Building a product (not only digital) always starts with a vision. Implementing this vision will facilitate or automate business processes, serve as an additional source of income, increase efficiency, and possibly make the world a better place, so it’s good to bring new, useful products out there.
Once you have a vision, you often think of a specific solution, i.e. how to translate this vision into real life. Then, you try to imagine how the final product would work and what it will look like. In other words, you live and breathe the vision as well as the product behind it. It wouldn’t be surprising if you wanted to build and launch it as soon as possible.
However, I’d like to stop you right there.
Do not rush idea implementation before market validation
We've heard many stories of products that proved useless or unnecessary once they were already in the MVP stage – or worse – introduced to the market. And while the development of agile methodologies has reduced the number of such missteps, it certainly hasn’t solved the problem.
According to a study by the New York-based CBInsights research agency, a lack of market need is in the top three most common critical mistakes behind startup failures:
In a rush, you are likely to produce something that does not necessarily meet the needs of your target group. It’s best to slow down a bit and look at what people actually want to make sure you don’t join those 35%.
Building an MVP to validate your idea
'A minimum viable product (MVP) is a version of a product with just enough features to be usable by early adopters who can then provide feedback for future product development.
'The above definition is well known, and building MVPs is already a standard practice in product development.
However, building an MVP also requires an investment of time and capital, which makes you think, 'Is there a way to verify whether my product meets a real need even before the MVP is built?'
How to build an MVP without writing a line of code
Checking whether the product meets a real market need is the most difficult part, not even for the UX designers themselves but for the entire product team. Here's an example of a step-by-step idea validation process for a startup.
Step 1: Run a workshop with an interdisciplinary team where you adopt the user's perspective
It makes sense to involve the user as early as possible, when defining the product vision. It does not have to be a physical person sitting in the room with us, though. Usually, at the very beginning, an interdisciplinary team is enough to properly execute a product vision workshop where you discuss the solution from the perspective of potential users, their needs, and problems you intend to solve.
There is a lot of guesswork at the workshop stage. Here are some of the key questions:
- Who is our user persona?
- What are their needs?
- What are their challenges?
We might not have exact answers at the start, but thankfully, we can often rely on previously conducted research or experience – either our own or that of our competitors.
At this phase, you may not know everything just yet, but that's enough. The workshop’s main goal is to help us activate empathy and map user needs with potential solutions that meet those requirements. In the case of digital products, these include functionalities that will potentially appear in the product.
Step 2: Perform desk research and user interviews on competing solutions
After leaving the workshop with a list of functionalities, you could probably proceed to estimating the development cost, drawing up the user interface and then passing it on for implementation.
Yet, before writing the first line of code, it is worth taking a closer look at what your competitors are offering, especially when you’re creating a brand-new product.
The so-called desk research – a review of existing industry reports, trends, statistics, market data, and competition can provide valuable inspiration, allowing you to supplement or slightly adjust the vision of the proposed solution.
When you have the opportunity, ask the potential users to show you how they interact with the competing solutions. This exercise could provide valuable insights about the users – any attempt to get to know them better is vital when designing new products.
After the desk research and meetings with users are completed, the product often changes and becomes more detailed.
Step 3: Conduct a Fake Door experiment to verify your business idea value
To validate your product, you can also create a simple landing page and track traffic to see whether it gauges interest. Users won’t be able to log in or download the product as it is not available yet, but you can prompt them to subscribe to your newsletter, so they get informed once about the launch.
The customers’ willingness to purchase your solution can then be measured by the conversion rate of such a newsletter.
This technique is called Fake Door. You can read more about it in one of our articles here.
You can funnel traffic to your Fake Door landing with paid advertisements or organic announcements on platforms like Product Hunt or Reddit.
A landing page itself can be created within a few hours. There are many tools that can help you with that. We highly recommend checking Webflow (we’re not affiliated with them in any way, we genuinely think their software does wonders).
The main purpose of this stage is validating our idea’s value as quickly and inexpensively as possible. Then, once you decide that the product shows potential, you can move forward.
Step 4: Prepare a UX prototype
At this stage, the designer can visualize the solution with a black and white prototype sketch. Such a monochrome version can be prepared faster than a visually-refined version, and it is sufficient for user testing at this idea validation stage.
Here’s an example of a ready, clickable prototype:
Step 5: Test your prototype with real users
The value of the product is verified during meetings with the representatives of our target audience. It's important to determine if it responds to users' needs, whether it’s intuitive and easy to use, and whether the implementation of basic usage scenarios is effortless.
Following the user testing, the prototype still requires a few finishing touches. The changes often include the naming, navigation method, and some of the functionalities.
Step 6: Prepare the graphic layer and development specification
Next, the refined prototype needs to be developed visually. It all starts with the style guide, illustrations, icons, animations, and a description of what the interface should look like and how it should work.
When that is done and dusted, you can proceed to the estimation of the time and costs required to develop a working product and subsequently plan a successful launch.
Validating a product idea in 6 steps
The idea validation process I have outlined may seem time-consuming, but it's just the beginning of your journey. The discovery phase should be carried out continuously as the product evolves (that’s why it’s called ‘continuous discovery’).
I strongly encourage you to involve your potential customers in the validation process. Don't be afraid to experiment before the code is written. This will help you minimize the risk of joining those who failed to build a useful product.
If you need help with validation of your product idea, feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com and me and my team will happily assist you!