So you’ve come up with a mobile app idea? That’s awesome. It's now time to design a strategy to bring your idea to fruition. However, you wouldn't be alone if you were unsure where to get started. That's where an Idea Validation Framework comes in.
Unfortunately far too many entrepreneurs have had ideas, good and bad, and just dived in without thinking. This has meant that they have moved forward with projects that haven't been validated. When this happens, it's usually a recipe for disaster.
Good ideas fall by the wayside because they are often underfunded or the founders don't employ a proper business strategy. Even worse: certain entrepreneurs don't take steps to ensure their ideas are valid. In these circumstances, they end up spending money on bad ideas and ultimately funding startups that are doomed to failure.
Over the years in the industry, we have watched far too many good startups fail and even more, entrepreneurs lose all their money. This is not something that we can live with at Devwiz. As such our why became to arm our clients with the tools they need to design, build and launch successful startups.
That's why we created an idea validation framework for app concepts.
A. What is Idea Validation for App Concepts?
Idea validation should be used for every type of business. However, it's particularly important for those in the software and app industries. That's because these days so many app ideas fail.
So what's idea validation for app concepts? In short, it's the process of collecting all the necessary information to ensure a founder is making an informed decision on whether or not to proceed with their app idea.
Before you invest significant amounts of time or money in building a mobile app, we want to ensure that your app concept has ticked all the necessary boxes. By gathering said information, we are mitigating the risks as best we can. At the same time, we look to make sure that there is a real-world need for what you are trying to sell. We 100% want you to avoid putting out an App that no one wants to use.
Think of it like building a house. Idea validation is all about laying the right foundations to make sure your house will brave the elements and survive the test of time.
Our idea validation framework is a culmination of all the experience and knowledge in the app industry. It's a guide for you to take your app concept and develop an application that users feel is worth spending money on.
B. Why is an idea validation framework important?
It's quite common to think that your idea is the next best thing since sliced bread. At first sight, you may think that everyone needs your product. However more times than not founders are too close to their ideas and too emotionally involved in their startups.
That's why it’s important to have a robust testing process in place when validating your idea. An idea validation framework is a perfect solution because at its core it's a checklist of tests that need to be performed before you spend significant amounts of time or money on app development.
What's great about our idea validation framework is that it takes the emotion out the equation. We take a systematic approach to validate each app idea that is presented to us. We analyse all the data and come to an informed decision about the likelihood that an idea will succeed.
After an app concept has been put through our idea validation framework, we then present our findings to our clients in a logical manner. We cover everything from market size and saturation to any technical obstacles we can foresee. With all the information to hand, you will be able to make an informed decision on whether this project is the right one. There are usually two outcomes:
1. The data points towards your idea of being a good one
In this scenario, an idea validation framework will without a doubt help you to minimise the risks associated with your startup. It will give you a strategy to work by, which in turn helps you to get to market faster and more efficiently.
2. You learn that there are a lot of risks involved with your idea
Often this means that there just isn't a big enough market of paying customers to justify investing in development. However, finding out at this stage is a fantastic thing. It means you haven't wasted time and money building a product that no one wants to pay for.
Either way investment into something like a workshop that will guide you through an idea validation framework is money well spent.
C. The Devwiz Idea Validation Framework
We are not going to give away all our secrets here. However, we wanted to give you the core model on which our Idea Validation Framework is based.
i. The Idea: Choosing an app concept that solves a problem
The first step of our Idea Validation Framework is to test that you have properly thought about your app idea.
So what are the attributes of a fantastic idea? This is best answered by asking you some critical questions about your idea.
- Does your idea solve a problem?
- Do you know who will benefit?
- Does your tech create or replace a user’s habit?
- Does it make others happy?
- Will your app change the way someone thinks or feels?
- Is there a powerful “why” behind the idea?
- Do you have a competitive advantage or specialised knowledge in line with the proposed technology?
- Are you passionate about your idea?
If the answers are positive then you are onto a winner. However, it’s not necessarily time to start building yet. There are other steps to the idea validation framework you must follow first.
If you want more information on "Coming up with a Great Idea for an App", you can download our mini ebook here.
ii. The Market: Understanding the industry and competitors
Market research is the second step to validate your idea. It is a key and important part of understanding the potential of your application. There are two things you need to check – the industry, and potential competitors. Here are some guidelines:
- Market Size – What is the potential number of clients that you have for your app idea? Is it big enough to be profitable? It’s important to validate whether there's enough potential cash to be made to justify any investment;
- Competitor Analysis – Do you have competitors? It’s possible that you may end up in a niche with no competitors but that should also be a red flag. Competitors may actually validate your idea. Has no one created this idea before because they’ve already decided there is no market for the idea? If there are competitors, do you feel confident that you can take a big enough piece of the pie to make money?
- SWOT Analysis – The next thing you need to do is a SWOT analysis. You need to be realistic about your strengths and weaknesses, but more importantly, concentrate on your opportunities and threats. Can these opportunities create a USP that your app idea fills?
iii. The User: Building a profile for your perfect user
Once you have decided that the market is big enough and there is an opportunity that you can exploit, the next step in the framework is to create your customer avatar. When developing a user profile, you should at the minimum cover of the following:
- Age Range
- Technical Vs Non-Tech
- Common interests
- Online habits
- Motivations to use your app
- Other apps used
- Likely channels to be found
This is not an exhaustive list. There may be other factors that you want to add when creating a customer profile. You could also end up with multiple customer avatars.
