When you invest your time and money in some new projects, you naturally want to maximize its chances to succeed. But is it even possible, in a mysterious and often unpredictable world of software development? The answer is yes, it is! The days when you could rely on your hunch or your friends' opinion are over - now it's all about market research and hard data. You may be thinking, "Fine, but first, I want to put my product on the market - I can deal with this whole research later." Wrong!
If you do that, you will repeat the same mistake that Hotjar recently made with their mobile app. They got so excited about building something that, in their opinion, will bring tremendous value to its users that they ended up wasting $200k and creating software that no one asked for. Sounds terrible, right? And would you believe that they could avoid that simply by dedicating some of their time to conduct a Discovery Phase for their project?
I am sure that you have a bunch of app ideas. Which one to choose? Well, the process of idea validation will definitely help you pick the proper one. If it's well-done, besides the technical specification, it will give you a greater insight into your potential customers' minds, discovering their needs, fears, and habits, when it comes to using the web or mobile apps. In this article, we will focus just on that specific part of the process, which aims to gather as much information about your potential customers as possible. This part of app development is essential because finding a target audience will allow you to define your business plan, monetization, sales, and marketing strategy. You need to know and understand the users. Your application has to answer to their needs. Otherways they will stop using it.
Table of Contents:
1. How to Validate Your App Idea?
1.1. Step 1: Make sure your app will solve a real issue.
1.2. Step 2: Perform a Background Research
1.3. Step 3: Conduct a professional competitors analysis.
1.4. Step 4: Create User Personas and User Journeys for your app idea.
1.5. Step 5: Conduct a Features Brainstorming session.
How to Validate Your App Idea?
So let's check out the 5 steps you have to take to validate the app idea and create a well-thought product that your clients will love and stay with it for a long time!
Step 1: Make sure your app will solve a real issue
First of all, you need to ask yourself a question and answer it honestly: Is my app solving a real problem that people nowadays have? If not, get rid of this idea right away, it's garbage, and you don't want to waste your money on it. It doesn't have to be anything big, but it has to answer some genuine need (even unaware) that you and/or your potential customers have. People scroll the App Store and look for the applications that will improve their lives or solve some problem. No matter, whether your product is a web or mobile app dedicated to customers or businesses, it has to give value and meet the users' needs.
For example, let's take Snapchat. They figure out that Instagram users have issues with their parents, coworkers, etc. following them there, so they needed to watch out what kind of content they are publishing. They also needed to be extra careful about the quality of this content, as it stayed on the platform till being deleter by the account owner. Ten seconds long, deleting automatically after 24hours photos and movies that Snapchat offered seemed to be a perfect solution for that issue and became the application Unique Selling Point.
Step 2: Perform a Background Research
Now it is time to speak about numbers. Based on research from the 1st quarter of 2019, more than 2 million mobile apps are available in the Google Play Store alone. You may think that's a lot, but is it? When you compare that number to 2.7 billion smartphone users worldwide, you will see that it's just a small drop in a sea of needs.
We need to go deeper. Now it's time to check how many of those 2.7 billion smartphone users may be interested in using your app. You can do it by determining your target audience's age, sex, location, or any demographic data you can think of. The goal is to end up with a number not too big (it's impossible to make a product that will be good to everyone) and not too small (after all - you want that revenue). For example, you are thinking about making a fitness app for people wanting to exercise while walking out with their dogs. Because - why not? Narrow your target audience to people of a certain age, living in a specific area, owning dogs, and using fitness apps. Now you can roughly estimate its size.
When you get your data and analyze them right, you can roughly estimate that more than ten 11 000 000 people are interested in your product in the USA alone - and that's knowledge worth having! I strongly encourage you to base on hard data during app idea validation. It is the most efficient and tested way to build an app needed in the current application market. App development is a rather costly process, so you do not want to waste your money or exceed the budget. That's why you need to know that you chose the right direction, and your idea resonates with your business niche.
