4 Ways to Validate your App Idea Before Wasting Money on Development

January 31, 2017

You have a revolutionary idea for an app and want to create a thriving business around it, but there’s one thing you need to know before you start: Ideas are worth nothing.

95% of startups fail, that is why it is crucial to validate your app idea before moving forward with any sort of development. Validating your ideas before development allows you to both mitigate risk, and speed up your time to market.

It’s important to flesh out your app’s value proposition, so you can focus on what matters most about your app (80-20 rule), and if it’s worth building in the first place. After developing over 200 mobile apps, we’ve seen many great successes, but we’ve also seen some failures. The tactics below will greatly increase your chance of success, so you don’t waste thousands of dollars on an app that nobody wants.


Talk Directly to Your Target Audience


Source: Talking to Humans


The first and most important thing you need to do in order to validate your idea, is to reach out to members in your target audience and ask questions! Startup guru, Steve Blank, likes to call this “getting out of the building”. It’s important not to rely on just your friends and family for this. They are most likely going to say things to make you feel better, but won’t provide honest feedback. Nobody likes doing it, but startup founders must learn how to converse with complete strangers, they are the only people that are going to give you unbiased answers to your questions.  

Your primary goal should be testing and validating your value proposition. Here are a few questions you need to answer in order to do this:

  • What does your app do that solves a problem for your potential customers?
  • How significant of a problem is this?
  • How often is this a problem for your target audience?
  • How are they currently solving this problem?
  • Is a solution something they would be willing to pay for?

When formulating your plan for conducting these interviews, you shouldn’t be asking people whether or not they like your app/app idea. Because someone saying they like your idea does not directly translate to whether they would use it. What you should be trying to discover is the underlying pains that your customer has that your app could solve.

Say you have an app that helps connect babysitters to parents looking for a last minute babysitter. You’ll have much more valuable insight if a parent specifically tells you they can’t find trustworthy individuals to watch their kids within a day’s notice, than them just telling you they “like” your idea.

Many startups are concerned that by spending all of this time doing market research, they are moving too slow, and someone might beat them to market. This is not the right thing to be worried about. In the long run these interviews will greatly increase your speed, because you won’t have to spend time adding new features your customers are asking for, and removing old features that nobody wants.


While this market research is best done in the field where you can read body language and social cues, if you’re looking to scale up the process proved.co has created a fantastic platform that allows businesses to get feedback on their ideas from real people. All you have to do is submit your idea, set your target audience, and you will start getting replies in minutes. You can look at both qualitative and quantitative responses to your questions. Their algorithms use all of the responses they collect to give you a grade on your idea for a number of different metrics so you know what you need to work on, and what is already working.

People don’t download apps because they like the idea, they download apps because it solves a problem they have.


Conduct Keyword Research

If you’re not familiar with SEO and digital advertising, keyword research can seem very difficult to understand. If you use it right, however, it can be one of the cheapest and quickest ways to validate a demand for your product. If people are searching for your product, or searching for a way to solve the problem your product addresses then you’re on the right track.

Similar to market research (above), it’s more important that people search for a problem’s solution than search for the actual product itself.

A simple workflow to conduct keyword research could be:

  1. Search for the problem you are solving in Google. Check out the top pages, and the information they are offering. Scroll down and look at related search terms and see what the top pages for any relevant related terms are discussing. Then write down all search terms that are relevant to the problem you are solving.
  2. Go to keywordtool.io and search the problem again. This will give you even more related searches. Keep a close eye on any specific questions people are asking, and write down any relevant search terms you find.
  3. Go to Google Keyword Planner and see what the volume is on all of those search terms you wrote down. If the cumulative search volume is close or more than 1,000 monthly searches, you know you are onto something.


Create a Promotional Video and Run Facebook Ads

Over 500 million people are watching Facebook videos every day, and the average viewer watches 12 minutes of videos a day. It’s also a fact that Facebook videos have a 135% greater organic reach compared to photo posts on average. Needles to say, the attention and engagement you’re looking for is there.

Facebook advertising can be a powerful tool for market research because of their audience targeting options. You can target people in specific locations, age ranges, colleges, and interests. If there is an app or product in the same niche as you, you can even target people that are fans of that product on Facebook. Try to be very specific with your audience targeting to decrease the amount you will have to pay for each video engagement.

Here’s a sample formula you can use to create highly targeted facebook audiences:

  1. People who like pages of 10 complementary products or apps
  2. Age range and location of your app’s target audience
  3. People with closely related interests to your app’s niche

Once your promotional video has run it’s course, look through the insights and figure out how engaged your audience is. You can do this by analyzing how long people watch your video for, how many people like or share the post, and how many people viewed or liked your Facebook page after watching the video. Many people just scroll through their news feed so factor out any video views that happened for 5 seconds or less, otherwise these people will skew your results.

To go a step further, you can test two or three different videos that offer different features or focus on different value propositions. You can compare engagement levels between different videos to see what your target audience likes best.


Gauge Interest on Crowdfunding/Product Sites

Websites like Producthunt and Kickstarter are great places to raise product/app awareness. Producthunt allows people to post/share and discover new products. You can share your app or even a prototype and other users can upvote and/or leave honest feedback. Not to mention it’s free to use- you just need an invitation to join the community first.

Crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter, allow startups to post their product on their site to raise the funds and brand awareness they need to get their business off the ground. Crowdfunding sites aren’t limited to just physical products, in fact, Kickstarter has a category specifically for app projects. Beyond raising money, many entrepreneurs are using Kickstarter to validate their product ideas, even if you don’t reach your fundraising target if hundreds of people are interested in your app, then you know there is enough interest to move forward with development.


Lean Methodology

Today there is an infatuation with the idea of being a startup founder. They are seen as people that have risked it all, didn’t listen to all the naysayers, and proved to the world that their idea is worth billions of dollars. In a few cases this is true, the media popularizes companies that are known as “unicorns” like facebook or snapchat. What the media forgets to mention are the tens of thousands of people that tried and failed. They ended up with shattered dreams, hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, and jobless.

Today the best entrepreneurs and startup experts know that the only way to create a business that doesn’t rely on luck to succeed is to mitigate as much risk as possible before you invest significant resources in your business. Before you spend time building a product, before you spend money paying people to help, you must validate that people actually want what you are creating. This idea was brought mainstream by a very successful entrepreneur Eric Ries, he calls this the lean methodology.

“The big question of our time is not Can it be built? but Should it be built?” – Eric Ries

Dream big, follow your vision, and be passionate, but make sure you are building something people want before you invest significant resources. In the words of Benjamin Franklin “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”.