Picture this. You come up with a new feature idea for your software. You think that the feature is necessary and without a doubt a great innovation. Your teammates agree and think users will need it. Enthusiastic that your team is on board with the idea, you all get to work on the feature. Once the feature is deployed, you are shocked to find that users think the new feature isn’t useful. They are also mad that you worked on this feature instead of developing a feature that they have been asking for. Looks like you missed a very important step before developing your feature: product validation.
Product validation is figuring out whether your product idea or improvement has an appeal to your market. Product validation makes sure that after putting in all the work and time into developing your product, people will actually use and enjoy it. By doing product validations, your stakeholders also benefit by knowing that their needs are understood.
Steps in Product Validation
Understanding Your Market’s Problem
All products solve a certain problem. Good products solve the right problems. The right problems are the problems that your target market faces. So in order to understand your market’s problem, you need to first identify your market and dig into finding more information about them. After knowing your market, it will be a lot easier to identify and understand their problems. Once you understand their problems, you will know what is considered useful for your market and can start creating the solution.
Pitching The Solution
Once you’ve figured out a solution for your market’s problem, it’s time to pitch the idea to your stakeholders. It’s best to present a prototype of the idea to help your stakeholders understand your idea more. The prototype doesn't have to be a fully working product, just enough that your stakeholders can visualize it.
During the pitch, pay attention to the feedback given by your stakeholders. If they disagree with your idea, it’s a sign that you need to get back to the drawing-room and come up with a better solution. If they like it, congratulations! You now have an idea worth developing.
On another note, don’t forget to consider any concerns or suggestions your stakeholders have. These inputs can also help you improve your idea.
Product Validation IRL
Currently, I am working on a software project called DocSer. While working on the project, our team was given the opportunity to pitch some ideas related to the improvement of our software. That said, I hope sharing our experience can help deepen your understanding of product validation.
DocSer is a search engine integrated with Google Drive to provide contextual results. DocSer can also search for documents with the help of filters. You can filter the documents based on the owner, the location of the document, the document type, and the date it was last modified.
Initially, the input type for the owner and location filter was a text field. The drawback of using a text field was that the user had to precisely type in the name of the location or owner. We thought that this would give a bad user experience.
We proposed that we changed the input of those filters to a typeable dropdown. The options in the dropdown would be all of the names of owners and locations. Users could choose the names from the dropdowns or they could type them in. Other than that, the users didn’t need to type in the full names, they could just type in the first few letters until it they could select it from the dropdown.
At first, our stakeholders had concerns about the complexity of the task. They were worried that the task would be too difficult and we couldn’t complete it on time. We then explained the technicalities of how we were going to implement the feature and explained that we were fully capable of completing it on time. After the explanation, our stakeholders became convinced and agreed on the idea.
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