Idea Validation Framework: Make sure your app idea is a good one!
So you’ve come up with a mobile app idea? However, you wouldn’t be alone if you weren't sure how to get started. That's why I believe it's so important that you work to validate your idea using an Idea Validation Framework.
Unfortunately far too many entrepreneurs have an idea and just dive straight in. They have no idea whether the idea is good or bad from anyone else’s perspective. They definitely don’t know whether the market is primed for such an idea. Most also have no clue about running a tech business, let alone the process of developing a mobile application. All in all, it’s usually a recipe for disaster.
It won’t take you long to research some pretty famous failed startups. However, so many more get absolutely no press. These startups fail because they are usually underfunded and/or the founders have not put together a sound business strategy. Both these problems usually emanate from the fact that there was little to no idea validation done prior to jumping in. From there is often becomes a matter of throwing good money after bad, desperately hoping the app will make some sort of return on the investment.
A. Idea Validation for App Concepts
Because so many app ideas fail, Idea validation has become particularly important for those in the software and app industries.
So how do you validate an idea for an app concept? Essentially you need to collect all the necessary information to ensure an app idea is worth proceeding with.
The goal of an Idea Validation Framework is to give you all the steps necessary to collect and evaluate this information before you invest significant amounts of time or money on your idea!
By following these steps, you mitigate the risks involved in creating a tech startup. I can you from experience that it’s much better to move forward with an idea where you have a high level of confidence and the correct foundations for a sound business strategy. On the flip side, it's much better to know that there isn’t a real-world need for what you are trying to sell BEFORE you end up building it.
Developing a mobile app is a lot like building a house and Idea validation is the process of creating the architectural drawings and laying the right foundations so that your property will turn out exactly how you envision it.
Following an Idea Validation Framework, is just a matter of ticking on the boxes on your journey to creating the perfect app.
B. Using an idea validation framework
Every entrepreneur loves their own ideas. It’s this confidence that will make them successful. However, that pride in one’s own idea can also be the stumbling block to an entrepreneur’s success. That’s because a founder is usually too close to their own idea and can get too emotionally involved to make the impartial decisions that are needed.
That’s why it’s important to have a robust testing process in place to validate your idea. An idea validation framework is perfect because it will guide you through a checklist of tests that need to be performed before you start developing your mobile app.
Using an Idea Validation Framework takes the emotion out the process. You will end up with a systematic approach to validate your app idea. After collecting all the appropriate data, you will then go through a process of evaluation and come to an informed decision about the likelihood that your app idea will succeed.
There are usually two outcomes to the process:
1. Your app idea has a high likelihood of success
Analysis of the data points towards the idea being a good one. You will then translate all the information you gained from the validation process and add it into a software development plan.
2. There are lots of risks associated with moving forward with your app idea
It could be that there isn’t a market or there is just too much competition, Whatever the reason, at this stage you should either put this idea to bed or pivot and go back through the validation process.
C. Most important parts of the Idea Validation Framework
Here’s what I would suggest looking at if you want to cover all your basis and ensure your app idea is worth proceeding with:
i. Choose an app concept that SOLVES a problem
I would run through the below questions and make sure that most answers if not all are positive:
- Does your app solve a problem?
- Do you know who you are targeting?
- Will your app become habitual (i.e. used regularly)?
- Will your app make its users happy?
- Do you have a good back story (i.e. a “why”) for developing the app??
- Do you have a competitive advantage?
If you want more information on “Coming up with a Great Idea for an App”, you can download a short but effective ebook here.
ii. Understand the INDUSTRY and your competitors
Market research is a key and important part of understanding the potential of your idea. There are two things you need to check — the industry, and potential competitors. Here are some guidelines:
- Market Size — How big is your target market? If you take a small portion of the market, is it still big enough to warrant moving forward?
- Competitor Analysis — Do you have competitors? If so do you have a USP to set yourself apart from them?
- SWOT Analysis — I’d end with a SWOT. It’s a great tool to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of your idea.
iii. Know your CUSTOMER
The next stage is to build a user profile. This is one of the most important foundations to have as it will direct many other processes from design to marketing. Take your average customer and give them a back story:
- City or Rural
- Tech or Non-Tech
- Main Interests
- Online Habits
- Reasons for Needing your App
- Where they can be Found (online)
This will give you an insight into who you are building the app for. This is just as important as why you are building it!
iv. Complete a LEAN CANVAS
You could do a full business plan but this is a long-drawn-out process. Instead I would suggest the lean canvas.
It’s like a “mini” business plan but hones in on ONLY the most critical data, including:
- The Problem — Are you ACTUALLY solving a problem? Is it a big enough problem for enough people to justify the effort?
- The Solution —Do you know how your app idea will solve the problem mentioned above?
- Your Unique Selling Point (USP) — What sets your idea apart from competitors?
You should be able to fill in these sections of the Lean Canvas easily using the research you have done up to this point.
v. TALK to people within the industry
This part of the Idea Validation Framework is all about ensuring your business goals align with that of your target consumer. To do this you need to get out there and talk to the people that will actually be using your product.
I’d aim to speak to at least 10 different potential users of your app. But don’t just speak to anyone. Spend some time picking people who match the user profile you created above.
If you are struggling to find potential people to talk to, I suggest leveraging social media. If you have a B2B product, LinkedIn will be particularly useful.
It can also be advantageous to just go somewhere that you know your perfect user will be. Watch and listen to what they are talking about. Also, indulge ina few conversations around the problem (rather than your solution).
This is also a great way to learn about what’s missing in the industry. It’s often at this point founders decide to pivot. Do not under any circumstances ignore what the people are telling you!
vi. Define your MVP (Minimum Viable Product)
At this stage, you should be feeling pretty confident. If this is not the case then I wouldn’t continue with any of latter stages of this process.
Before you can jump in you, you need to know what your MVP is. This is essentially the minimum amount of features you need to still solve the problem AND be unique.
The easiest way to do this is to:
- Write down all the potential features of your app;
- Indicate which are “must-haves” (things you cannot live without);
- Split the remaining features into “should-haves” and “would-likes”. These will form the basis of your product roadmap.
Finally, take your MVP product and get some quotes from potential developers. Check out this article I wrote on how to choose the right software developer here.
vii. Outline a high-level LAUNCH strategy
Don’t get lost in this part of the process. don't create a full marketing plane. Just make sure that you have got your head around how you might launch it when the app is built. If this high-end strategy is achievable then you are good to move onto the next stage.
So what should you think about? I’d look at the marketing mediums that are right for your type of business. It must also be in line with your user profile.
You also want to get an idea of how expensive those various marketing types are because this information will be used to financially validate the idea (below).
viii. Put together FINANCIAL projections
This final part of the App Validation Framework is where you build a financial model to make sure the app is at least in concept profitable. To do this, I would look at:
- Your business model (aka how your app will make money);
- How many users you are looking at getting (per year);
- A model for revenue for each year;
- Expenses, including marketing.
Essentially you want to make sure that the value of your user is more than the cost to acquire him or her.
Final thoughts on using an Idea Validation Framework
I wouldn’t be surprised if a few that have read this far look at the list and think that there’s a lot to get through. You are not wrong. However the more you do here the more you mitigate your risks. App ideas can succeed without following an Idea Validation Framework but they are just less likely to.
Sometimes it’s best to get guidance at this point. Often good app developers will consult or provide a workshop to guide you through this process. If you do get help, make sure after they take you through this process, they provide you with a full software development plan. It should outline all the steps required to design, build and launch your app idea.