Ideas are easy to come by. Choosing the right product idea – one that adds real value for you and your users – takes work. Pursuing the wrong one will cost you time, money, and effort. That’s why product validation is such a critical part of the product development process. At Sonin, we’ve got this down to a science.
What is Product Validation?
Successful products solve problems. Product Validation is working out whether or not what you’re building will have a positive impact for you and your users, before you begin to build it. It’s how you know there’s demand for what you want to make.
We do this by combining market research, user interviews, and rapid prototyping to get to the heart of whether your idea solves the pressing problems your audience wants to solve.
When done right, product validation massively reduces your risk and increases your return on technology investment. It saves you from spending time, money, and effort building something that doesn’t support your users and doesn’t help you to achieve your most important business goals.
When do you do Product Validation?
Product validation isn’t a one-time thing. It’s not limited to the first phase of your app build. Instead, it’s an integral part of every development sprint that follows.
The more you practice product validation, the closer you get to understanding what makes your users tick. And the more cost-effectively you can deliver key features that create real, lasting value.
This means that the slicker you can make this process, the easier and quicker you can find the right ideas – the ones that are going to ensure the success of the next iteration in your product’s lifecycle.
Asking the Right Questions
One of the key principles behind validating your product idea is to ask the right questions early on. The right questions will challenge your idea, remove any baked in biases, and help to make sure you fully understand the problem you’re trying to solve.
If you’re rigorous about asking the right questions upfront, you will save time, money and effort later down the line.
Interrogating the Problem
Before you begin development, you need to understand who your target user base is, what they want to achieve, and what’s getting in their way. You also need to know how your product is going to solve their priority pain points and help them in their journey. So, at this stage, the questions you need to ask yourself are:
- Who is your product for?
- What problems does it solve for them?
- How are they solving these problems currently?
- How will your product solve them better?
- What are the key features you need to deliver?
Analysing the Competition
At the same time, you also need to understand the other players in the space, whether there’s a real gap for your product idea to fill, and what will set your solution apart from the rest. To do this, you have to know:
- Is there a gap in the market for your product idea?
- Who will be your main competitors?
- Why haven’t they filled this gap?
- What are their strengths and weaknesses?
- What features are they missing that you will provide?
It’s important to be objective and impartial when considering all these questions. The harsh truth is that users only really care about the problems they’re facing and the desired outcomes they want to achieve – they care less about the solutions or features than you or your competitors do
Because of this, you need to consider carefully how much of a leap forward your product idea will be compared with what’s available now – and whether it’s enough to draw users in.
Creating a New Market
Even if you’re looking to create a completely new market around your product, you should still understand why it’s a new market. Consider the questions:
- If it’s a new market, why hasn’t someone filled this gap yet?
- What are the risks to filling it?
- What blockers are going to get in your way?
Talking to Your Users
Armed with your answers to the questions about your product and its proposition, you can now interrogate them by seeing how they stack up against what your users think. This challenges the assumptions you’ve made, making it easier to be objective.
At Sonin, we use a mix of one-to-one interviews, focus groups, and on-site observations to better define the problem we’re trying to solve, understanding whether it’s worth solving, and whether our proposed product idea will solve it.
When phrasing questions, we make sure to avoid hypotheticals and stick to the specifics. Asking users whether they might take a certain action or pay for a particular feature can be misleading. We ask users about things that have already happened, the situations surrounding them, and motivations behind them.
We also make an effort to extract the idea we’re validating from our line of questioning. This may sound counter-intuitive, but it helps you to focus on the problem objectively and avoid misleading or misdirecting answers.
By adding all these insights to your answers, you can update the results you’re expecting from your product idea in line with what your users want. This arms you with a strong proposition that’s ready to put to the test.
Test Your Idea
Once you’ve answered the critical questions about your product and talked to your target users to challenge your answers, you will have a well-defined product idea on hand. The next step is to test it with real users for feedback on whether to pursue it or not.
To do this, we work with clients to identify the best example of their target user. We examine the user personas we’re targeting, assess which one our idea has the most potential to help and which one will be our most likely customer. We then share prototypes with small focus groups for lightning fast feedback. Keeping the scale small and the experiment focused allows us to validate specific ideas much quicker.
Validating a Product Idea in Action: esure
One of the UK’s leading insurance companies, esure, approached us to solve a critical problem for its customers and claims team.
When you’re involved in an automobile accident, the stress of the situation can cause you to forget to ask for and record important details. But esure and insurance companies like it rely on these details to accurately estimate the damage and cost incurred. And the faster they’re notified of these details, the lower the claim cost will be.
The brief? Guide people through a stressful situation while also giving esure the valuable information it needs to challenge the other party’s claims.
Following on from the product discovery workshop, we built a prototype for testing in real conditions with a group of participants – using a staged wreck in a car park. By seeing the prototype being used in context we were able to prove which key features helped users and which hindered them, validating the proposed solution.
Product validation isn’t just about validating your ideas. It’s also about invalidating incorrect ones. The process is as much about proving your ideas wrong as it is proving them right.
It’s a shift in the mindset of your team towards devaluing the idea and putting all the emphasis on the outcome and whether it’s going to move you forward or not. The shorter you can make the gap between idea and verdict of whether it’s valid, the better.
We’ve spent the last 14 years helping businesses to focus on the right product ideas. The way we do it is by keeping the scope small, focusing on facts, and avoiding assumptions – test single ideas with small groups and only involve the necessary stakeholders.
It’s easier said than done. Startup founders only have so much time in the day. SMBs struggle to move the needle with the resources they have to hand. Corporate companies often move slower than a crawl. Whatever challenges you’re navigating, we can help you identify the right ideas you should invest in. Send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.