Ever opened a new app, and been confused immediately by what it does?
There is little that turns away users more than this type of experience. That app may be the most useful product in the world, but without an obvious value to engage early on, it won’t matter what else the app can do.
If you’ve discovered that your app idea is worth pursuing, the next step is to reign in on exactly what your product will do best, and who it will serve first. In other words, you’ll need to start from a crystal clear place in order to create something users will love.
You’ve got a million ideas for features and uses of your app. The scope is exciting. However, trying to be great at everything produces a scattered product that is difficult to get off the ground.
So, “be bad to be great” instead. Being disproportionately great at one thing means you may be disproportionately bad at something else. That’s not only OK–it’s necessary to build a great app.
Here’s how to focus in – and be great.
1. Know the problem, and choose your user
2. Make it easy to share the idea
3. Build a great MLP (Minimum Loveable Product)
| Know the Problem, Choose Your User. |
Many app businesses forget to ask the simple (and all important) question: what problem are we solving? You can build features upon features, but without identifying a core need of your users, you’re wasting time.
How can you find out your customers’ true needs and desires to ensure you’re solving the right problem?
Start by building a Product Attribute Map. This a highly effective way to plot out your next move, by simplifying the complex customer reactions to your product, and your position in respect to competitors.
Product Attribute Maps also show the “offset” of product features; where customers are willing to give up a certain feature, for another.
By mapping out you and your competition’s specific features and how customers value each of the them, you can start to see the gaps. Or more simply, what you’re both good and bad at. By looking at those gaps, you can ultimately choose your focus.
For example, let’s say that we’re the manufacturer of Bentley.
By looking at the Product Attribute Map, we see there is an offset between comfort (a heavier car) vs handling (a lighter weight car).
It also shows there is an offset between price and prestige. You can’t have high comfort + great handling, or prestige + low price. However, you can have great handling + prestige or, great handling + low price. For each example, there are users that will prefer different sets of features over the other.
Knowing the offset not only demonstrates what to focus on, but also what to neglect from a product standpoint–ultimately highlighting a target customer.
While this is a physical product example, digital products are similar; in that they also have limits, and features that will offset one another. Consider Instagram and Facebook. You can’t have simplicity + tons of features. Given the success of both products, it’s clear that customers are OK giving up a high level of social networking features (Facebook), for the ease of use and simplicity of sharing one photo at a time (Instagram).
| Make it Easy to Share the Idea |
We’ve all heard of the elevator pitch; the format of describing your business in 30 seconds or less in a way anyone can understand. This is exactly how you should be able to communicate your idea for an app.
The good news is, your pitch will be easy to craft once once you’ve clearly established the problem you’re solving (and for whom). The more focused your product, the easier it is to describe it’s profound value in a sentence or two.
Here are some great examples of ways robust companies made their idea simple and shareable:
Venmo is a free digital wallet that lets you make and share payments with friends. You can easily split the bill, cab fare, or much more.
Airbnb is a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world — online or from a mobile phone or tablet.
Instagram is a fun and quirky way to share your life with friends through a series of pictures. Snap a photo with your mobile phone, then choose a filter to transform the image into a memory to keep around forever.
The importance of this isn’t just so your listeners comprehend. You’re also empowering your listeners to help spread the idea — by giving them language to seamlessly tell a friend or colleague!
This exercise isn’t reserved for talks with investors. Talk about your idea as much as you can, with any potential user. Notice how people react to the information you share. This is the earliest form of user testing.
Are those you explain your app to confused?
Are there lots of follow-up questions?
Do you have to keep describing it past 1 or 2 sentences?
If the answer to these questions is yes, then you need to keep refining your idea. There are times when problems are just symptoms, not the root. This is one of them. Go back to the Product Attribute Map and examine what value you’re missing.
| Build a Great MLP. |
An MLP is your “Minimum Loveable Product”. It is the version of a new product that brings back the maximum amount of validated learning about your customers with the least time and money.
Your MLP should act like your pitch sounds; clear and easy to take in.
Many app businesses put far too much money into their MLP, and drain their resources before they’ve validated any of their decisions with users. This mistake kills ventures long before they’re off the ground.
At New Lion, we start by building a clickable prototype, and recommend you do the same.
A clickable prototype allows you to see how the basic views and functionalities of your product will look and feel–all without paying for a single line of code. Not only is this solution easier on your wallet in the short term, but in the long term as well. It enables you to gather important customer insight early on and steers you clear of building the wrong (expensive) features.
It’s easy to say, “keep the right things, and get rid of the stuff that doesn’t matter yet.” How do you parse out what’s most important or where to direct your limited resources?
Your Product Attribute Map is a filtering mechanism while building a MLP. It keeps you connected to your target user; which should be the #1 priority at any stage of your app business.
BONUS TIP: | Learn How to Say No. |
Many founders struggle with accepting the opportunity cost that goes along with choosing to be concise with their initial product. By saying “yes” to one thing, you will say “no” to many others. This is the same sentiment as choosing to be bad, in order to be great.
As you build your app business, there will be many ideas regarding its use, scope, features, or potential customer base. Keep your concept simple, even if it feels like you’re turning away from exciting prospects. Lean on user feedback and a Product Attribute Map to solidify your focus, which problem you’re aiming to solve, and who you’re solving it for.
By saying no, you are saying yes to building an app that users love.