus on the best ideas and for now ignore the one’s that aren’t clear winners.
  5. Stay agile – Information and feedback will come in quickly so make sure you’re using a platform that can change and adapt easily.
  6. Measure – Test real prototypes or builds with real people. Observe what people actually do instead of what they say. In digital product design behavior trumps opinion.
  7. Use a call to action – If people are using your product, you know there’s value. A call-to-action is a direct ask of the user to take a specific action like “buy now” or “sign up”. Adding this to your MVP is a great indicator to help you determine whether or not people are interested.

In summary, focus on building the smallest MVP possible but don’t cut corners. Your MVP should not only consider what is viable but it should also consider what is desirable to users. In other words a MDP (minimum desirable product) should carry equal weight to a MVP. This is important because as users are more familiar using excellent products, especially in digital design their expectations have also increased which means there is additional pressure to meet those expectations. It’s a balancing act but if you focus on validating your idea using the process above or something similar you’re well on your way to creating something that’s not only viable but also desirable.