How do you validate your idea?
Short answer: “Just make the thing.” – Jason Fried.
Recently, you may have seen this float around on Twitter about how do you validate your idea and if an idea is worth executing?
I think Jason had a great response to this popular question about how do you validate your idea. I agree with Jason that “you can’t validate a concept…you have to ship the thing.”
For me, this hit home. Not because I had not shipped something but because what happens when you actually do ship something.
First, what is validation?
“The only real validation is people paying for your product,” Pieter Levels.
Recently, I launched pre-order for The Lean Side Project. And amazingly enough, I received actual validation with thousands of dollars in pre-orders.
For many this is a great sign that you’ve done something right.
But it turns out, as a result of getting actual paying customers, I was able to talk to them and understand exactly what they needed.
And I am so glad that I did.
What happened is that the people who paid money for my product, allowed me to validate the parts of my product that they wanted and parts that they did not need. I was able to talk to them and get feedback about why did they purchase? What were their actual needs? What are they trying to do?
I learned that there are two types of feedback.
This concept hits different after you have experienced it. Because iterating and listening to feedback by “talking to potential customers” isn’t the same as validated feedback from actual customers. Listening to validated users who actually handed you money is a higher level fidelity of feedback. It’s something that I had to learn the hard way when I launched my first startup in 2016. And it’s something that I am really thankful to learn because it’s already improved the chances that the finished product will be what my customers actually need.
Because of this step it’s resulted in me changing the long term product roadmap for The Lean Side Project.
It turns out the old adage saying of, “You are not your user” applied to my situation. What’s the biggest trap that you can fall into when building a product? Building it exclusively for yourself. It’s a very valid reason to build your first version for yourself and scratch your own itch. That is a good first bar of utility to set.
That is why the very next step of getting my product shipped in some basic version (in this case pre-order) out into the wild and getting actual validation has been so important.
Why does this matter?
Because I build with no-code. And when I first envisioned who would buy The Lean Side Project, I was biased. Of course I did all my research and interviewed people who had the problem I wanted to solve. The problem I experienced. But it turns out that the actual people are buying my product don’t immediately need all the features I envisioned. I had to take a step back and reprioritize.
When I first started my build, I chose a new no-code tool that is not even in beta yet, called Bildr. Bildr is a mind blowing tool that allows you to build powerful web apps without code. It’s one that I am incredibly bullish on.
However, here in lies the problem. The hard part about no-code is even more so than any other coding language you really need to make sure that you select the right tool for the job. In the case of using Bildr it is a very powerful but also very robust tool that requires more tool than I actually need.
When I first envisioned the roadmap for The Lean Side Project I had dreamed up some powerful queries and other really super interesting things I wanted to do with all the data (2,000 points of data from 150 no-code projects). The issue is the people buying now don’t need that now.
So I had to take a hard look at what they actually needed, and figure out what is the fastest way to get them a product shipped and what do I need to build to better serve who my actual customers. Because now I had an expectation to deliver something. The pressure was on.
Because I had not fully built out in Bildr yet, I left myself plenty of room to pivot. So recently I completely relaunched The Lean Side Project using Bubble in 10 days. I wrote about that here what I learned in the process and insights you can gain to ship your Bubble app even faster.
But wait? Why didn’t I choose to go with Bubble the first time??!?
Sure I could have started with Bubble. But I was looking short term and long term. I evaluated both tools before I began. And as a product maker that’s purely speculative to know exactly what people find valuable. You can’t predict exactly how the market or customer base is going to react. Your market sets the price for your product. Sure you can influence it. But it’s your customer who decides when they take out their credit card to purchase it.
And in this case the process I was following and framework I have built into The Lean Side Project I believe is working. The past mistakes I learned from and was now using a new process, worked! Because I had sought actual real validation before I built out my product and because I had launched LEAN, I was able to discover who and what my customers actually needed. And it was through this discovery and through the advantage of no-code that I was able to pivot creating my app and relaunch in 10 days. The Lean Side Project short term road map hasn’t changed.
What did I learn?
Getting validation as soon as possible and shipping a product as early as possible works. Before, when I launched a startup in 2016 and had spent an entire year working on it, not talking with any potential users much less VALIDATED (paid money for the thing I was making) users. I flopped on my face hard. How can you develop enough empathy for your users/customers if you aren’t actually talking to them or measuring the behavior of how they use the thing that you built?
Ask yourself this when designing a product: What is the simplest way that you can get the highest validated signal from someone performing an action within your app, or they actually pay money for? Otherwise you are just spinning your wheels, thinking and guessing what they may need. It takes a measure of your ego out of it too.
That hard part.
There is a line you have to cross when you are building a product to scratch your own itch. And if you expect to monetize it, you’ll need to discover how many of “me” are there that are willing to buy this? Are the things that I want the same as all my actual paying customers? Seeking actual validation is a big step in mitigating the risk when you’re building it for more than yourself.
You’ve got to get your product out into the wild, talk to validated users and iterate to find the best solution for their needs.
I’m so glad that I did this and validated a lean building process. A process I wish I understood when I made my first startup in 2016.
If you would like to learn more about this framework, I am writing a guide to help anyone get what’s in your 🧠 and get it out into the 🌎. I’ve written it as a step-by-step guide to help make and launch, without writing code so that you can achieve breakout success. Pre-orders are now available for a limited time: The Lean Side Project. Feel free to reach me on Twitter and ask me any questions. Thanks ❤️ for reading.
Hi👋🏼, I'm Michael.
The maker of this site