April 17, 2023

How to Test the Commercial Viability of an Idea

In a world where innovation is key to staying ahead of the competition, the importance of testing the commercial viability of product ideas has never been greater.

That was the topic of our recent webinar, “How to Test the Commercial Viability of an Idea,” where our product experts shared insights on the advantages of testing, how to do it effectively, and the essential tools to make it happen.

Why Testing Ideas is a Must for High-Performing Product Teams

Chief Evangelist Scott Varho moderated the conversation with our Head of UX, Michael Rabjohns, and Lead UX Designer Steven Cooper. The trio covered the huge strides that have been made in recent years in areas including user research, prototyping, testing, and lean innovation.

As Michael said during the webinar, “There’s never been a better time to test a product idea or concept. There are tools and platforms we could’ve only dreamed about ten or fifteen years ago. This is the best money you will ever spend on product.”

With that promise as the backdrop, here are some of the key takeaways from the conversation.

Great Ideas Alone Aren’t Enough to Drive Innovation

It’s great to have an idea, or even a boatload of them, you just have to be aware that ideas are nothing more than educated guesses. At many organizations, the problem isn’t a lack of ideas – it is that there are often too many ideas to know which ones to execute against.

As Scott said, “All product and feature ideas are hypotheses poorly framed.” So, how can we go about framing these hypotheses and validating that they should actually be executed against?

Going Low (or No) Fidelity Is Often Better Than Developing an MVP

All companies today understand the imperative of moving fast; what many of them lack is a smart process to prototype, test ideas with users, and iterate based on what they learn.

Oftentimes, there’s an imperative to rush an executive’s idea into the build or production process. This is a huge mistake. The most expensive way to test an idea is to build a production version of it.

A far better way to do it is to build a prototype that you can test with users before you actually build anything. The “minimum” in MVP has to be production-ready, whereas prototypes don’t. After all, as Scott asks, “What’s the sense of making something beautiful if you don’t yet know whether it’s viable?”

User Research Doesn’t Have to Be Extensive — or Expensive — to Be Effective

It’s a common misconception among executives and even some product leaders that you need to cast as wide a net as possible when doing user research. You don’t need to test ideas with 50-100 people. In most cases, 6-8 users is enough. And the turnaround time from testing to prototype can be insanely fast.

In one of the case studies Michael cites in the webinar, it took just 16 hours to go from user research to prototype. From there, the team worked with them to launch a fully-formed product in a matter of just 13 weeks. This was a far cry from the months and years–long process they were accustomed to slogging through with other vendors.

What’s more, the insights you can glean from user research often help A) uncover hidden gems that the teams can execute against and B) settle debates among internal stakeholders that were previously gut-based — and were almost always won by the Highest Paid Person in the Room.

“One of the greatest tools you’ll have as a product owner, manager, or CPO are the videos of people talking through your ideas,” Michael says.

The Viability Testing Tool Stack

Tools can be a bit of a hot button issue in tech, especially in such a rapidly evolving space. There are 4 specific tools the team mentioned during the webinar as essential to their work. Anyone interested in exploring the space should look into:

  1. UserInterviews.com: The team loves the ease with which you can recruit people to test ideas and features on UserInterviews.com. The site takes a ton of the hassle out of finding people that fit your criteria to interview, and it also offloads much of the legwork that accompanies scheduling interviews, sharing takeaways from videos, and more. Their pricing model, where you only pay for interviews that are conducted, is also a plus.
  2. Lookback.com: Lookback is a cloud-based video recording platform that lets teams collaborate on research recordings and easily share clips with one another or with customers. As Google Meet has added recording and automatic transcription capabilities we’ve relied on Lookback less than before, but it’s a tool that elevated our own game significantly and that we recommend enthusiastically.
  3. Dovetail: Once you have research videos recorded, Dovetail can help you get even more out of them and read between the lines of what research participants may have said. It generates great transcripts that teams can easily tag and categorize, which can represent massive time savings for teams. Another plus of Dovetail that Steven mentioned is that it creates transcripts in multiple languages, which is highly advantageous for a company like 3Pillar with locations and UX professionals in multiple countries around the world.

Watch the Webinar

You can tune in to the full webinar for more insights, including the specific technology stack our teams use to conduct user research and testing, specifics on how to conduct user interviews, and additional case studies where user testing paid big dividends for customers.

Watch the Webinar Now