How to Identify & Test a Product’s Value Before Investing Thousands
Product concept testing is critical to ROI for new digital products. Learn how to identify the “what” and “why” of your product, plus tips for concept testing research through interactive prototypes and usability tests.
In this article, you’ll discover:
- The role of product strategy in concept testing research
- 3 guiding principles for innovative product strategy
- Why interactive digital prototypes are critical to concept testing research
- A handy checklist for product concept testing with real people
This article is the third in a design-thinking series titled “Define Your Product.”
Learn how to practically leverage user research in the previous article: “3 Keys to Practical User Research for New Products.”
Read the first article in the series for three keys to a disruptive product concept: Cultivate Disruptive Potential in Your Product Concept.
You have an idea for a new digital product or an improvement on an existing one. Perhaps this product will strengthen operations for your business, or maybe it’s something you plan to sell.
Before jumping into design, development or even prototyping, you’ll need to create a surface-level definition of your product idea and clarify its value proposition.
But what if there are blind spots in your product plan that would inhibit success?
At the very start of new product development, there are always factors you don’t know about that will influence the success of a product idea. Market factors, user needs and behaviors, competitor strengths and weaknesses — lacking information in any of these areas usually leads to product failure.
User and market research are the often overlooked initial stage that should always come first in new product development.
Product Strategy: Identifying the “What” and “Why” of Your Product
The work of clarifying the direction and purpose of your product is called product strategy. Effective product strategy involves market research, defining your user base, and identifying the product’s value proposition.
What will your product do? Who will it serve? Do your intended users want or need this product in the first place?
Product strategy clarifies direction of the project by answering these questions before development begins.
It’s important to hold the results of this first stage of discovery loosely. After this initial round of defining your idea, you’ll go through at least one or two more rounds of additional refinement using prototypes and usability testing.
We recommend these three guiding principles for innovative product strategy:
1. Use the Jobs to Be Done Framework to question and discover exactly what motivates customers to purchase products like yours.
The Jobs to Be Done Theory of Innovation was developed by Clay Christensen and presented in his book Competing Against Luck. The theory says that people buy or use products because they need a job to be done.
The Jobs to Be Done Framework is a series of steps and guidelines that can help you understand what job your product needs to be able to do. Use it along with other user research activities to formulate and refine a value proposition.
>> Learn more about using JTBD to create innovative products.
2. Keep your mind open to new direction and be as objective as you can in conducting research and validating your ideas.
The initial phase of developing a product strategy is like exploring an iceberg. Beneath the visible tip of the frozen mass floats a gigantic mountain hidden from sight.
Similarly, most initial product ideas are merely the indicator of something more powerful, more meaningful and more laden with potential than you could have originally conceived.
We’ve seen this happen time and again. When testing a hypothesis or a product idea, openness to unexpected results can lead to discovery of untapped potential. Testing and user research will shape and direct your idea into something far more effective and relevant than what it originally was.
3. Look for key indicators of a potentially disruptive product idea.
Some products or services are so innovative at fulfilling the job-to-be-done that they actually disrupt the way consumers of the product live or work.
The Netflix-Blockbuster phenomenon demonstrates the power of a disruptive product. Netflix eliminated late fees and greatly reduced the amount of effort involved in renting movies.
Their business model changed the entire landscape of the video rental industry, leading to the demise of Blockbuster and the rise of Netflix as the number one movie rental company.
We’ve seen the same kind of innovation happen on a smaller level with all sorts of digital products. Frequently, they come in the form of B2B digital products that disrupt industries by removing operational bottlenecks.
One of our clients, for instance, partnered with us to create a staffing platform that completely transformed the way they manage talent in the food and beverage demo industry. The platform was so successful for their own company, it propelled them toward the top, positioning them to actually sell the product to their competitors.
The industry will never be the same again.
>> Learn more about the workflow management software enabling sales to grow by 300%.
Interactive Digital Prototypes: Concept Testing Research for Unambiguous Results
Building an interactive prototype of your digital product before you begin investing in development is an essential part of concept testing research. It will help iron out kinks in your design and identify pitfalls that would be far more costly to fix later on.
Even after you’ve conducted the first rounds of market and user research there are still a lot of unanswered questions about your digital product idea. There are also a lot of un-asked questions — issues or needs that have not even been considered yet.
Creating an interactive digital product prototype provides a critical opportunity at early stages of the project for all stakeholders to align around a clear vision.
It’s easy for everyone involved to feel like they are on the same page when the product vision is communicated through words on paper or in conversation. But it’s not until you all see a workable prototype that the real discussion begins.
You find out exactly how each stakeholder and the designers interpreted the requirements, and even more importantly, you find out how the user interprets the product.
Concept testing in new product development takes the ambiguity out of planning. With an interactive digital prototype, you can begin an even more productive discussion about the direction of the product. At this point, rather than being based on conjecture, your discussion is based on real evidence and real users.
>> Download our e-book on interactive software prototyping.
Usability Testing: Product Concept Testing with Real People
With a prototype and functioning user interface, you can conduct usability testing before getting started on actual development.
Find potential end users or people who can emulate end users, then pay them to use the prototype in a moderated setting. Observe the way they interpret the product interface and go about accomplishing the jobs they want it to do.
These tests provide you with an opportunity to course correct your design and set development priorities.
Allow the results of usability testing to guide you to definitive solutions to the following issues:
- Confirm whether or not your beliefs about user needs are valid.
- Identify whether your digital product will have a high adoption rate or a high frustration rate.
- Confirm whether or not your product vision is feasible to execute.
- Discover pain points that contribute to user frustration and adjust your prototype design at a lower cost than required to make similar adjustments later on.
- Identify which functions and features will be included in the final product design based on budget.
- Provide your development team with the information they need to accurately estimate development cost and timeline.
- Develop a user experience design that is intuitive and makes the most of every feature.
After a round of usability testing, your team will revisit various aspects of the product, improving the prototype and product design based on test results. The cycle repeats itself as long as budget and timeline allow before development.