How to validate your mobile app idea: 6 steps to take

10 min read
May 9, 2023

In 2006, a group of developers in Sweden had an idea for an audio streaming platform.

At the time, downloading music into iPods was the norm. Would their radical idea take hold?

So they decided to test their idea with a prototype. It was a surprise hit.

Years later, the app—called Spotify—boasted 138 million subscribers.

This shows the importance and power of validating your app idea before going all in. And in this article, we’ll show you how to do it in your app in six steps.

Ensure your idea solves a problem

The most important step in validating your app idea starts with one simple question: “What problem is my app trying to solve?”

An app should exist to tackle a real problem that your target market has. Otherwise, people will have little use for it—no matter how innovative it is.

No wonder that lack of a market need is the top reason apps fail.

top reasons for app failure

Source: The Web App Market

To avoid this, you should always start by making sure that your app is solving some real problems. And the easiest way to do this is to look at your market’s biggest challenges.

There are plenty of great approaches to this, but the easiest is to visit the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

Go to the app categories you want to enter, look at the top apps there, then check the reviews.

This will tell your users’ common complaints in that market, like what features the app is missing or bugs they encounter.

For example, you’ll see below that a common complaint with the navigation app Waze is that it’s a big battery drain.

So, developing a competing app that has a more conservative battery consumption might be a good idea to pursue.

app store negative reviews

Source: Metrikal

You can also check online places where your target users hang out, such as Facebook groups or forums.

Quora is a particularly great channel for doing this. You can ask any question there, and people from the relevant market will usually answer them enthusiastically.

For example, you can survey single parents about their biggest pains and challenges.

That gives you an instant picture of their struggles so that you can devise a parenting-related app tailored to their needs.

Quora screenshot

Source: Quora

No matter how you find your market’s problems, ensure you’re gathering data directly from your target audience.

This can help you formulate an app idea based on what users are actually looking for and not just on assumptions.

Do thorough market research

Once you have a rough idea of the problems you want your app to tackle, the next step is to validate it further with thorough market research.

The goal is to determine if enough people actually need a solution to that problem—and if they’ll be happy to pay for it.

Here are some of the common approaches for market research:

marketing research methods

Source: Quora

In this case, getting more qualitative than quantitative data is important.

Quantitative data is what you get when you ask open-ended, subjective questions.

Examples include “Why do you like the current banking app you use” or “What’s the best feature you like in a photography app?”

These kinds of questions tend to produce more specific answers that could give you much more valuable insights.

You’ll know the exact reasons behind your users’ preferences, which will help you formulate a more comprehensive app offering.

The best qualitative research methods include focus group discussions, interviews, and surveys.

You shouldn’t neglect competitor research, either. A simple yet effective method is to list all the good and bad points of every competing app in your niche.

You can use a table similar to the one below:

competitor analysis comparison chart

Source: Venngage

This list helps you spot hidden opportunities that everyone else might’ve missed.

For example, you can include a feature that none of your competitors have or avoid a mistake that most of them make.

As you go through market research, don’t hesitate to tweak your app as necessary. Remember, your goal is to make the best product-market fit.

Define user personas

One app validation tool worth mentioning is user personas.

A user persona is a fictional person who embodies your ideal user. They possess the same preferences, goals, pain points, and frustrations that most people in your target market have.

Here’s an example:

user persona example

Source: Career Foundry

A persona is your ultimate guide to your ideal user. Every decision you make in your app must involve or service them.

For instance, if you’re adding a new feature, you should verify if it fits the persona’s needs or wants.

Plus, personas put a real face behind your target market. This could help the app development team have more empathy and understanding when making decisions.

For this reason, you need to define your user persona very carefully.

You shouldn’t just guess the attributes you’ll include in a persona. They should also be based on market research that gets answers straight from the user.

Assume nothing, even if it’s what you think the persona would feel or do.

A complete persona should include both demographic and psychographic data.

Here are the differences for each:

demographic vs psychographic profile

Source: Freshworks

A demographic profile includes the basic information about your user, such as their age, where they live, and their annual income.

Psychographics, on the other hand, deals more with the personality and preferences of a person. This includes their hobbies, political beliefs, dreams, and frustrations.

Of the two types of data, psychographic information is more valuable because it’s what directly influences behavior. Thus, it represents more accurate criteria when validating an app idea.

Create a user journey map

A user journey map is a tool that outlines how they will interact with your mobile app.

Because it’s framed from a user’s point of view, it’s a great way to analyze all app touchpoints and how they’ll potentially react to it.

