app inventor validate your killer app idea
Image Credit: Omar Jordan Fawahl

Last week you were taking a shower when suddenly that killer app idea came rushing into your thoughts and you saw dollar signs.

After imagining yourself as a famous app inventor for a few days, you’ve come to realize that there’s just one problem:

How do you validate this app idea before investing your hard-earned money into it or quitting your job?

The reality is that there are now well over 1 million apps available on Apple’s App Store alone and thousands more are added every week. With these mobile marketplaces growing and changing so rapidly, you have to do your homework and be strategic before taking the leap on what you might think is the next hit app.

Here are a few ways to validate your killer app idea before building it:

Identify Your Target Users

Your first step should definitely be to think about who might actually use your app. Is it something for kids or adults? Will it be useful to business owners or college students?

Once you’ve identified who would be likely to download and use your app, you can then start to think about what this segment of individuals already have access to. What existing substitutes would allow them to accomplish the same thing? How much disposable income do they have?

These are all factors to consider, and they will allow you to determine a business model for your app and whether or not you should be building it at all.

Build a Prototype and Gather Feedback

It’s much easier to ask someone in your target segment for feedback on your idea by putting it in front of them, rather than have them imagine it in their mind. If you’re going to validate your idea before building your app, there are a few easy ways of doing this.

Pull out your sketchbook and start drawing what the app might look like. There are some great free app stencils you can download online if you’d like further precision.

The important note is that you don’t have to be an experienced user interface designer to create an app prototype. Once your sketches are finished, you can even take things a step further and use an app like POP to bring your sketches to life.

Now that you have an app prototype that you can put in someone’s hand, it’s time to ask some specific questions about what’s in front of them. Start open-ended and ask them if they have any first impressions or thoughts. Then you can ask if they would you use the app, why or why not? More importantly, would they pay for the app, and if so how much? Beyond these you can get pretty creative with your questions depending on the type of app you’re building.

You’ll want to gather feedback from as many people in your target segment as possible, ideally 10 to 20 people. If you spot some clear trends in the feedback you’re receiving, it probably makes sense to tweak a few things.

Search the App Store for Existing Apps

This might be a no-brainer, but open the App Store or Google Play on your phone and do a search for the type of app you want to build. Use a variety of keywords and don’t just search for the name you had in mind. You’ll want to look through specific categories as well and scan the top charts for similar apps.

With the massive number of apps currently available, chances are you will find a similar app already published. This doesn’t at all mean that it’s time to throw in the towel and move on to your next idea.

Take a look at the store descriptions, screenshots, and business models of these similar apps. Also read through the ratings and reviews left by users. You can often spot weaknesses, or better yet, what you discover might spark new ideas for your own concept.

Don’t forget to look at when the apps were last updated. In some cases you’ll find that the developer hasn’t touched it in a few years.

Make a list of the top apps you’ve discovered and perform a few Google searches outside of the app marketplaces. Identify whether or not anyone else including the press have talked about these apps.

Rather than scare you away, discovering that there are apps similar to yours might actually indicate a big need and that you’re on the right track.

Build and Promote a Landing Page

Another great way of determining whether or not there is a desire for your app on a slightly larger scale is to build and promote a simple landing page.

Unlike the other validation examples above, this will cost a little bit of money, but you should very easily be able to do this for a couple hundred dollars or less.

The steps to this are pretty straightforward. Register a website domain name, put together a simple but nice looking landing page with an email signup box, drive traffic to your landing page, and assess the number of target users who give you their email address.

Building a nice looking, high-converting landing page has been made much easier in recent years thanks to newer tools like Unbounce and Convrrt. You’ll also want to signup for a service like MailChimp (free for up to 2000 subscribers) to collect the email addresses.

After your nice landing page is built, there are two ways of driving traffic to it.

You can spend some time sharing it on social media, although you’ll want to keep in mind where your target users are most likely to be when doing this. Maybe you’re building an app for pets and can find a few niche pet forums where you can promote your landing page.

If you have a little bit of capital, a quicker way to drive traffic to your new landing page might be to create a few targeted ads using AdWords.

Generate some traffic to your landing page for a week or two and then take a look at the number of email signups you’ve generated. How many email addresses have you collected? Does it seem like there is legitimate interest in this idea?

The beautiful thing about using a landing page to validate your idea is that you’ve planted the seed to your initial marketing. You now have a list of email addresses who you can promote it to once it’s live.

Conclusion

The above steps to validating your killer app idea before building it should lead you on the right path and save you lots of money and research.

Spend a little bit of time and maybe a few dollars, and you should have a pretty good indication as to whether or not your idea is something worth pursuing further.

Perhaps your dreams of becoming a famous app inventor aren’t that far fetched after all.

What else are you doing to validate your app ideas that we missed?