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The 7 Real Reasons Why You Need to Test Your App Idea Before Building

February 21, 2024

The business side of creating a tech product, complete with what you’re actually testing for, why you need to test your app idea, and real-world examples of what happens when you don’t

Have you ever built something that just didn’t take off?

Of course, most of us have. With a staggering 99.5% of apps failing each year – mostly because of a lack of user interest and profitability – the mantra is to test your app idea thoroughly before you even consider writing a single line of code.

But what does testing an app idea mean?

How do you test an app to be sure it’ll be one of the 0.5% successful ones? Well, we’re going to tell you (a little later on), but before we can do that, it’s important to fully understand the reasons why you need to test our app idea, first.

The concept of thoroughly testing ideas, or as we call it, concept validation is not unique to the tech space. It comes from hundreds of years of solid business experience. See, in traditional business, about 75% of new products fail. And ensuring yours is one of the 25% that make it big requires:

  1. Testing the Product Idea
  2. But ALSO testing the Business & Market around the idea

The 99.5% app failure rate comes from people not doing the second one – or at least, not doing it properly. See, the product itself might be great – “wow, it’s like Instagram, just way, way better!”. But a business-side investigation will tell you that it won't work because Instagram has 2.5 billion users who’ve all spent (invested) 13 years in building up their followings, and they’re not going to switch up and start from Zero again – no matter how good your product is.

So, when we say “test an app idea”, we mean an all-encompassing investigation. Here’s why:

The real reasons why you need to test your app idea

1. Building a product is expensive & time-consuming

Anyone who’s actually scaled a venture or startup that’s built around a tech product into a fully-fledged business worth exiting will tell you that it’s no walk in the park. The Hollywood trope of accidentally creating the “next big thing” app and becoming a millionaire overnight is just that, fiction. Even Mark Zuckerberg will tell you there’s way more behind Meta than just the original Facebook.

The time and resources it takes to actually execute an app are so high, you simply can’t afford to even start on one line of code before you are absolutely sure it has a market who’s willing to pay and an actionable plan of how you’re going to get an increasingly adverse public to even try it out.

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Get the full picture with our focus on the business of app development.

2. Market demand & adoption

In the same breath, if you’ve spent time building an app that users are not interested in or willing to use, you’ll end up with low adoption rates and poor user engagement, which ultimately leads to failure. See how to increase app engagement, use this framework for your user engagement strategy and learn how to increase active users.

3. You can’t patent ideas

There’s a saying that nothing is truly unique – i.e. somewhere in the world, someone else is probably working on the same idea as you. Knowing who your competitors are beforehand is what helps you differentiate and maybe beat out the competition. Because you literally can’t patent your idea, just the execution, which is useless unless you already dominate the market. Hence, take your idea through concept validation first. 

4. Missed opportunities

Again, relating to your competitiveness, developing the right feature at the right time could be what sets your product apart. This is where the rigorous user experience focuses in your idea validation comes in. 

5. It’s hard to secure funding for unvalidated ideas

One of the lesser-known but most important benefits of concept validation is that it goes straight into your pitch deck to investors. In fact, it’s one of the things investors look for – that you’ve planned out how to make an app idea into an actual, valuable business.

6. Marketing is hard if you don’t know the marketplace

At some point, you’re going to want and need to market your product. And that’s where the hard questions come up: to whom? why should they care? how should they use it and why? (just for starters). If you did your validation properly, you’ll already have 90% of that covered – concept validation includes the things you need for not only a go-to-market strategy but also a pretty well-defined marketing plan.

7. Cost-effective pivoting

Let’s say your original idea won’t hit the mark, wouldn’t you want to know before you sink time and money into development? Of course, and that’s what validation gives you. What’s more, knowing ahead of time enables you to re-strategise and pivot, maybe to create something even better.

(Find more creative ways to pay for your big innovation projects with these unique venture funding models.)

But, wait, how do we know all of this? Well, because it’s happened before…

Real-world examples of app failures (due to lack of validation)

Color (2011): Color was a photo-sharing app that raised a significant amount of funding (around $41 million) before its launch. However, a complex user interface, privacy concerns, and a lack of compelling features led to poor user adoption and its eventual downfall. Proper market testing and understanding user needs might have saved it.

Yik Yak (2017): This social networking app lets users post and view messages anonymously. It gained popularity on college campuses but ultimately failed when it became toxic, rife with cyberbullying, harassment, and offensive content. Proper testing might have highlighted the need for moderation tools or at least questioned the app's anonymous nature, especially since exactly the same thing happened with the anonymous app Secret (2015).

Vine (2017): The popular short-form video app should have been the next TikTok, but failed because it didn’t keep up with evolving user demands, lacking crucial features, such as video editing tools and monetization options, until it ultimately shut down.

Clinkle (2016): The mobile payment app used revolutionary sound-based technology, but despite substantial funding, it never had a clear value proposition and bad UX, so it ultimately failed.

Google+ (2019): It’s not just small players that fail. Google+ was supposed to compete with Facebook. But not even tech giant Google’s backing could save it from a dismal lack of features, poor UX, and, like, zero differentiation in the market.

In retail, discover the key differentiation strategies for the competitive delivery market and get into the business of app development.

How to test your app idea 

Specno offers idea validation as a service. We do it all the time, so we can give you the inside track on how to get it right, in this guide to idea validation. We can even tell you how long it takes to validate your idea and show you how to run some key validation experiments.

If you don’t have the time and want it done professionally, you can always have us do it for you – right here: concept validation.

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