Step 3: Conduct a professional competitors analysis
Many mobile apps available on the App Stores have one undeniable advantage - you can easily find the ones with a similar goal to yours and compare them. Why is it so important? Because the last thing you want to do is invest your money in something that someone has already done. Right now, the competition in the app market is intense. In case someone already developed the application that includes your idea, you need to estimate whether there still is a space for your product.
Competitors analysis brings a lot of business benefits. It will let you distinguish features that your target audience loves and the ones that annoy them. Example: someone is looking for love, and he/she is getting irritated by the people publishing false pictures on their profiles. Solving that issue may become the Unique Selling Point of your product!
Users also like apps, which are intuitive, easy to understand, and quite similar to something they've already used. So if you see that 90 % of apps that you are comparing your idea to use Facebook login - implement it in your app as well. Because not doing it may cost you thousands of potential users, who will not give your idea a second chance. Generally, it is worth to keep the eyes on your competitors. Monitoring will allow you to avoid their business models and app development mistakes and implement the innovates that work for their app.
Step 4: Create User Personas and User Journeys for your app idea
To validate an app idea right, you have to look a little bit closer to your target audience. A user persona is a semi-fictional character based on the people who could potentially use your app or product. Using demographic and psychographic data, a persona reflects who your future users are, what they need, and what may stop them from getting it. It's best to create at least 3 different personas to distinguish subtle differences in how they may use your app later.
For example, let's go back to walking dogs exercising apps. Meet James, James is in his 30s, and he is currently looking for a companion to exercise and walk his dog with. There goes the idea to add some social features to your app. At the other end of the scale, there is Sophie - a teenager, who treats her exercising - walking dog routine as a “me time” and doesn't want any human interactions. For her, a much more interesting feature would be a map with the least crowded places to do her exercises in peace. So as you can see, visualizing your potential users may help you with distinguishing features that you usually wouldn't think of!
Already feel excited about the data that you already have? There's more! Let's go more in-depth and examine how those personas could interact with your app - considering their feelings about it and any issues they may stumble upon. It's called User Journey, and it will help you to imagine your future app flow before the development part will even happen. User Journey is a map and visualization that shows how active users interact with the app.
Step 5: Conduct a Features Brainstorming session
In this step, we'll focus on the functionalities that have to appear in your app. To validate an app idea, you need to separate the functions that respond to users' needs and are necessary to launch a product from those that would only be a nice addition. We call this approach Minimum Viable Product (MVP), and it aims to build the most basic version of an app that can be released while still managing to deliver the value to the end user. What exactly should you do? Analyze the features according to the stages of using the product by the user, e.g., functions related to logging in, searching, or supplementing the profile, and set their value.
To do that right, prepare a list of potential features and rate them based on their attractiveness (A), usefulness (U) (both in a 1-3 scale), and technical implementation difficulty (T) (in a 0-8 scale). These values add up to ‘total feature value'. The higher it gets, the more important it would be to implement those features in your app MVP.
Why is it worth validating the app idea before starting the app development?
App development is about transforming the business idea into a digital product. The idea of the app is crucial and has to respond to the market and users' needs. I am sure that you want to make money, so the app idea has to allow you to build a relevant monetization and business plan. Neglecting this process poses a risk of failure.
Validation of app ideas should be done before starting the app development to work with confidence and focus on business goals. One of the most important pieces of advice is that you need to have a software strategy. The process of setting it up can be challenging, especially for non-technical persons. That's why at Railwaymen, we provide free Workshops that aim to help future app owners develop their products from the very beginning. Check the article: What Benefits The Software Strategy Workshops Bring to Your Project?
As you can see, with just a little bit of effort, you can collect all kinds of your potential users' data before even launching your app! It may feel overwhelming to verify them and come to the right conclusions, but I guarantee you, there is no better way to validate your app idea.
The validation of the app idea should be the first step in software development. You need to start with the goal. Knowing the target group, their needs, habits, behaviors, and problems is a baseline. Whether you plan to build a web or mobile app, it has to bring value, something unique that will push people to use it for a long time. Creating a successful app is a process that starts from app idea validation.
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