The most common mistake entrepreneurs make when building MVP is that they start to build it too soon.
Obsessed with an idea and success foretaste, business owners sometimes spend not enough time on testing the concept of their product and making sure that a market needs it.
Concept development in the software development lifecycle is an essential stage that will help to avoid these mistakes. In this article, I will describe a concept development process which we follow at Apiko, activities it includes, and benefits our clients get.
Stages of software development
Software development life cycle describes the steps performed during the application development. The process usually consists of 5 stages: concept development, UX/UI design, web/mobile development, testing, and maintenance.
I want to make a pause here and provide you with some statistics. How do you think what is the most common reason for a startup failure?
A lot of pitfalls may appear on the road to your success such as cost issues, strong competition, small budget, not a productive team, etc. But there is one winner in this wicked game. It is called “no market need”.
Source - CB Insights
Usually, it happens because entrepreneurs want to push their product on the market as fast as possible and start to build it too soon.
As a result, they spend a lot of money and resources on creating a product that is not validated by potential customers. The product, a market doesn't need. Sounds bitter, right?
But you can avoid this if you spend enough time and efforts on the first stage of the development cycle. It is called concept development - a pillar of your future product.
Concept development and testing as a vital stage in the new product development
Concept development is the initial stage of software development, where you identify if there is a market for your product, study your target audience problems, build your value proposition, and prepare materials for testing it on your potential customers.
It is done before you invest any significant costs and resources into the development of an actual product. Prior to concept development, you need to be armed with several things. Here they are:- You have generated an idea - Have a general understanding of your potential customers, their problems, and needs - Know how your product can solve these problems - Know who your competitors are - Need to test these assumptions before product development
Benefits of concept development
When it comes to designing your value proposition, there is an important step called “search phase”. The book “Value Proposition Design” by Strategyzer dwells upon the importance of “search phase”, during which you have to find evidence that your potential customers need your value proposition and that your product solves their problems and makes their life better.
The fact is that this “search phase” is included in concept development. During the search phase, you shape your idea into a business model and value proposition canvases, create landing pages, learning prototypes, illustrations, brochures - everything that will help you express your idea to investors and potential customers.
If you skip this stage or don’t spare enough time for this, you risk scaling prematurely (create a value proposition that doesn’t address your customers needs).
With concept development you also can:
- Study your target audience and market
- Сreate a value proposition and buyer persona portrait
- Visualize your ideas/assumptions and presenting them in the form of prototypes, landing pages, brochures, storyboards, etc.
- Test these ideas to find out if there is a need for your product
- Create wireframes/prototypes to get an early feedback
- Gather a first client base
- Build a product, validated by your customers
Steps of concept development
Let's analyze the concept development process step by step.
- Step 1. List the benefits of the product and problems it solves
A first step in concept development is to create a detailed description of the project idea, its main goals, and benefits. Prepare a list of assumptions about what problems your product solves in order to test them on your audience later.
- Step 2. Analyze the target audience/buyer persona
After this, you have to analyze who you create this product for. During the whole process of concept development, always keep a detailed portrait of your potential buyer in mind. An efficient way to do this is to use an empathy map of your potential customer or buyer persona portrait. After analyzing your buyer persona, you will get a better understanding of your customer segments and a chance to craft an effective value proposition for each of them.
- Step 3. Conduct competitors analysis
Sometimes you should know your competitors better than your clients. Competitive analysis will help you to find the gaps in the market and fill them with your valuable offers. To analyze the competitors you can:
- Сategorize your competitors into primary, secondary, and tertiary
- Study their website and customer experience
- Analyze their content and marketing materials
- Learn about their services and distribution channels
- Identify areas for opportunities
- Step 4. Compose the main features of the product and its value proposition
A value proposition is the most important element of your business that explains how your product delivers benefits to your customers and solves their problems.
Value proposition canvas is a great tool that will help you to define your customer pains and build a product that will relieve them. Watch this video to use value proposition canvas more effectively.
Remember that the main features of your product are the tools with the help of which you implement your value proposition. So concentrate on those, they will become gain creators for your customers, e.i. make your customer’s work or life easier, save their time or/and money, surpass current solutions on the market, etc.
- Step 5. Create materials for investors and potential customers
Before proceeding to wireframes and prototypes, you need to visualize your business model and bring it in front of your team, potential customers, and investors.
I want to emphasize that this is done before you start creating wireframes and prototypes. First of all, you need to test your idea and know who you build a product for.
For this, it’s better to use the materials that don’t take a lot of time/cost for being created but serve as effective tools for testing your idea and getting feedbacks. Here are some examples of materials we prepare for our clients:
- Landing page
A landing page is an effective tool that helps you find people who are interested in your idea, gather feedback, and create a word of mouth for your product.
The fundamental rule of a landing page is that it should have only one main purpose e.g. subscription to the newsletter, sign up for the webinar or some event, free upload of e-book or brochure with useful tips, product purchase, etc.
Here are the main elements a landing page should contain:
- Headline and sub-headline
- A brief description of your value proposition
- Images or a video
- Form for capturing information about your leads
Take a look at some examples of effective landing pages
Lyft - a marketplace that matches drivers with passengers.
Startupinstitute - a learning platform that provides professional courses for different industries
Mystery Break - a platform for creating custom travel packages
- Brochures and presentations
Brochures are effective marketing tools for advertising your product and expressing its idea and goals. Brochure serves as a visual brand of your product the main aim of which is to catch an eye and draw attention to it.
When you have gathered positive feedbacks and ensured that the audience is interested in your product, it's time to move on.
- Step 6. Create wireframes and prototypes
Wireframing helps you define your product navigation, show it to your potential customers, discuss its usability, and get insights into what elements on your app are the most crucial.
With wireframes, you can study each component of your app, play with its size, color, or location and analyze its interaction with other elements. It gives you a chance to get a full picture of what you create, structure your ideas, and get a valuable feedback.
When wireframes are just “rough” schemes of your future product, prototypes are more related to your actual product look and feel. In contrast to wireframes and mockups, prototypes allow you to interact with the product, test its feasibility and usability.
What do you get after concept development
- Tools for idea validation (landing page, brochures, presentations, etc.)
- Market analysis
- Buyer persona analysis
- List of features and requirements
- Business logic
- Project estimate
- Wireframes and prototypes
Now you are all ready and set for proceeding to a technical part of your product. Concept development stage allows you to save time and money, as you have already foreseen all the risks, created a list of requirements and features, and validated your future product.