Is the problem worth solving?

According to the Harvard Business School, market validation is the process of determining if there’s a need for your product in your target market. In fact, most businesses fail because of the insufficient amount of effort they put into problem and idea identification. The objective of idea any validation process is to see whether or not target users are interested in your ideas and having real-life problems with which your product idea aspire to solve.

The early product validation processes are crucial to simply understand if the product is worth creating or not. As a simple but effective method, it helps not to spend any resources, money and time, on a useless idea. Besides, validation processes also eliminate the uncalculated risks, guide you to define improvement areas for possible iterations and ultimately create solutions towards fulfiling user needs. 

When you have a business idea, it is always good to start with a set of fundamental questions before you buckle down and begin working on the solution. First off, you need to get in touch with your prospective users to explore their mental models and how relevant your solution is to their daily lives.  

  • Social Systems: How suitable is your idea to the current social dynamics and social systems?
  • Advantage: What is your advantage and how your product differs from the competition? How is it better than the alternatives? Is it really better?
  • Complexity: Is the idea easy to understand or is it complex? 
  • Trialability: Do the users experience your product before purchase? 
  • Observability: Are the benefits and offers visible for the users?

Validation actually means testing your assumptions and mitigating the risk of failing. So, when it comes to choosing a proper method and tool for your endeavour,  there are lots of idea validation methods. And, essentially, what to choose depends on your solution. But, as Julia Kylliäinen explained in her article, it is important to test the riskiest assumptions first. Therefore, you need to articulate your assumptions as a first step, and then go out and look for a validation method that would suit your expectations. Even though there are a plethora of idea validation methods, but the process generally has three main steps:

  • Defining goals
  • Developing a hypothesis
  • Experimenting

Define your goal

In this first step, you are expected to define your goals and frame what you want to learn. It always makes sense to try to find out the root causes of the problems you want to solve with your idea: 

  • Is your idea capable of solving the problems efficiently?
  • How would the core features of your product work?
  • Is your business model scalable?
  • What is the demand?
  • Is your price suitable for the user’s expectations?
  • Are they ready to give that price? 

Develop a hypothesis

Let’s say you defined your goals and made a list of your assumptions, from riskiest to the most benign one. Now, you are ready to create hypotheses based on your goals. A good hypothesis is a testable one that often includes prediction so that you should start with a critical assumption that does have direct consequences. For example, Apple’s primary assumption back in the day was users would prefer a phone without a keyboard in exchange for a wider screen area.

After you create your hypotheses, you should also set your minimum success criteria. Without measuring the results quantitatively, you’d not have a solid picture that gives you an input. So, it’s equally important to set realistic expectations for your research before start conducting any activities. 

  • How many people are enough to validate your idea? 
  • How to determine the size of your sample group?
  • Do respondents fit your target customer profile?

Experiment and iterate

You’ve got a list of goals and just created your hypotheses. The next step, start testing. Now you should run tests in this stage based on your hypotheses and iterate your ideas based on the test results. Below you can find some of the techniques you could employ, taken from Itamar Gilad’s article on LinkedIn:

  • Data analysis is one of the common ways to test your hypothesis but be careful with the data you extract from the tools you use. The findings may not be representative of your target user and the data itself don’t give the answer to the “Why?” questions. 
  • User interviews even if it’s not structured or planned, is an effective and rich way to learn about your users. You can do it by taxi, with your friend, pre-post sale meeting. It is always a good idea to structure your questions and prepare them with open-ended questions that answer “What?, When?, Why?, How?” questions.
  • Surveys enable us to obtain rapid and affordable answers to both quantitative and qualitative questions.
  • Observing users in their natural environment and learning about their context, how they behave in that contexts provides a lot of information and give understanding about their actions, beliefs and motivations.
  • Competitor analysis or benchmarking don’t provide validation for our hypothesis but show that if it’s worth solving or not.
  • Crowdfunding platforms shows how many users are interested and ready to pay for your solution.
  • A prototype and usability test gives valuable answers to your design and also detailed information about your user’s possible experience of your product.
  • Smoke testing (sometimes called Fake Door Testing) helps to test the demand for an inexistent product or characteristic. Smoke testing provides consumers with a strong chance to review and opt-in through advertisements, portals, calls for action on in-product, pop-ups and more. At each stage of the test conversion rates offer us an indication of how desired the product is. When consumers are opt-in, we let them know that the product or feature is not yet ready and frequently give the option of joining a waiting list – another test and a chance to generate leads.
  • You can make fishfood testing and test your product with your co-workers. Even if they are not your target customers, they can still provide feedback about missing functionality, bugs and usability.
  • Large scale beta testing is great for reaching large sampling and getting real user feedback. 

Start with research, always

Even though any idea validation process does not guarantee your product’s success, you can gather a lot of information and feedback for your business idea, and make early adjustments before spending valuable resources.  You can even find out that your idea is not valid and give up on it and move onto the next idea. 

Just remember, it may turn out to be a complex product development process if you don’t use any idea validation method and have a clear picture of user needs and expectations. You could easily spend a lot on something that basically does not fit into users’ lives.  So, use the power of idea validation and make data-informed decisions rather than listening to your gut feeling.