February 10, 2017Startup strategies
10 min read

Tools & Sources That Help Validate Your App Idea - Part I

Tools and Services That Help Validate Your App Idea

In our previous article, we suggested an algorithm or a step-by-step approach to validating your app idea. Here it is again:

  1. Define the problem.
  2. Examine your target audience and see if the problem is relevant to them.
  3. Analyze both existing and failed solutions.
  4. Articulate one or two features that make your app stand out.
  5. Brainstorm multiple monetization opportunities.
  6. Create a landing page and see how many people are interested.
  7. Test your model through a crowdfunding platform.
  8. Build an MVP and launch it on the market.

Also, we mentioned some sources and tools previously that would be helpful at each step. While most of them are quite easy to use, it still takes some time to figure out how. This article aims to save you this time by providing instructions, manuals, and short explanatory videos on each of the mentioned sources and tools.

Steps 1-5 represent the least expensive validation stage at which you don’t need to build anything, and can get answers to most of the questions every startup founder should ask themselves. In this blog post, you will find a list of tools and sources that will help you validate your app idea at each of these steps.

Preparations

But before you get down to validating your app idea with the suggested tools and sources you will need to do some preparations.

  1. This one is for those who haven’t read the previous article or have already forgotten some of it. At this point, you need no other tools than a simple sheet of paper and a pencil or pen, even though this doesn’t sound very innovative. Most likely, you already have it in mind - the real existing problem you’re going to solve with your mobile app. What you need to do here is clearly state the problem. Articulate it, write it down in a simple statement. Can you do this? If you can, proceed. If not, just stop right here and think twice.
  2. For this research, we will use the example of The Everlast Notebook, a startup app that has already raised funds on Kickstarter. The problem the app solves is all-round accessibility of handwritten notes.

You might find a lot of data during the validation process which will be hard to handle. For this reason, we suggest you organize the data in a table like the one below.



Once you’re done with preparations, it’s time to take a look at the tools and sources, as well as, once again, validation stages. Note: almost each tool/source provides data for multiple stages, so you won’t be able to strictly follow the step-by-step approach. That’s why we decide to organize the process in a flexible form where you click on a Step to highlight tools and sources that'll be helpful at this step, and vice versa - click on a Tool and see at which steps it'll be useful.

Challenge Define and examine the problem Examine your target audience and demand for a solution Analyze existing and failed solutions Articulate one or two features that make your app stand out Find monetization model that suits your app best Tools & Sources Google Keyword Planner Google search App Store SEO tools Google trends Social media search Quora Surveys Polls MakeMyPersona Open Market Data App charts Competitor apps Monetization knowledge base No specific tool here but your initial idea,? personal experience, and data gathered Using ?the above mentioned tools.


Google Keyword Planner

What it helps you find out:

  1. If the problem your app is going to solve exists.
  2. How else people may word the problem.
  3. Similar and related problems people might experience.
  4. How likely marketers are to use related searches for the advertising purpose (Competition column).
  5. Existing fit-for-purpose commercial solutions.

How to use it:

Using Google Keyword Planner to do research on the problem your mobile app is going to solve and discover existing solutions

Tips:

  • To gain access to Google Keyword Planner you need to sign up for Google AdWords and create at least one campaign with one ad (here’s how);
  • Think of how people may word the problem for the search engine and try out multiple queries. If you find many searches for a clearly stated query this means that the market exists, which certainly is good news. On the other hand, if there are only a few searches this doesn’t mean your app idea is a disaster either. The market might not even have a clue that there could be a solution - given your idea is truly new, of course.
  • We recommend organizing the results of your research in a table


Google Search

What it helps you find out:

  1. If the problem your app is going to solve exists
  2. How else people may word the problem
    • Suggestions in the search box;
    • Related searches on the bottom of search results page;
  3. Similar and related problems people might be facing
    • Suggestions and related searches;
  4. How people solve the problem now (lifehacks, tricks, unconventional use of conventional tools, etc.).
    • Blog posts;
    • Forum discussions;
    • Social media posts;
  5. Who experiences the problem.
    • Bloggers and their subscribers;
    • Forum topic starters and discussion members;
    • Social media publications authors and commenting users;
  6. Existing fit-for-purpose commercial solutions.
  7. Failed competitor apps.
  8. Strengths and weaknesses of the existing commercial solutions.

