It’s natural to have a great idea and automatically think that everyone will love it. This type of confidence can be a good thing, in helping you to succeed as an entrepreneur. However, it can also mean that you end up spending large amounts of cash on a startup. And the idea can simply not have high demand, that you could expect.

So how can you make sure that your product works before you develop it? The answer is that you need to validate your startup idea. This involves testing it before you invest time and effort into your startup. This involves exposing your app idea to a target audience before you begin to build your app.

What does it mean to validate an idea?

When you validate your idea, you can save yourself a lot of time and money. You can also generate initial interest in your idea and your potential business. These are significant benefits for an entrepreneur.

Savings in time and money come from the fact that when you validate a startup idea, you get to know whether it will work. This prevents you from creating a product that is sure to fail.

We always recommend starting with Discovery Stage / Research to understand your target audience, market, and find the best market fit for your startup.

How to validate a startup idea

There are some necessary steps that you can follow to understand whether your startup is likely to work or not. You can:

● Analyze your competitors and potential target audience. You should understand the reality of the market and your users’ needs to build an app with high demand.

● Choose a relevant user group to provide feedback on your idea. The group that you choose should be reflective of your ideal customer base.

● Interview each member of the user group you have chosen. Doing this allows you to gather their thoughts and feelings about your startup idea. It’s usually enough to talk with 5–10 potential users to get 80% often feedback about your product.

● Make sure every user is impartial during user testing. This is important if you want to get accurate and unbiased feedback.

● Review your startup idea and make any necessary amendments. It may even be required to reject your initial idea or ideas and go back to the drawing board.

This is a reflection of the basics of how to validate an app idea. However, if you are making a start as an entrepreneur, there is a lot more involved in validating your startup idea. Let’s take a closer look at the process of discovery stage:

● Analyzing the competition

● Preparing proto personas

● Creating a Customer Journey Map as customer research

● Conducting User interview

● Creating and testing paper or digital prototypes

● Using the Design Sprint

The importance of analyzing the competition

There is no doubt that any effective entrepreneur needs to have a good understanding of the market. This allows them to see if their product is likely to succeed.

For instance, there are millions of apps to purchase on Google Play or at Apple’s App Store. What makes your app likely to succeed? Analyzing your competition can help you to answer this question. It’s an essential factor when you are looking at how to validate an app idea.

This is because it’s easier to see whether your idea is likely to be successful when you know what other similar products are out there. You need to understand what your competitors are offering and what they are doing right or wrong. This helps you to establish where your app stands in the market. The steps you should consider taking when analyzing the competition include:

● Gaining an understanding of who your strongest competitors are.

● Determining the content of your competitors’ applications. You should look at areas such as what problems they solve and how they are designed.

● Looking at the SEO strategy of your competitors. This can help you to see why they are succeeding.

● Considering how you can improve your product, based on competitors’ disadvantages.

When we started to work with our new client — Carbon Club, a UK-based environmental startup that helps users reduce their negative impact on the planet — we, of course, we did our research of the competitors to understand the market better. The closest competitors we researched were: One Today, GiveTide, Coin Up, Aspiration, Wonderful, Just Giving. We checked every app by ourselves to understand the disadvantages and advantages of each product.

competitor research
Example of Competitor research

This competitor analysis is one of the most critical steps to take when it comes to taking actions to validate an idea. You also need to understand your customer base. This is why creating proto personas can be so important.

The use of proto personas

Proto personas differ from standard personas in that they are based on a series of assumptions backed up by data. Creating this type of persona allows you to validate an idea quickly and effectively. This is because it enables you to get a better understanding of your customer base without committing the extra time and effort it takes to create standard personas. This understanding of your ideal customer is essential if you want to validate your startup idea effectively. But, take in mind, a proto persona is a live document, that you should update with the progress of understanding our target audience. Still, after all, based on user testing and Target Audience interviews, a proto person should be turned into a Persona as a perfect reflection of your target audience.

To create relevant and accurate proto personas, you need to:

● Brainstorm the information you have gathered about the goals and motivations of your customers.

● Discuss and visualize the data and information that you have.

● Give an identity to the persona or personas you have created.

● Take all the information you have about the persona and use it to determine what problem your app can solve for them.

So for our client, Carbon Club, we created a proto persona depending on the conversation with a startup owner. We mentioned location, age, occupation, and user needs.

example of proto persona
Example of proto persona

Creating proto personas in this way is essential when you are determining how to validate an app idea. You need to understand your customers and their problems to determine how valuable your app will be.

Creating a Customer Journey Map as customer research

Taking time to validate an idea is not just about understanding who your customers are. You also need to appreciate what the customer journey is. Without this knowledge, you can never really understand whether your startup idea will work.

Many an entrepreneur finds that their business fails because they start with tunnel vision. This comes from a lack of knowledge about the customer journey. So, how can you create a customer journey map to develop your understanding?

