This overlap is a good place to start, as it shows that you’ve established what must exist for your product to stand a chance; something you can do, and someone who wants it. However, a third circle represents a commonly ignored part of the equation, and key in de-risking your venture.
Many app businesses make the mistake of building too much of their product while they know far too little. Founders label ideas or concepts as fact, rather than realizing they are truly assumptions until they are validated by customers.This results in robust and expensive apps that may or may not be what the consumer is truly looking for.
Your app business is an investment. And while investments are risky, we’ve learned that there is a way to experience your product, and gauge consumer reactions before tens of thousands of dollars are spent.
Here are some steps we’ve taken to validate an app idea without breaking the bank:
Identify and talk to core users
Build a Clickable Prototype
Rinse and Repeat.
Identify and Talk to Potential Users
Call 10 people you know, and explain your app idea. Listen, answer questions, and take notes on what features they’d expect to see, or wish to have. You’ll be surprised how quickly others offer ideas you may never have independently considered.
But, don’t just call anyone. We refer to, ‘core users’, because it can be distracting to factor in feedback from someone who isn’t your target user. For example, if I was building an app for online shop-a-holics, I would hesitate in asking a friend who shops online out of utility. If the app is for shop-a-holics, find someone who is deeply passionate about shopping online. Passionate core users will put up with the process of refining your idea and help you along the way. The less passionate can detract from your idea.
In addition to picking up the phone, use your own unique skill-set as a tool for this exercise. If you’re a marketer, can you use conversion rates of landing pages or GoogleAds to A/B test your way to feature set validation? If you’re an industry expert trying to improve a niche, can you tap into your network to validate what customers are willing to pay for and how much? You’ll need a real app to truly understand your user, but you can get closer than you’d think by using these creative tactics.
We love this step. It’s simple, generally free, and can save you thousands of dollars.
Build a Clickable Prototype
An Minimum Loveable Product (MLP) is the version of a new product that brings back the maximum amount of validated learning about your customers with the least time and money.
A clickable prototype is a fantastic way to efficiently demonstrate an impressive MLP.
Here’s how they work.
In a clickable prototype, screens can be low or high fidelity, and made to look just like the real app. Buttons are linked to sub screens to demonstrate the function of your future product. Users can click through the screens, and feel as though they’re using the app – all without writing a single line of code. Feedback comes rolling in. All the while, you’re allowed to adjust your product in an early stage, at the cheapest possible point.
A clickable prototype is invaluable in pre-sales, because you’re able to show prospective clients something tangible. This especially applies to B2B sales. If you’re able to set a meeting, articulate the value, and demo the prototype — you’ll be hard to say no to.
Not unlike its value in sales, a clickable prototype is an an impressive asset in investor meetings. We’ve even seen them used for Kickstarter and other crowdsourced fundraising. The more people can see, the more they want to invest.
The reality is, it’s difficult for others to part with (lots) of their own money, based on a verbal description of an idea. For all they know, it is a product of your imagination. As a founder, it’s important to remind yourself that others may not see the value of your product as clearly as you. A fully designed clickable prototype bridges this gap. It shows that your idea is far more than a concept that exists in your mind.
If you’re meeting with someone who is an expert in the industry your product serves, it’s highly likely the clickable prototype will be enough to persuade them. Their expertise will help them see the details of the opportunity more clearly.
However, if the investor doesn’t have this sort of industry insight, you may need more than a clickable prototype to get them on board. As an example, let’s suppose I am the owner of a chain of gyms. If I’m approached with a clickable prototype of an app that will revolutionize personal training forever, I’m sold. My industry specific experience gives me greater clarity on the idea’s potential. Now, imagine instead that I’m a doctor, being pitched the same app. In addition to seeing a clickable prototype, I’ll need to understand market research and greater context to be on board.
COST of a Clickable Prototypes
We’ve seen costs to professionally build a clickable prototype range from $5,000 to $60,000. It’s a heck of a spread.
In an effort to give some context (less so to shamelessly plug ourselves), New Lion charges anywhere from $5,500 to $15,000 for the prototyping process. The $5,500 is more a “boot-strap” approach, but some products need just that. Any agency you may work with, should be resourceful in keeping the project affordable, without having to take investments.
Rinse and Repeat
To de-risk your venture, the prototyping process looks a bit like this.
This is a non-technical way of describing Rapid Iteration, the process in which products are taken through early, iterative designs, and improved upon in small steps as opposed to a large review + edit after something is built.
Using your clickable prototype, revisit potential users and gather more insight. Losing touch with those who may use your product is #1 reason app businesses fail!
So, rinse, repeat, and stay focused on your user. While workshopping your app in the prototyping phase–the path into development will be clear, your bank will be intact, and you’ll be that much closer to an app that users love.