Idea Validation Playbook

Validate the problem

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Important for this playbook

However good our ideas are, we do have to admit that we have no proof - that is the hard part. If you don’t admit that uncertainty is at its maximum at the beginning, you’re going to go off and implement something that nobody wants.

The first step is to figure out whether the problem you are trying to solve is a real one that actually needs solving.

Your best option is to adress potential users directly, focusing on getting qualitative validation of your product idea. At this stage, you want to ask open-ended questions and listen and learn from user responses.

Start with a smaller number of representative users and verify that the problem exists for them. Later, we will carry out more sophisticated experiments on users on a greater scale by trying to provoke and validate wanted behavior in users.

Your initial learnings at this stage will provide confidence to move your idea forward – or teach you that you will need to pivot your iedea as come to understand the real underlying problems.

Don’t ask for opinions

Asking for opinions, you get opinions. People have opinions on everything, and those opinions doesn’t necessarily reflect what people are actually doing in the real world.

Questions like “Would you…” or “Do you think…” are not ideal ways to start a customer discovery interview.

It’s better to ask for facts.

Questions like “When was the last time you googled…” or “Tell me about a time when you…” shows whether they thought about the proble before you triggered them. If you ask “Would you” or “Do you think”, people will very likely answer positively – with their opinions.

The following question openers help respondents refer to a concrete instance:

  • “When was the last time you struggled with…?”
  • “When was the last time you talked to … about…?”.
  • “When was the last time you thought about…?”
  • “Why did that bother you…?”

You want to aim for collecting facts and concrete instances when you ask.

Don’t focus on the solution

You do not want to focus on the solution. Taking a starting point in the solution – a future implementation of the idea you have ind mind – will be framing the conversation around what you think is important. Not what is important for your potential users.

Asking whether a particular feature would solve a user problem might give you positive acknowledgements in return. However, asking about a particular feature will not answer whether that feature would solve the user’s most important problem.

These experiments are part of the Validation Patterns printed card deck

A collection of 60 product experiments that will validate your idea in a matter of days, not months. They are regularly used by product builders at companies like Google, Facebook, Dropbox, and Amazon.

Get your deck!
Blog illustration

Blog publicly about what you're doing

Closed-Ended Surveys illustration
Closed-Ended Surveys

Survey specific performed behaviors and habits in potential customers

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Cold Calling

Gauge interest from prospects with whom you have no prior contact

Comprehension Test illustration
Comprehension Test

Before testing commitment, test comprehension.

Concierge illustration

Personally deliver your service to test product satisfaction

Contextual Inquiry illustration
Contextual Inquiry

Interview and observe users while working in their own environment

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Fundraise for product development or production

Crowdsourcing illustration

Obtain input to a project from a large group of undefined people

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Customer Service Logs

Listen in on customer service to understand user problems firsthand

Event illustration

Arrange a live event to gauge customer interest

Fake door testing illustration
Fake door testing

Pretend to provide a product or feature without actually developing it

Family Tree illustration
Family Tree

Verify that manual implementations exist for what you plan to automate

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Find the Watering Hole

Seek out where prospects gather for informal face-to-face validation

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Five People Who Are In

If you cannot find five, your market is too small or too hard to reach

Five Second Test illustration
Five Second Test

Test what users recall after just brief exposure

Focus Group illustration
Focus Group

Ask a group of selected participants about their opinions and preferences

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Industry Forums

Discover what frustrations and problems users are actively looking to solve

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Move in With the Customer

Iterate your product with customers on-site

Read App Reviews illustration
Read App Reviews

Dive into the frustrations and praise of your own or competing apps

Remote User Testing illustration
Remote User Testing

Conduct many unmoderated tests fast and in parallel

Sell the Future illustration
Sell the Future

Sell your future feature before implementing it

Write Down Your Concept illustration
Write Down Your Concept

Use pre-defined questions to discover alignments and trade-offs

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