Let’s start by saying that a user journey map is a record of user interaction with your product. The map measures this journey from the user’s or customer’s point of view. Every touchpoint along the way is measured on the map.

For instance, your product may be an app that tells people where to find local language classes. The first step of the journey would be when the user understands that he/she needs language classes and starts to read advice about which language to choose. Other points along the journey may include logging into the app for the first time. They may also involve finding the address of a local school.

Examining a journey map for your app helps you to understand the user experience fully. This can help to show you how successful your startup is at solving the problem that customers have. It can also help you to see if you need to make any amendments to the app idea. But don’t forget to update your customer journey map while discovering your target audience.

When you are mapping and understanding the customer journey, there are several questions that you should be asking yourself. These questions could include:

● Why choose to use the app in the first place?

● Is the app easy to understand straight away?

● How long does it take for the user to solve the problem they have, using the app?

● Are there any gaps in the user experience that need to be filled?

These questions are all critical when you are trying to validate a startup idea.

As you can see from our Carbon Club example, our Customer Journey Map consists of Proto persona, user’s needs and desires, the scenario of the app using, actions according to phases of interaction with the app, user’s thoughts, user’s emotions and opportunities for each phase. You updated the Customer Journey Map after every interview and user testing.

Example of Customer Journey Map
Example of Customer Journey Map

So, understanding the customer and their journey is important when validating an idea. What else do you need to think about, as an ambitious entrepreneur?

User interview

You may be wondering how to validate all your hypotheses based on Customer journey map and proto personas. The answer is a user interview. The fact is that having conversations with your potential audience allows you to make a useful analysis. This data can then be used to help you find users’ needs, pains, concerns, and motivation. This is more efficient, and less time consuming than simply diving into all the data that you can find.

During the interview, all the team should take notes and record important points. Then after the interview, we always collect our notes together to create the combined stickers of pros and cons. On the red stickers, we write points to improve, on the green — what users liked, on the blue — general comments/insights. It gives the team the ability to make sure all the ideas are mentioned and that the team is on the same page.

It’s recommended to schedule 5 interviews for 1 day. When we organized user interviews for Carbon Club, we decided to go with 6 to receive valuable insights from more people. An important lesson that we learned that day is that conducting user interviews is hard. And 6 interviews in 1 day is too much, 5 is enough. At the end of the day, the team could be very tired.

Creating and testing paper or digital prototypes

You can see how crucial knowledge of the customer experience is when you start to validate a business app idea that you have. You also have an understanding of how important data is. All of this information and knowledge can be used to help you create a paper or digital prototype of your app.

Having a prototype in place is essential if you want to fully evaluate your startup idea. A prototype is simply a primitive version of the product that you have in mind. It’s used so that the flow of the design can be tested and feedback can be gathered. This is an important part of the validation process that you should complete before you start development.

paper prototype
Example of paper prototype

Paper prototypes are often used to recreate what should appear on an app screen. Stencils and cardboard are usually used during the creation of paper prototypes to ensure that they are accurate. The mockups of the app can be accompanied by other items such as informative post-it notes. Many paper prototypes are used early in the design and validation process.

When testing a paper prototype, to validate an idea, a human usually acts the same with a paper prototype as they use a computer. They take action and make changes, based on feedback from people who are asked to use the prototype. The use of the prototype is usually based on interacting with the paper in the same way as you would interact with an app screen.

digital prorotype
Example of a digital prototype for Carbon Club

Digital prototypes are usually made in black and white, or painted in neutral colors. To make a digital product that can be used in user testing. It can be an important part of how you validate a startup idea. The main benefit of creating a digital prototype is that it’s realistic looking. This means that the testing is often closer to using the actual product. If you are looking at how to validate an app idea, you may use both a paper prototype and a digital prototype. The type of prototype is chosen based on what we want to test:

- validation of the early idea — a paper prototype that can be developed quickly.

- validation of user flow — digital prototype with the help of specialized software.

Using the Design Sprint

As a business owner, validating a startup idea, you may want to hasten the process. One way to do this is to use the Design Sprint. We at Uptech have embraced this process and have written our own review.

The Design Sprint takes 4 days to complete. It involves designing, prototyping, and testing ideas that a business has had. It’s a valuable process when it comes to how to validate an app idea. A startup can greatly benefit from the Design Sprint, which can help to resolve significant challenges quickly.

In conclusion

A startup can validate an app idea without development. This means that if your business has an idea that it wants to validate, it can do so affordably and quickly. To do this you need to start recognizing your customer personas and creating a customer journey map. You also need to understand the use of data and the creation and testing of prototypes.

We at Uptech always recommend that discovery and validation are essential at the start of any development process. This is because the feedback and data that is collected helps to inform the development and help to build a product that users love. The discovery stage gives an app a better chance of being successful and reaching business goals.