Do you have an exciting idea for a digital product or service? If so, you may be tempted to build it immediately.

When you realise you’ve built a product customers don’t actually need your initial excitement may fizzle out. Therefore resulting in a build-first approach, which is a common mistake. Countless businesses and entrepreneurs have realised this the hard way – wasting time and money on the way. This could lead to devastating consequences for a small business if significant amounts of time, money and other resources have been invested in the product.

Thankfully, there are multiple approaches that allow you to validate needs and test assumptions before developing a digital product. This saves money in the long run. It also provides evidence of success along the way, which can be shared with potential investors and other partners.

These five steps outline the approach to take to determine whether your idea is feasible.

Do people have the problem I’m trying to solve?

Step one is to find out if people have the problem you are trying to solve with your idea. Research and test early on. This reduces the risk of developing a product that people don’t need or that has already been addressed by other alternatives.

During this phase, document unvalidated assumptions that carry the most risk if incorrect. Generative market research like data mining or discovery interviews can generate insights.

Google alone has various tools which will prove invaluable in finding data about potential customers and competitors. Meanwhile, running tests with Google Ads is a cost-effective way to test the viability of your digital product or service, particularly if your solution is B2C.

Understanding your customers is vital for making informed design decisions on your future product. Do in-person interviews with potential customers to gain clarity on their problems and identities.

Most importantly, use multiple research sources to verify the accurateness of your insights.

Are people interested in my solution?

The second step is to find out if people are actually interested in your solution. How do you do this without building the full product or spending a lot of money?

First prioritise which of your assumptions are likely to have the greatest negative impact should they be wrong. Test these based on cost and time.

Customers’ willingness to pay for your solution is one of the best ways to gauge interest in it. Set up a landing page with a sign-up button or pre-orders page. This is called a fake door test. It will help validate that there is a need in the market as well as what customers would be willing to pay.

Meanwhile, Concierge and Wizard of Oz tests are useful to gather feedback and analyse customer behaviour.

Building a single feature product focused on your main offering will help to see if it solves a customers’ problem.

Build a low-effort proof of concept

Step three is to build low-effort prototypes and proof of concepts (POC). This will allow you to test how your product works before its even been developed, saving time and money. Do this to see whether the features you intend to develop are feasible.

First, determine which features offer your business and target market the highest value for the least effort. Design an inexpensive paper prototype incorporating priority features to test with potential users.

A clickable wireframe prototype is a basic build which can be used to gather feedback.

Then, build a low effort proof of concept to launch with early adopters. Use any insights gathered from analytics and user interviews to improve the product.

Release a minimum viable product

The fourth step is to launch a minimum viable product (MVP) with minimal features to early adopters. MVPs contain the most basic and crucial functionality. Use this to drive user engagement. Also, collect feedback to improve the product and for further development.

A MVP means you can get your digital product out to market quickly, saving time and money. Certain elements of your MVP can be handled manually. Do smoke tests to determine if the main software functions of the product work properly. 

It’s important to determine how you will measure success before launching your MVP. Once it’s launched, monitor analytics and do user interviews to see how the product is operating. Use this feedback to improve product performance and customer service.

Scaling your digital product

Finally, step five is to scale your product. Do this once your MVP has gained traction in the market.

Develop a sales and marketing strategy to generate sales and roll out the product to many users. Decide to focus on either performance marketing, virality, or content, to drive growth.

Raise sufficient capital and hire any additional staff needed to successfully scale. Importantly, do load testing before scaling to ensure the product can withstand increased traffic.

In addition, collect analytics and do customer interviews to improve and modify the product. Make sure this is done in accordance with a design system. This is a guide which ensures consistency and familiarity across a product.

Follow these five steps to minimise the risk of releasing a failed product.

Need help validating your idea and developing an exciting new digital product?