So, you have an idea for a product, and you want to start building it. You have no doubt that this is the product to change lives — but does it matter that there’s no tangible research to back this up? I mean, it is the best product in the world after all.
The answer is yes. It matters a lot. Different people have different needs — you and your neighbour are unlikely to have the same definition of a life-changing product.
So, how can you determine that your product is one people will actually want to buy? What steps can you take to ensure you aren’t one of the many founders who loses valuable time and money focusing on the wrong areas.
Start with a Problem Statement
Do not start with a solution. It is easy to think that you already know what product you want to create, but you need to have a problem to solve, even if it’s not a ‘real’ problem. Start to hypothesise around areas that could be problems in that space — and focus it around significant pain. By that I mean, something that is so much of an annoyance that people will do anything to get off trying to mitigate around it. This is opposed to optimising an existing solution — which is the role of established organisations, rather than startups.
To define this real or hypothetical problem, you need to have a problem statement to l keep you on track whilst bearing in mind the vision you have. I’ve previously written an article on the importance of a clear problem statement — and clarity remains vital. Ultimately, you need a short and sweet way of defining how things ‘should’ work. If an ideal world, what would X do? When you’ve identified this, you can then use the solution as an explanation to the problem and how your product takes A and solves B.
Create User Personas
If you’re unsure of what a user persona is, it’s your ideal customer. They have the right job, the right age, the right income, the right issues. They’re focused on X and want to be focused on Y, they’re spending too much time on X and are looking for more viable ways to do Y. They have your problem and they have the finances and means to buy your product to solve it. Create several user personas to strengthen your product viability.
When collating information on your user persona, it needs to go beyond demographic data. Make sure you capture their fears, motivations, apprehensions, and goals. The “why” is important when you are thinking about the features they want to have in your solution. Once you have a number of personas, start to narrow them down until you have 1–3 in total as they will be the focal point of the solution you decide to create.
When you build your user personas, every question you ask should have them in mind. They can be used to build interactions through flows and wireframes, they can be used for identifying relationships and channels in the business model and they can help build a valuable product life cycle.
Define a Solution Hypothesis A solution hypothesis is the opposite side of the problem statement. What is the solution you propose, and how are you building something which is worth it? A solution hypothesis looks at the different types of solutions available to you and allows you to compare significant improvements to a user’s life versus marginal improvements.
Similar to having a broad approach in the problem statement with “imagine if you could” statements, a solution hypothesis starts with a broad approach with “we believe” or “how might we” statements to give suggestions as to how we can solve a particular problem. Having a few of these and then narrowing in on the one solution hypothesis is a good approach. It is also important that as a hypothesis, you are aiming to either prove or disprove in the subsequent stages so you need to be clear and only “pivot” once you’ve achieved a conclusion on this hypothesis.