There are a lot of options to get your idea off the ground into a business and unfortunately some of them will lead you nowhere. Even before you choose a business entity, take a check from friends and family, or deputize a CTO, you need to insure that your idea is worth investing your own time and resources into. Here are some of the things you need to validate early on before you get yourself into a spin without any revenue:
Is the problem worth solving?
Will someone pay for a solution?
Can you reach your market and explain the product value clearly?
Can a sample audience envision using it?
Imagine, testing all of this before a single line of code is written.
And there’s a reason I used the word “testing” here. You can think it up all you want, but until your idea holds water with paying customers and investors, you aren’t getting anywhere. Get out of the building (virtually or otherwise), and see what prospective users will pay for.
When we have an entrepreneur, or business for that matter, come to Blast Off Apps, we start by getting what we call a “scope refinement” form filled out. This helps us understand your idea or need, but also helps you see the questions that are industry standard and better prepare your idea to make a go of developing an app. If you can explain your idea to us, you can explain it to anyone.
Here are the questions and why they are important.
- What are 3-5 things the app must do to give the full value you plan?
This is a very important question. App development is expensive. Also, you can’t take on the world alone. Therefore, you need to be able to distill what will be in your app into the 3-5 most important screens. The fewer the better because people just don’t want to look through millions of menus. Facebook is famous for being bloated in their menus. Next time you are on there, take a look at all the little menus and sub categories you could click. Many users don’t use these (a lot do, but nothing like the number that use the newsfeed, for example – which is really important to their unique value, in our opinion-). Find these and you are well on your way to defining an MVP for your app and saving thousands (if not millions) in development fees & time.
- What is a typical user’s experience using your app?
This is quite straightforward. Agile has made app development a user-centric process. You must always think from your users’ point of view. They will, once product market fit is reached, will drive your app’s development and will end up creating a business you most likely can’t even envision today. This is why this is a great question to start with, we are able to see the full vision. When talking with your team and many other people, you need to convey a story that will be compelling and the only way to do that (in our experience) is to put on the users’ shoes and see what they would like. In the long run, this aspect will get better and better. Through feedback from talking to users and other metrics, you will soon see what parts of the app are working and what parts are just wasting money and should be scrapped. In the end you have a unique experience that your users love and will share with their friends and co-workers, which is the goal of any app, virality & growth.
- What is your app’s unique value proposition?
The way these things work is that you find a crack in a larger competitor and bring something new to the user. Normally this is through offering things large businesses don’t and then creating a unique experience around that through the methods I mentioned above. So, you need to have a unique value proposition. On top of this, you should be talking to everyone about the idea. Too often, people guard their idea and unique value proposition too tightly. You MUST get feedback on the idea and to be honest, the idea is the easy part, the execution (and luck) are the more important parts to get right. Google wasn’t the first search engine, Facebook wasn’t the first social media network, etc… Bringing users what they want, how they want it, and on their terms will give you success and not much else can substitute viably.
- What is your app’s greatest strength against its competition?
You need to know your strengths. Unlike your unique value proposition,this question is more of “why do you think it is a great idea”. Again, getting outside people to give you an opinion would be very useful for this to be more accurate. You need to know why your app will win in order to have direction in the app’s development. Any little change will cost money for development, either through direct payroll, using a service like ours, or outsourcing. Through a team of experts that have worked for decades in the industry, you need to decide where your idea is strong.
- What is your app’s greatest weakness against its competition?
The yin to the last question’s yang is to find the weaknesses. If you say “there are none”, you don’t have a great idea. You need to put on your users’ shoes and see what it is that could make me never log in or uninstall the app. There are always weaknesses, hopefully they are severely outweighed by the strength, but you need to keep these in mind at all times so the app is always progressing.
- What common characteristics do your core market posses?
You need to be after a niche audience to start. If your answer to this question is “everyone”, you need to narrow your idea down more. Perhaps in the future it will be a true statement, but being so cross-functional is very hard and requires many pieces working together. It is best to really nail one offering instead of shooting for everyone. Amazon started with books because it offered the most selection and was easiest to fulfil. They have since branched out to even include a space company, but they started by targeting one specific niche and did it so well they could step into other “verticals” and see success their helped form the reputation their original product offered. This tends to impart more of an exponential growth cycle that grows exponentially, which is what virality is.
- How old are your target customers?
This is tied into the last question. People aged 40+ are different than those in their 20’s. Different groups have different needs and therefore you are looking to find which groups your app specifically targets. This helps you hem in your idea while you are developing the app so you are spending only the money you should to bring the value your users (idea users) want.
- What company (or app) is your largest competitor?
This is another one of those questions that are just smart to think about and help others understand your idea. “we are the Uber for healthcare” gives a pretty good sense of what you are after, an on-demand service that would require “getters (drivers for Uber)” and “consumers (riders for Uber)”. This is also a great way to figure out if you have something. If there is no competition, you need to think long and hard about why there aren’t. Are you not looking at it well? Is what you are offering just something people don’t want? Contrary to intuition, finding competition is GOOD for your app idea. This means people are willing to pay for a solution like you offer. YOu should create a better incarnation to really succeed at stealing their users or getting them to use your app too, but in the end finding competition means you aren’t blazing the trail. Many “trailblazers” get trampled in the end, Friendster anyone?
- Do you see an legal worries we should all abe worried about avoiding?
Lawyers are a fact of life and if you are dealing with social apps, it is something you need to bake into your app in order to even be put on the app stores. Normally, outside of privacy concerns, app’s tend to have little legal troubles and a terms of service screen is normally a good way to mitigate that risk. However, you should think for some time about what the worst case legal scenarios are and try to get ahead of them before you decide to release to the general public.
- Finally, what is your target budget range for this sprint of development?
This seems like a way to find out your budget so we know, which it is, but it also is an important thing for you to consider. You can find development options at any price. The way development works in the traditional outsourcing market is that you are looking to hire an app developer and then tell them what you want. They assume a bunch of things because every single decision (even the loading screen (splash screen) are associated with functionality that has variations. Therefore, the app development firm will take a guess and then add on an error factor to make sure they are profitable even if the worst case happens. This is why we use our pricing model that allows you to control the cost through itemization. That way, you know exactly what it is you are paying for and what cutting hours would do to the user’s experience.
See if you are ready, fill out our scope refinement and get our thoughts on your app today. Free of charge, only pay when you say you are ready to develop your app.