I should mention that the importance of collecting hypothetical information is sometimes lost on our clients. However, you should know that this info forms the basis fo so many critical elements of your product. These ideas will be used in the design, defining a customer acquisition value and creating key marketing campaigns.
iv. The Concept: Completing a Lean Canvas
Often in times past, after you have defined your key user profile(s), customers have decided that they want to create a full business plan. However, for validating ideas, the lean canvas is a much better alternative.
A Lean Canvas is like a “mini” business plan. It's a quick but powerful process to create the frameworks of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
A Lean Canvas will give you invaluable information for idea validation. Usually, the Lean Canvas has the following sections – Problem, Solution, Unique Selling Proposition, Channels, Customer Segments, Cost Structures, and Revenue Streams.
You can easily create one using this Google template. However, in terms of Idea Validation Frameworks, the three most important sections to concentrate on are:
- The Problem – Is the problem that you are hoping to solve BIG enough? Are there enough people in your industry who suffer from this problem? Is it one that people will be prepared to spend money on?
- The Solution – Can you clearly articulate how your app idea will solve the problem mentioned above?
- Your Unique Selling Point (USP) – What makes your idea better than your competitors? How are you different and why will people choose your solution?
From all the market research that you have done above, you should be able to fill in these sections of the Lean Canvas easily. If you are confident about answers to the above three sections then your idea is close to being validated.
v. The Social: Talking to people within the industry
Up to this point, much of the idea validation framework has been conceptual in nature. However now you need to get out there and talk to the people that will actually buy your product. This is a critical real-world test, designed to validate whether your business goals align with that of your target consumer.
Depending on the size of your target market you might want to speak to 10-20 people. But don’t just speak to anyone. Spend some time picking people who broadly match the user profile you created above.
There are many ways to find members of your target market. Social Media has made this process easier. If you are targeting B2B customers you may look for interview prospects via Linkedin. If your app idea is B2C, you may choose to look at Facebook. You can connect with people online, from everywhere in the world and interview them using platforms like Skype or Zoom.
It can also be advantageous to just go somewhere that you know your perfect user will be. Go be a fly on the wall. Have a general chat and get to know your potential users. These interactions will guide things like app design and marketing.
Talking to people within your target market like this is also a great way to learn about what tools or services are missing. It's at this stage that your project might change. You might decide that you need to pivot or add new features to your proposed idea.
vi. The Features: Defining your Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
At this stage, you should be feeling confident that your core idea has been validated. If this is not the case then you should NOT proceed with these latter stages. This is because they are more time-intensive.
However, thinking about what will be included in your MVP is so important. It will guide you to find out how much the design and development will cost. As you can imagine, knowing this helps to work out whether it's something that you can afford or whether your startup needs investment.
For the sake of this article I will simplify the process into the following three steps:
- Write down all the ideas you have had for your product, all possible features;
- Indicate which features are "must-haves" for your business (things your customers cannot live without);
- Split the remaining features into "should-haves" and "would-likes". These will form the basis of future development.
Finally, take your MVP product and get some quotes from potential developers. Check out our guide on how to choose the right app developer here.
vii. The Marketing: Having a high-level launch strategy
We are not going to dwell too long on this part of the process. It's not a matter of knowing exactly how you will market your startup. Instead, it's about having a high-level plan for launch marketing.
So what's important for us to know? As per the lean canvas, we just need to validate which mediums are right for your type of business. It must also be in line with your user profile as described above.
The reasoning behind this step is two-fold. Understanding the platforms you are likely to use, allows us to define the customer acquisition costs. The exact cost is, of course, is not needed. The average pricing is fine.
Secondly, marketing is something that most entrepreneurs have not even considered. That means often they complete development without any pre-marketing preparations. Thus they get to this stage without any idea of how they will market their product.
Performing this part of the framework keeps these activities in front of the mind. As an entrepreneur and founder of your startup, you must feel confident that you will be able to market your app.
viii. The Financial: Creating projections to tie it all together
This final stage of the App Validation Framework is arguably the most important. This is where you build a financial model to determine whether it's worth following through with your new app idea.
You must work out how your app will make money. Then to validate the business finically on a high level, you must determine that the value per customer is higher than the cost per acquisition.
If you pass this part of the process, you will move to create full projections. We have created a templated spreadsheet that incorporates all of the above research. After you input all of the details it will validate the financial viability of your product and business as a whole.
If you'd like to create a simplified framework for yourself, you must include the following parameters for the first 3-4 years of business' operations:
- Your business model (aka how your app will make money);
- How many users you will attract;
- A model for revenue for each year;
- Expenses, including marketing.
Essentially you are looking to see whether you will become cash flow positive within this time, preferably by the second year.
Using the Devwiz Idea Validation Framework
Whether you are a well-established business or a startup, if you have a new app idea we would love to work with you to validate it. Devwiz is a Sydney based app development agency, specialising in helping startups validate and launch their app ideas.
The way we work is that we will guide you through our Idea Validation Framework in a 1 to 1 workshop. We will be able to determine, using our Idea Validation Framework, whether your app idea has a high likelihood of success (or not).
If so, after the workshop process, we provide you with a full development plan. This will outline all steps required to design, build and launch your app idea.