How to use it:

Using Google Search to find alternative wordings of the problem your app is aiming to solve, do research on the problem, and find out who experience the problem and how they solve it now

Tips:

  • Type your search term into the search box and pay attention to suggestions and related searches on the bottom of the search results page. Among them you will find alternative wordings of the problem, as well as similar and related problems.

  • Related Searches

    Related searches

  • Once you’ve discovered alternative wordings of the problem check them with Google Keyword Planner;
  • Try different wordings plus “failed startup” as search terms to learn about who failed and why.
  • Blog posts, forum discussions and social media posts on the problem will help you:
    1. Track down users who write and talk about the problem and see what they have in common - in other words, find out who your target audience is;
    2. Discover how people solve the problem now;
    3. Learn about strengths and weaknesses of the existing solutions, whether they’re commercial fit-for-profit solutions, lifehacks, tricks, or unconventional uses of conventional tools;
  • Once you have a list of the existing solutions, use their brand names as a search term plus “review”. It’ll help you find out which of their strengths and weaknesses matter to users. Also, by using their slogans as search terms you can find more competitor apps.
Google search using Evernote's slogan


App Store SEO Tools

What it helps you find out:

  1. Alternative wordings of the problem.
  2. Related problems.
  3. Existing fit-for-purpose commercial solutions

How to use it:

Using SearchMan to do research on the problem and existing solutions

Using Sensor Tower to do research on the problem and existing solutions

Tips:

  • Both tools offer a minimum trial of 14 days which is long enough to complete your app idea validation.
  • Premium features like those provided by Sensor Tower help you find more useful queries but you can by with a free plan.

Google Trends

What it helps you find out:

  1. How often people look to solve the problem, by region and globally.
  2. How the interest in the problem has changed lately.
  3. Alternative wordings.
  4. Related problems.

How to use it:

Using Google Trends to do research on the problem your app is aiming to solve

Tips:

  • One sad thing about this tool is that it shows no data if your search term appears to be used rarely. Nevertheless, for a wide topic Google Trends may suggest new ideas, topics and queries related to your problem.


MakeMyPersona

What it helps you find out:

  1. If you have enough knowledge of your target audience, or more research is required.
  2. Which questions to ask when building your app’s potential user’s portrait.

How to use it:

Using MakeMyPersona to determine your app’s target users

Tips:

  • Provided by HubSpot, MakeMyPersona is a great tool for marketers allowing them to build their potential customer portrait, or “buyer persona”, as they call it. It can help you better understand your target audience, too. You can answer some of these questions at once, while answering others would require more research.
  • search engines, social media and other tools.


Social Media Search

What it helps you find out:

  1. If the problem your app is going to solve exists;
  2. How else people may word the problem;
  3. Similar and related problems people might experience;
  4. How people solve the problem now (lifehacks, tricks, unconventional use of conventional tools);
  5. Who experiences the problem;
    • Popular users and their subscribers;
    • Topic starters and discussion members;
    • Publication authors and commenting users;
  6. Existing fit-for-purpose commercial solutions.
  7. Strengths and weaknesses of the existing commercial solutions.

How to use it:

Using YouTube search to determine your app’s target users

Tips:

  • Yes, this is very similar to using Google or other search engines. Yet people tend to forget that social media such as Facebook, Medium, YouTube and Pinterest have their own search engines that can help you find entries about the problem and how people solve it. You might be surprised with the results compared to those provided by Google;
  • Social media help you answer questions about your “buyer persona” (see MakeMyPersona).


Competitor Apps

What it helps you find out:

  1. If there’s demand for the solution you offer.
  2. Strengths and weaknesses of competitor apps.
  3. How unique your solution is.
  4. How you can make your app stand out.
  5. How your app could be monetized.

How to use it:

Using Google Play Store to find competitor apps and learn more about them

Tips:

  • Try competitor apps yourself. Do they actually solve the problem? How do they monetize? In what ways do they perform better than your app and vice versa?
  • Read reviews on Google Play Store, Apple App Store, their social pages and official websites. User feedback will help you see an app solution’s strengths and weaknesses.
  • Google Play reviews

    Google Play reviews

  • Read FAQs on competitor apps’ websites to see which features they pay special attention to.

App Charts

What it helps you find out:

  1. How popular similar apps are.
  2. How competitors monetize their solutions.

How to use it:

Using AppAnnie to do research on competitor apps’ popularity and monetization models.

