How Do You Know If You Are Building The Right Thing?


The primary goal of a product team is building the right thing. This compilation is a list of techniques that can be used to rapidly test assumptions at various stages in the product delivery cycle to increase the probability of having an impact with that product/feature.
Use the filters below to spark your thoughts on how to test your assumptions.



Assumption Testing Techniques
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Risk
Discovery Stage
Program size
Effort
Audience
Search
Technique
Risk
Discovery Stage
Effort
Audience
Program size
When to use?
Link to examples
Notes
1
Pre-mortem
User Value
Business Viability
Early
Low
Internal
Larger redesign, new product, new market
Once you have decided to pursue an initiative and are trying to figure out what it needs to be successful.
Pretend like this is a post-mortem. Identify all the things that could potentially go wrong (this is a great way to channel the nay-sayers). Prioritize them in rank order of risk and use the other techniques to de-risk those items.
2
"Fake" press release
User Value
Early
Low
Internal
External
Larger redesign, new product, new market
When you have identified the key benefits and features of your proposed solution to the problem.
An Amazon technique. Write the press release of your feature/product before even completely writing the spec for it. See if this press release is interesting to your internal and external audience. Helps us focus on the outcome not the output.
3
Customer letter
User Value
Early
Low
Internal
Larger redesign, new product, new market
Early validation of features/benefits of the proposed solution
A pretend letter from a happy user of the product/feature to the CEO. This letter will actually be written by the product manager. The customer explains why she is so happy and grateful for the new product feature. She describes how it changed or improved her life. Customer-centric version of the fake press release technique
4
Startup canvas
User Value
Business Viability
Early
Low
Internal
Larger redesign, new product, new market
Early in a project to align on problem, solution, benefits and features
For larger projects vs smaller features. Ensures we have identified the problem and key features of a solution.
5
Customer misdirection
User Value
Early
Low
External
Larger redesign, new product, new market
Smaller feature
Ongoing...can identify potential problems, uses, scenarios etc for further investigation
Example: eBay in the early days noticed people were posting and selling cars which it was not optimized for. It created the seed for ebay motors
Look for different uses of the product from the primary cases - this could be on Twitter, Facebook, customer care tickets, searches in the help center, etc.
6
Market Analysis
User Value
Business Viability
Early
Low
Internal
Smaller feature
Larger redesign, new product, new market
Validate ideas through market analysis and competitive research
Analyze keep competitors to determine if they are using a feature idea similar to what you have planned and look at impact on their business; look at general market trends to determine market viability
7
Opportunity assessment
Business Viability
User Value
Early
Medium
Internal
Larger redesign, new product, new market
Identify the market opportunity for an initiative
More info: https://svpg.com/assessing-product-opportunities/
Simple form to ensure we have identified a real problem with sufficient market size and business value. We can then pursue different solutions to this problem. Similar to Lean Canvas
8
Concierge test
User Value
Early
Medium
External
Smaller feature
Larger redesign, new product, new market
Build empathy with user problems without locking into a solution
You are the concierge. You do what the customer needs done for them. Learn how to do the job the customer currently does to "walk in their shoes."
9
Hack days
User Value
Technical Feasibility
Middle
Early
Low
Internal
Smaller feature
Direct team energy and creativity around important problem areas
Directed hack days give the teams a business objective e.g. reduce churn, increase lifetime value and let them build a prototype solution in a given time period. This can then be tested with real users
10
Fake door test
User Value
Middle
Early
Low
External
Smaller feature
Assess demand at scale from users in production
It is like an A/B test where we can assess the clicks on this call to action of a new feature. When the user clicks on it, we show them a landing page telling them what we are trying to learn, what they were expecting it to do, ask if they would like to be involved (build a list)
11
Ad Campaigns
User Value
Early
Middle
Low
External
Larger redesign, new product, new market
Test potential value with new or existing users through ads that describe feature
Google and Facebook are platforms that allow you to drill down demographics to the particular target customer you’re trying to reach, and this lets you run a low-fidelity test to see which features or aspects of your product are most appealing to them
12
Explainer Video
User Value
Business Viability
Early
Middle
Late
Medium
Internal
External
Larger redesign, new product, new market
Test user value with an educaitonal video that explains the feature
The explainer video instead walks potential customers through what the product is and clearly demonstrates how it helps them, eventually leading to why they would want to pay you for it.
