A lightweight test for product viability
Most of the products I look to build involve “scratching my own itch”. By this, I mean that I’m looking for a solution to a problem I have.
When I see an opportunity like this, I tend to start planning/designing immediately. This happens before I’ve identified demand or determined whether a viable tool already exists. This is because I’m enthusiastic. I love playing with how a new product might work. This impulse is costly, though.
I’ll take a different approach with future ideas. Instead of acting immediately, I’ll first look for existing products that resemble what I wish to build. If I can’t find any, I’ll look harder. This is because the probability of any idea I have not existing (in one form or another) is infinitesimal.
I’ll then sign up for their service and use it. If I don’t feel like signing up, I’ll ask myself why. A reluctance to join probably indicates that the perceived need isn’t real. This signifies a good reason to not pursue the idea.
If it works, I’ll use it. If it solves even 75% of my problem, I’ll likely stick with it. Building an alternative that’s only incrementally better isn’t advisable. Plus, much of that difference is likely personal preference—and not representative of a true opportunity.
However, if I use their product—and find myself frustrated—that’s a different story. If it lacks core functionality or features, those might warrant further investigation. They might even help shine a light on what’s begging to be built.