After identifying the riskiest assumptions about your startup solution, it’s time to validate it with real people. But, what validation methods can you use?
In this post, I’ll present you 5 well-known validation methods: wireframes, mockups, prototypes, landing pages and MVPs.
A wireframe is a very simple, sketchy representation of your solution. Its main focus is to present your solution flow and check if it resonates with your potential customers’ needs.
For their simplicity, wireframes are a fast and cheap way of presenting the basic logic behind your solution.
For instance, to understand how a button will play a video in your app, customers don’t need a perfect button nor a real picture of the video. A sketchy button and an image placeholder will be enough for them to give you initial feedback.
On one hand, wireframes are great for gathering insights from your customers sooner. On the other hand, if you need to validate customers’ feedback on the visual, usage, or real value of your solution, wireframes won’t be enough.
Suggested tool: Balsamiq.
A mockup is a static visual representation of your solution. It helps you on getting feedback about the visual, as well as on the logic of your product flow. In other words, mockups are screens of your app or nice illustrations of your product.
Despite they still don’t allow your customers to interact with your solution, mockups provide a more realistic visual about your product than wireframes. That’s why mockups resonate better when your intention is to gather feedback about your solution’s visual appeal too.
However, better visuals for your screens will demand you more time to develop mockups of your product than wireframes (that don’t require a visually awesome interface at all).
A real case of the use of mockups for validation comes from my interview with Ned Phillips, co-founder of Bambu.
Below, you see 3 real mockups used by Bambu to validate its solution with its customers:
They look like a real app, don’t they?
But, let’s see what Ned explained to me:
Suggested tools: Mockups can be easily presented in PowerPoint, Google Slides, or Keynote. To build your screen images, there are also some services like InVision and Photoshop. You also can find some easy-to-use templates (free or paid) to have your screens ready to be presented (like this one).
A landing page is a website page that allows your potential customers to take some actions, so you can measure their interest in your solution.
Landing pages are great to reassess customers’ interest in the problem as well as their understanding and excitement about your solution.
The main objective behind a landing page is validating if your startup’s value proposition fits to your customer’s problem. Hence, the decision of what elements to include will depend on how well you can communicate your product’s value to your customers (e.g.: some landing pages don’t have screenshots, while others do).
On one hand, a big plus of using a landing page is capturing potential customers’ emails. That’s why you must include an appealing Call-To-Action (CTA) button.
On the other hand, a big challenge is to get people to come to your website. Differently from wireframes and mockups, you’ll not be able to interact directly with most of the people who visit your landing page. So, it’s important to start defining how to get potential customers coming to your landing page.
Their low cost and no need to have a finished product make them awesome to test if customers would are interested in buying from you.
You can learn more about landing pages here:
A prototype is an interactive representation of your solution. It means that you’ll not only show it to your customers but they’ll actually “use” it (like they were using your solution).
The benefits of getting a prototype in the hands of your customers are huge. Through a prototype, you’ll understand how they interact with your product and what difficulties or doubts they have while using it.
Despite your prototype would work like the solution, you still won’t deliver any real value to your customers yet. It’s not your product, but a vehicle to capture customers’ feedback on your product’s usability.
It’s important to notice that your prototype is an interactive tool, but it doesn’t mean you need everything coded or automatic yet. Actually, your mission is to simulate customers’ interactions with your product, without building the product for that.
Abolore Salami, founder of Riby told me how he used a prototype to validate the solution:
Suggested tool: InVision.
MINIMUM VIABLE PRODUCT (MVP)
The Minimum Viable Product is a validation method that demands you to build something capable of delivering the essence of your value proposition to customers. Let’s see Steve Blank’s definition of it:
In other words, MVP is the minimum set of features needed to deliver your core value for your customers to solve their problems as well as to allow you to test your most important assumptions.
I’ve produced this other post specifically about MVP.
How complex and expensive does your MVP need to be? It depends on what you define as “minimum”. And this is definitely the most challenging part of building an MVP.
After all, since the beginning, you were mentally visualizing what would be your ideal product (with a lot of features).
But, to build an MVP, you should consider it part as a product and part as a vehicle to validate your assumptions in a fast and cheap way.
Want to see an awesome example of that?
Bookme is a Pakistani online platform through which you can buy tickets for Cinema, Bus, and Events. Today, the reservation and payment processes are automatic. But, Faizan (Bookme founder) was able to build a much leaner MVP:
CHOOSING A VALIDATION METHOD
First, it’s important to mention that these are not the only methods to validate your solution (although they are really important ones).
Second, you don’t need to use one OR another. You can start with a simpler method and move to a more detailed method later in the validation process.
To define the best alternative in your case, I suggest you compare them in terms of resources, methods effectiveness, and access to customers.
Each method will demand more or less of your startup’s resources. That’s why you should start by estimating how much money, time, and effort each method will require to be executed.
Together with “Resources Needed” you’ll assess the resources you have. Do you have someone who can build a prototype? Great! Do you have someone who could build a landing page in one day? Awesome! Will you have to hire people to do any of those alternatives? Okay, take that into account too.
The selected method must resonate with the next assumptions to be tested (the riskiest ones). For example, if you need to test how much customers are willing to pay for your solution, wireframes wouldn’t be recommended (because customers won’t have a perfect sense of how exactly your solution brings them value.
Similarly, if you want to test market demand and gather users’ contact data, a landing page would be better than just presenting a few people the prototype.
ACCESS TO CUSTOMERS
The last factor you must consider is how easy and formal your connection with those you want to test your solution with is.
In other words, if you have close friends that are related to your solution’s topic, it wouldn’t be a problem to present them with a wireframe.
However, if you’re presenting your solution to a potential customer who needs to trust you (like a big corporation), then you need something more polished (like mockups or a prototype).
No matter what validation method you choose, keep in mind these four elements of the validation process:
- Assumptions: What assumptions do you want to validate now?
- Method/assumptions fit: Is the validation method covering those assumptions?
- Results: How will you measure validation? What metrics will tell you whether your assumptions are valid or not?
- Action: Weren’t one or more assumptions validated? Why? How should you restate them? Were they validated? Great! Go to the next set of assumptions or start planning scale.
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