Tips:

  • AppAnnie shows you app rankings based on their popularity and monetization models. This allows you to find out how well competitor apps perform compared to each other and other apps on the App Store;
  • If you feel that AppAnnie is not enough then you may want to try similar services and sources, such as TopAppCharts and Mobile Action.

Quora

What it helps you find out:

  1. If people are looking to solve the problem.
  2. How people solve the problem now (lifehacks, tricks, unconventional use of conventional tools).
  3. Existing fit-for-purpose commercial solutions.
  4. Features desired by users, which competitor apps don’t provide.

How to use it:

Using Quora to do research on the problem and currently available solutions.

Tips:

  • Search for questions about the problem your app is going to solve. If you can’t find anything ask a question yourself.
  • Use competitor app names as search terms. This might give you a clue to what features are not provided by the apps, yet desired by users.

    Using Quora to find competitors' weaknesses

    Using Quora to find competitors' weaknesses

  • Quora is the most obvious source for this data, but not the only one. Check out alternative Q&A websites here.


Surveys

What it helps you find out:

  1. If the problem your app is going to solve exists.
  2. How people solve the problem now (lifehacks, tricks, unconventional use of conventional tools).
  3. Who experiences the problem.
  4. Existing fit-for-purpose commercial solutions.
  5. Features wanted by users which competitor apps don’t provide.
  6. If there is a demand for your app’s unique features.

How to use it:

Using Google Forms to do research on the problem, target users and existing solutions

Tips:

  • Using surveys only makes sense if you have a questionnaire prepared. This certainly requires some effort because if you have too many questions people are unlikely to participate, while too few questions won’t gather enough data. Also, your questions should be very clear and have no multiple interpretations. Easier said than done, right? This guide will help you;
  • Use surveys only after you have collected enough data with Google Keyword Planner, Google Search, App Store SEO Tools, MakeMyPersona, Google Trends, Social Media Search, Competitor Apps sources, and Quora;
  • Once you have your “buyer persona” built look for your target audience on LinkedIn and reach out to them with your surveys on Google Forms and/or SurveyMonkey;
  • The final step here is processing the results to represent data gathered in a comprehensive form. We suggest using Excel for this purpose.

Polls

What it helps you find out:

  1. If the problem your app is going to solve exists.
  2. If users are satisfied with how they solve the problem now.
  3. Which app is the best among those that solve the problem.
  4. If there is a demand for your app’s unique features.

How to use it:

Using polls on Facebook to do research on the problem, the target audience, and current solutions

Tips:

  • Once you have a vision of who your target audience is, find which Facebook groups which they belong to and create polls there. Your questions are:
  1. Do you experience the problem?
  2. Are you satisfied with the way N app solves the problem?
  3. Which of the apps that solve the problem do you use?
  4. Would you rather switch to an app that offers R feature or stay on the N app that doesn’t?
  • In some groups member posting might be not allowed. In this case you’d have to reach out to the group administration. They might sell posting opportunities.

Monetization Knowledge Base

What it helps you find out:

  1. How likely you are to make money with your app idea.
  2. What changes you should make to optimize your app’s monetization model.

How to use it:

We don’t have a video guide here because all you need to do is read and learn from these three sources:


Open Market Data

What it helps you find out:

  1. If there is a market around the problem your app is aiming to solve.
  2. How big the market is.

How to use it:

Using US Census Bureau database to do research on your market

Tips:

  • The above-mentioned sources can only be helpful if you can clearly define your industry, or type of business. As for US Census Bureau, this is required to determine the correct NAICS code for your business.

So, you have conducted your first research on the problem your app is going to solve, its target audience, existing solutions, monetization opportunities, and chances for your app to stand out. At this point, you must have already decided whether your app idea is worth further effort or if your time, energy and resources deserve better investment. If you’re still optimistic about the initial idea, or you have discovered a better alternative, it’s time to take your research to the next level. In the second part of this article, we will tell you about how you can create your landing page, test your app idea through a crowdfunding platform and build an MVP.

List of articles in Create Your Own App series:

  1. 8 Steps to Validate Your App Idea
  2. Tools and Sources to Validate Your App Idea - Part I
  3. Tools and Sources to Validate Your App Idea - Part II
  4. How Much Will It Cost?
  5. How to Make Money with your App
  6. Do I Need a Technical Co-Founder?
  7. How to Get Funding For the Idea
  8. Finding Developers for your Startup
  9. Beginners Guide to Technology

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