You know your customers’ pain points. You have a vision – a solution. It isn’t some generic vitamin — you know you have a kick-butt pain killer. Now you got funding or approval for your project. You are ready to go. The next step is to validate your solution, iterate quickly, fail fast, then iterate more. You don’t have time to spare, because you know your competition might be just right around the corner.
The conventional approaches presented below just simply don’t cut it. You need a new type of solution that can change the trajectory of your project and maximize your chances of success (while reducing risk).
You could take an ethnographic approach
Go interview tons of potential customers, but starting down this path is slow and hard. Without something tangible to show them, words can be misinterpreted – brilliant ideas become vague and unclear – and you can get led in the wrong direction through a simple misunderstanding, especially if your idea is really new and the users have no reference for evaluating it.
⬇ Low Fidelity | ⬆ Good Feedback | ⬇ Minimal Validation
⬆ Much Time | ⬇ Save Money | ⇣ Minimal Risk
You could take a design-centric approach
Go hire a designer (full time or contractor) to go make mockups (pictures). You can even use some amazing tools like InVision or Figma to make those mockup pictures be clickable to “simulate” a real product. But mockups take time. Weeks of time. Every iteration is another week or more before the next set of designs. And while InVision and Figma are great for bridging the gap between design and engineering, let’s be honest – clickable pictures are still a far cry from having a user “interact” with a real product with real data. Not every interaction is mocked up, the data isn’t real, and the “mockups” don’t feel like (or provide feedback like) real software does.
⇡ Minimal Fidelity | ⇡ Minimal Feedback | ⇡ Minimal Validation
⇡ Some Time | ⇡ Some Money | ⇣ Minimal Risk
You could take the build-it-first approach – Like so many startups, IT departments, and new product development teams at large companies – you could just “build it first.” And it is true, what you get on the other end is as high fidelity as possible – but it takes time. And I don’t just mean weeks… Building a functional product takes months. It isn’t just the front-end; you need the APIs, the databases, the analytics, the data. And if you find out 4, 8 or 12 months late that you built the wrong thing (or even the right thing with a totally wrong UI)… well then. You better hope your competition hasn’t figured out the right answer.
⬆ High Fidelity | ⬇ Delayed Feedback | ⬆ On-Point Validation
⬆ Much Time | ⬆ Much Money | ⬆ High Risk
The key thing here is that you need to get it as real as possible to trust your solution while putting forth as few resources (people, development, money, time) as possible. How do you test potential markets to find product-market fit without committing your entire team?
- It isn’t enough to have conversations with customers, you need to validate exactly what you want to build
- It isn’t enough to show mockups, you need to validate the actual interactions, real data and real use cases
- And you don’t have the resources to blindly build first, you need to have confidence in your solution – because you can’t “get back” time and money.
A solution is needed to increase the likelihood of success, decrease time to market, decrease delays and ensure a consistent output. This is the exact moment where a change can happen, where a new type of solution can change the trajectory of your project.
But honestly, once you validate your vision – you still need to get to MVP…
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