How to Evaluate Product Idea for Solo Developer

January 13, 2019
Evaluate 24 ideas in 2019

I didn’t do a review of things I have done or accomplished in 2018, as that would be quite pointless with things to feel good or feel bad about. I was tempted to do a “things to do in 2019 a.k.a new year resolutions” post, but I got reminded my past big odacious goals always never work out.

I am pretty sure I want to continue building apps in 2019 (with a list of ideas). In 2019, I plan to evaluate 24 product ideas (about 2 ideas per month), come up with a set of evaluation guidelines and make sure I don’t end up working on ideas which I shall regret later.

Since time is precious, it is crucial to filter ideas and pick the “best” ones. Before I start development on an idea, I usually sit on an idea for at least a month. If I still think about the idea and find it interesting after a month, I would evaluate the idea further with more brainstorming, research and planning. Which are the “best” ideas to work on? I come up with the following questions and guidelines to evaluate product ideas, hopeful to increase my odds.

PS: This is not a guideline to evaluate startup ideas (market size, business model, etc.), but to evaluate product/app idea for solo developer who bootstraped (motivation & perseverance, strategy with limited manpower and money, focus on ability to ship and small win).

Describe

Describe the idea.

  • What is it?
  • What does it do?
  • What problem does it solve?
  • Who need this? Why would people use your product?

Special

What makes the product really special/unique/interesting?

  • How is it better than existing product?
  • Is it useful or fun? Wants vs needs?
  • What is new?
  • Do you know something that others don’t get it?
  • Would people talk/feel excited about the product?
  • Is the idea timing sensitive?

Motivation

Why I want to work on this idea?

  • What inspire me?
  • Do I feel passionate/excited about the idea (not the development)?
  • Would I still do it if I am the only user?

User

Access to the beta/early users.

I usually pick an idea where I am the intended user (eating your own dog food):

  • I am interested to use the app at least once a week, worst case being once a month
  • I understand how the product should be, and what features I would like
  • I am the beta user to give real-world/pratical feedback, hunting down bugs and ux/ui issues
  • It is easier to persist as long as I am passionate about the product and interested to use it

If I am not the intended user

  • I must know someone who is interested and commited to use the product.
  • If I am building a queue/wait list system, I must at least know a few business owner who has this problem and interested to work with me for a solution.

Time

1-3 months for a MVP (Minimum Viable Product).

  • I always wanted to build a game, but I never did. The main reason is game takes a long time to build.
  • I estimated a month of work for MVP (beta release), and in reality it is more likely 2 months of work.
  • The longer it takes, the higher the risk of the product not shipping.
  • If I on working on weekend and nights only, I aim to complete the MVP within 3 months.
  • Always ship

PS: MVP is not a product with minimum basic function, but something simple yet still lovable.

Reach

How do you reach the target users? Building app is fun, but having no users sucks.

  • Buying ads usually doesn’t work, or too costly.
  • If you are someone famous, you can always bank on your social influence.
  • For content creation, SEO could work.
  • For niche product idea, do you already have access to the target users?
  • Is product is fun, interesting and loveable (not just useful or with better UI), so people are intrigued to use it and talk about it?

Win

What would be considered the first small win?

  • If I am doing content creation, 10K visitors per month within 3 months sounds good to me.
  • If I am doing an app, I want to signup 3 users per day (about 100 users per month).
  • Make $100 per month (SASS, Game, etc.) through one-time purphase, in-app purchase or subscription.

How to achieve this small win?

Wait

Wait 1 month before start development on the idea.

  • If you just have the idea yesterday, don’t start development today.
  • Sit on the idea, let the idea sink it.
  • Did you constantly/occasionally think about the idea?
  • Does the idea still excites you after 1 month?
  • Did you thought of more use case, features and possibilities?

Final

Go or no go? Why?

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