Why You Should Test Viability Before Usability

Every startup should have a clear understanding of what problem(s) they are solving and who are they solving those for. What usually happens is that startups would build an MVP of an idea they are particularly fond of, release it out into the wild and then hope they find a problem for it to solve. This is a surefire way to burn cash, go down the wrong path and ultimately bring your startup journey to a halt.

Every startup should have a clear understanding of what problem(s) they are solving and who are they solving those for.

Don't believe me? Here's a pretty popular example.

Back in 2013, the entrepreneur Doug Evans launched a crowdfunding campaign for his startup Juicero promising consumers a high-end luxury juice machine that was much more than a juicer. Juicero sold packets of diced fruits and vegetables that users plugged into its $400 machines, which would then transform the contents of those packets into juice.

What seemed like a promising venture at the time quickly went downhill after consumers found out that they could easily squeeze the contents of the packets with their hands and turn it into juice much faster than the expensive juicer machine, thus rendering Juicero obsolete and putting an end to its startup journey.

If there is one lesson to be learned from this example is that entrepreneurship is about finding a genuine problem people have and solving it - not trying to reinvent the wheel.

That's why it's so important to validate your idea before launching your product into the market. And whether you run a design sprint, build a prototype or an MVP you should spend more time focusing on 'Viability' rather than on 'Usability'.

Why? Because if you are following best design practices or you are using pre-builds, chances are your product will be usable. By focusing on 'Viability' instead you'll gain a much more valuable insight from your user research. This will allow you to make smarter decisions faster and help you decide which key features of your product to keep and which can be added post-launch.

Entrepreneurship is about finding a genuine problem people have and solving it - not trying to reinvent the wheel.

Shifting the focus of your user testing from 'Usability' to 'Viability' will also give you better insights into why something work (or it doesn't) and how people feel about your product. Does it help solve a problem they are having? Does it perform according to expectations? How does it compare to your competitor's? If your product goes to market and then disappears - would someone care?

These are some of the questions that will not only help you better assess the validity of your idea but also show you some of the features you need to spend more time focusing on to create a product that people genuinely care about.

It's also how you can save both time and resources implementing features further down the line that your users won't care about and focus your efforts where it truly matters - building better products, faster.

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Martin Sandhu
Founder – martin@nuom.co.uk