To build a user journey map, you must identify how and when people will interact with your app. You can facilitate this by asking the right questions.

For instance, a good question is: “What steps will a user take to perform task A?”

Answering this forces you to consider every action required in that process, no matter how minor.

You can then eliminate unnecessary steps or optimize existing ones for a better user experience.

user journey map example

Source: Optimizely

It’s important to note that a user journey map doesn’t just cover the time a person uses an app. It also covers every step before that, starting with how they discover your app in the first place.

For instance, you should consider how users will download your app. This helps you understand the discovery process and find ways for potential leads to pick your app over others.

user journey example

Source: Appcues

The bottom line is that a user journey map is a great validation tool because it allows you to evaluate your app from the user’s lens.

That allows more empathy when making crucial decisions.

Develop a minimum viable product

An MVP (minimum viable product) is an early version of your app that contains only the essential features. It aims to have end users test your product and see if it’s acceptable to them.

MVPs are possibly one of your most powerful validation tools. They give the most accurate feedback because they closely resemble what the final product will look like.

However, building an MVP can be tricky.

You need to develop it as quickly and cheaply as possible so you can test it right away. But at the same time, you can’t sacrifice value and functionality.

The challenge is to get this balance right.

Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of putting out an unusable MVP. Every feature you include should still work, even if at only a basic level.

how to build an MVP right

Source: 80% Awesome

Developing an MVP is not that different from creating a full-fledged app.

It must still go through all the phases, including planning, coding, and testing. And sometimes, you might even need to market it too.

After all, how can you get people to test your MVP if they didn’t know it existed?

Finally, you should measure and analyze as many metrics and feedback from your app as possible.

Incorporating these can help you improve your MVP, which you can re-evaluate for further feedback.

feedback loop

Source: Prototypr

Once you’re happy with the final version of your MVP, there’s one last thing you need to validate—your app’s design.

Finalize the mobile app’s design

It isn’t just the app idea that requires validation. You also need to check if the design is acceptable to end users.

See, the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) are just as important as the functionality. In most cases, even more so.

One study showed that 37% of users leave a page or app due to poor design and navigation.

top reasons why users leave a page

Source: Zippia

So how do you validate your app’s design?

The best way is to create a wireframe.

A wireframe is a rough 2D sketch of your app’s user interface. It uses simple shapes and symbols to represent UI elements, such as a square for images.

The biggest benefit of wireframes is that you can put them together exceptionally fast.

That allows you to share it with people and gather feedback immediately, thus helping you iterate through your design quickly.


Source: Balsamiq

After you’ve finalized your design layout, you can take it further and work on the finer details like color, font, visuals, and animation.

For this, it’s best to use a mockup or a prototype (the latter is preferred if your app involves many animations and transitions).

These already show the final app’s appearance, using actual photos and text for visual accuracy.

mobile app mockup

Source: Justinmind

Mockups and prototypes are best tested with end users via usability testing. This lets you gather feedback and fine-tune any kinks with usability, navigation, and aesthetics.

How can DECODE help you validate an app idea

Validating an app idea is a critical and delicate process. Get it wrong, and you could start on the wrong foundation, which could eventually cause your app to fail.

That’s why it’s best to partner with an experienced agency like DECODE to help you through it. We can help validate your idea through a method called product discovery.

product discovery process

Source: Chisel

Product discovery allows us to understand your app idea better, including its target market and potential competitors.

Through market research and collaboration, we can refine that idea further by identifying potential challenges and opportunities.

At the end of the product discovery phase, you’ll have an outline of product features, including the technologies and timeline necessary to develop them.

But we don’t stop there…

DECODE can help you with other validation methods like wireframing, prototyping, usability testing, or building an MVP.

And if you wanted to, we could even be your full development partner, bringing your app from ideation to launch.

You’ll be backed by a team sourced from a pool of over 70+ professionals with a diverse range of skills. Rest assured that we’ll have an answer to every obstacle you’ll encounter.

So, interested in validating or developing your app idea with us? Contact us today and schedule a FREE consultation.

Written by

Marko Strizic

Co-founder and CEO

Marko started DECODE with co-founders Peter and Mario, and a decade later, leads the company as CEO. His role is now almost entirely centred around business strategy, though his extensive background in software engineering makes sure he sees the future of the company from every angle. A graduate of the University of Zagreb’s Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing, he’s fascinated by the architecture of mobile apps and reactive programming, and a strong believer in life-long learning. Always ready for action. Or an impromptu skiing trip.

Related articles