The most critical question when developing a new product is: will people actually want it? It’s not impossible to get away with basing your strategy purely on assumptions, but beginner’s luck is not quite the strategy for success. That’s why it’s so important to put your money on product validation. And there’s plenty of ways to do so.

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    There are two ways you can figure out if there will be demand for your product:

    Waterfall approach

    You can build and validate the idea at the final release. This is what most companies do, which also explains why so many businesses fail. With this approach, you risk building the wrong thing that will result in poor adoption or complete rejection of your product.

    Lean approach

    You can validate individual hypotheses through experiments to de-risk and maximise your chance of a successful launch. By testing your business idea and gathering evidence, you can figure out whether people are willing to buy your product before you actually build it.

    The lean approach for product validation was successfully introduced in Buffer, Dropbox, Airbnb, Zappos or Uber. Because of its apparent benefits, we also recommend this path to our clients – especially in innovative projects where there are many unknowns.

    Validated learning

    You might be very confident about your idea, but you should validate (or reject) your assumptions with hard data. You can validate the following:

    • problem (is the problem worth solving?)
    • solution (does your product solve the problem?)
    • features (testing core features)
    • prices (testing price models)

    There are product validation experiments that can help you test your assumptions. They will help you gather insights that will allow you to move quickly and design your product effectively.

    10 Product Validation Strategies

    Different experiments will fit different hypotheses. Here’s a list of 10 experiments you can run – with annotation what aspect of the product design you can test: problem, solution, features or pricing.

    1) Picnic in the graveyard

    Perfect to validate: Problem, Solution, Features, Pricing

    This experiment is more focused on generating ideas than testing hypotheses but nonetheless is very useful. There is a very high chance that what you want to build already exists or has been tried… and failed. Investigate what didn’t work and think about how your product will be different.

    A good starting point are websites that collect and analyse data on what kills promising companies. The Startup Cemetery is one of them.

    phone cemetery, broken phones in place of tombstones
    Studying what failed for others is a brilliant starting point to avoid making the same mistakes yourself

    2) User Interviews

    Perfect to validate: Problem, Solution, Features, Pricing

    Every great solution starts with understanding users and their needs, experiences, problems, habits and motivations. In-depth user insights will allow you to design solutions that are both useful and meaningful to your target group. And furthermore – they’ll most likely free you from making assumptions based on “I think so”. Qualitative data is a treasure.

    3) Comprehension test

    Perfect to validate: Solution

    This is a simple test that verifies whether users understand the value proposition of your product (what the product does and what value it brings). It helps you make sure your statement is clear and everybody understands the value proposition the way you intended.

    For example – one of our previous webpages had a claim that said “Business First”. We did a simple comprehension test, and it turned out that even our employees had differing opinions on what it stands for. We changed it without hesitation.

    4) Sorting cards

    Perfect to validate: Problem, Solution, Features

    It is a great technique to design the information architecture of the app or website. Users are given a series of labelled cards and asked to organise and sort them into groups that make the most sense to them. Based on these insights, you can organise your content in an effective way.

    Take into account that the information architecture that emerges from this method is based solely on the client’s/company’s intuition – not the users. That can lead to unexpected usability problems, such as the structure not matching users’ mental models.

    5) Wireframes

    Perfect to validate: Solution, Features

    Wireframes are a low-fi representation of your idea. Because of their simplicity and raw form, they help you focus on core design decisions. You can identify potential problems and discover elements that are not intuitive. At the wireframe stage, every decision is still negotiable and easily changeable.

    6) App/Web Mockups

    Perfect to validate: Solution, Features

    Clickable mockups (prototypes) require no coding. These are a high-fidelity representation of your idea, meaning they look pretty much the same as the final product. In terms of product validation, they are helpful for checking user interactions with the interface.

    7) MVP (Minimum Viable Product)

    Perfect to validate: Solution, Features

    The difference between MVPs and clickable mockups is that an MVP is a working product that is ready for release. An MVP focuses solely on key features and basic functionality since that’s what many successful companies start with (think Dropbox).

    8) Concierge & Wizard of Oz

    Perfect to Validate: Solution, Features, Pricing

    The easiest way to prototype? Not to prototype at all! Concierge and Wizard of Oz are about manually performing the task and delivering the value without the tech. The difference between the two is that in Concierge the user is aware that there is a real human being behind the scenes, while in Wizard of Oz this is hidden from the user.

    A good example is Ahoy, one of our previous clients. They developed a flight concierge app, but in the beginning, they validated the idea by manually performing the tasks for clients – without any advanced tech.

    9) Landing Page

    Perfect to Validate: Solution, Features, Pricing

    A landing page is a great and easy way to check if there is some serious demand for our product (resulting in sign-ups, conversions, payments.) That’s what Buffer did. They put a simple landing page that implied that Buffer already existed. They included a plan and pricing page to check how many people were ready to get Buffer (and pay for it). When people clicked on it, they were shown a newsletter sign up page with a short explanation that Buffer wasn’t quite ready yet.

    10) A/B Testing

    Perfect to Validate: Solution, Features, Pricing

    The goal of A/B testing is to compare two versions to see what performs best and maximise the desired outcome. A/B testing can be applied to virtually anything: screen, copy, button, colours, etc. Sometimes all you need is a subtle touch, such as reorganising buttons or slightly altering CTAs. A huge pro of A/B testing is how easy it is to compare effects – you end up choosing the version generating higher conversion.

    Man with two almost identical ice creams A/B testing
    A/B testing is essentially putting two slightly altered versions of the same product to test

    Conclusion

    The real first step you should take, before product validation, is research, which – to put it bold – you can’t afford to neglect. But it’s never too late to test, check and draw conclusions, including post-launch.

    If you would like to validate your product idea before jumping into development, we are ready to help you. User interviews, wireframes, prototypes – that’s what we are good at.