13
Low fidelity sketches
User Value
Middle
Low
Internal
External
Smaller feature
Larger redesign, new product, new market
Validate early concepts/solutions with customers
These could even be pictures of paper sketches. They are typically the earliest manifestations of a solution to a problem.
14
Impersonator
Usability
User Value
Middle
High
External
Larger redesign, new product, new market
When it is quicker to validate ideas/hypotheses using an existing product
Lotus Elise and Tesla - Validating market interest for a car that didn't exist
Apply a new skin to an existing product that can act as a good substitute to validate market interest - save on costs to validate market interest
15
Wizard of oz
User Value
Middle
Late
Low
External
Smaller feature
Fully functional experience to the user but executed manually
Instacart: When a customer purchased items on instacart.com in the early days, the founder got an email and then bought and delivered items
Test out particular approaches by doing them manually "behind the scenes. For example if you want to see if users sign up for text alerts, you can manually send those text messages for the first set of users who sign up. It can use the front-end of the high fidelity prototypes, but the actual work is performed manually.
16
Technical prototype
Technical Feasibility
Middle
Late
Medium
Internal
Smaller feature
Larger redesign, new product, new market
Reduce technical risks to a proposed solution
how to use the right audio stream on different bandwidth networks
Typically focused on addressing specific technical risks/concerns. This could be around a new technology, algorithm, performance, etc.
17
Blog Article
User Value
Middle
Late
Medium
External
Larger redesign, new product, new market
When you want to create a two-way dialogue with users around a big feature/idea
Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup also began his book as a blog
The two-way communication from blogs gives an ideal platform to build momentum and gather customer feedback in the MVP development process.
18
Customer discovery program
User Value
Usability
Technical Feasibility
Middle
Late
High
External
Larger redesign, new product, new market
Close to starting development on a solution. Ensures partnership with a core group during the development process
Partner with users/customers through the development process with the goal of having them as reference users/customers at the end. B2B customers may use a more formal version of this through a Customer Advisory Board
19
Live data prototype
User Value
Usability
Middle
Late
High
External
Smaller feature
Larger redesign, new product, new market
Test user value and usability where you cannot "fake" the experience
If we need to collect live data from users or return actual data to users to get meaningful results. This requires code but is not the same high level of quality (and therefore effort) as a production-level feature. A small percentage of live traffic will be sent to this test and carefully monitored.
20
Dog-fooding
User Value
Usability
Middle
Late
High
Internal
Smaller feature
Larger redesign, new product, new market
Test user value with internal employees or friends & family
Next Gen was released internally months before actual users
Option to do low fidelity mock-ups, experiences with internal users only and provide meaningful context around experience. Validate early sketches and identify key gaps and or issues in the experience and solicits honest feedback
21
High fidelity clickable mocks
User Value
Usability
Late
Middle
Medium
Internal
External
Smaller feature
Larger redesign, new product, new market
Test user value and usability of the proposed solution
Once we have traction on the solution from earlier research, these are a few high-fidelity clickable screens (could even be PDFs or Invision) to test with external audiences and assess value and usability risk
22
Functional high fidelity prototype
User Value
Usability
Technical Feasibility
Late
Middle
High
Internal
External
Smaller feature
Larger redesign, new product, new market
Test user value and usability without writing code
One of the more expensive discovery techniques because we are usually writing front-end code. It can be helpful if the solution involves things that can only be tested in this type of prototype e.g. swiping a card away
23
"Cafe" study
Usability
User Value
Middle
Late
Low
Internal
External
Smaller feature
Set up a table in the cafeteria or at a local cafe to recruit people walking by for a quick 5-10 minute feedback session. You can use a lo-fi prototype or even paper sketches. Test user comprehension, value, and even usability without writing code
24
Investment budget
User Value
Early
Middle
Low
Internal
External
Larger redesign, new product, new market
A mechanism for internal and external stakeholders to indicate the rank order and relative value of various features to them.
The real value of this exercise is not just to see the spread of investments across stakeholders but to use this as a conversation starter and get to “the real why” of their requests
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