New Feature Validation Framework For Product Managers
Why do product managers need a new feature validation framework? How can you build one? What techniques and methods can you use to validate feature ideas effectively?
These are the main questions we cover in this article. If you want to find out the details, read on.
- Product managers need a new feature validation framework to ensure that they meet user needs or drive organizational goals and avert product failure.
- Without validating features, it’s easy to create products that aren’t aligned with their vision or are difficult to differentiate.
- Developing features without validation results in bloated products and unnecessarily drives the cost of development up.
- Product teams should invest in validation when developing the MVP. The process is also necessary to maintain the product-market fit.
- Your new feature validation framework should consist of at least 3 techniques.
- Start with the Lean Value Tree for high-level validation. The technique helps you ensure alignment between product vision, mission, goals, and initiatives.
- Reverse impact mapping is for feature idea validation. It helps you assess if the planned features will have the necessary impact on the user to drive your goals.
- The Kano Model looks at feature ideas from the user perspective and enables you to determine if users need the feature and are willing to pay for it.
- Building minimum viable features allows you to test the ideas. If your users respond well to them, you can iterate on them and develop them incrementally.
- Minimum Delightful Product helps you determine which features you need to develop to win over your users and stand out from the competition.
- Regular interviews with power users and early adopters are great for validating feature and business ideas at the very raw stages.
- Targeting specific user segments with in-app surveys helps evaluate existing features and collect ideas for their improvement.
- Fake door tests are a popular and cost-effective way of validating features at the ideation stage.
- Product managers use prototypes to test the product or feature ideas with real users. Thanks to them, dev teams can better understand product specs and foresee issues or estimate more accurately.
- Beta tests are an excellent way of testing the product in real life and with target users without the risks involved in a full-scale launch.
- You can use Userpilot to target specific user segments with personalized in-app surveys to validate their ideas.
Why is a new feature validation process important in product development?
A new feature validation framework is necessary for their success for a number of reasons.
Avoid product failure
For starters, the feature validation process helps you avoid product failure. That’s when the product fails to meet its business goals and satisfy user needs, which eventually leads to its death.
New feature validation allows you to decide if the feature idea addresses user problems. It also ensures developing the feature is economically viable. In other words, whether there are enough people ready to pay for it to justify the development costs.
Stick to your product vision and avoid product parity
The fact that you can build a feature or that your competitors offer one doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for your SaaS product too.
Feature validation will help you understand if the features fit or not in your product vision, and whether they will help you to enter a new market and stay competitive.
After all, by copying your rivals’ features, you will only build a parity product that’s hard to differentiate.
Minimize feature bloat
Developing features without prior validation often leads to feature bloat.
Too many features that bring little or no value to the customer can make their experience more difficult. That’s because of unnecessary complexity, cluttered UI, and poor usability.
Validation helps organizations save on development costs.
First, they don’t waste money developing features that nobody needs. That’s a massive saving, especially if you end up sunsetting the feature later on. And they can divert the resources to developing functionality that really matters instead.
Moreover, the feature validation process is also a great learning opportunity. It doesn’t answer only the question of whether you should build the feature or not, but also how.
It increases the chances you will get the feature right the first time and won’t have to spend time and money on redoing it. This results in further savings.
When should you validate new feature ideas?
There’s a simple answer to the question. Always. But let’s dig in.
When building your minimum viable product
Feature validation is absolutely crucial when you’re working on your MVP.
For your product to be successful, you need to perform product idea validation and identify the right target market with enough potential customers.
You also ensure the new business idea and the business model are robust enough to allow you to monetize your idea.
It doesn’t stop at MVP though! Further feature validation is necessary to find your value proposition and build the minimum marketable product.
After achieving product market fit
Once you achieve your product-market fit, feature validation helps you maintain it.
By validating each new feature you’re planning to add to your product, you make sure it’s true to the product vision and keeps providing enough value to customers.
How can you ensure your validation framework is effective in this respect?
Testing your PMF regularly is the way to go.
The classics: product ideas and new features idea validation process
What’s the best technique for product and feature validation? In short, there isn’t one. Instead, you should build your new feature validation framework around a combination of various techniques.
The Lean Value Tree framework for idea validation
A lean value tree is a visual tool that allows you to ensure high-level alignment with the product vision.
The tree consists of 4 levels. At the top, you have the aspirational Vision, which feeds into the believable Mission. Next, we break the Mission into specific Goals. Finally, we have conceivable Initiatives.
The reverse impact mapping process
Reverse impact mapping continues the process of breaking the product vision into more granular elements and we use it to validate specific ideas.
In regular impact maps, each Goal is linked to an Actor who will contribute to its achievement, like a specific user persona. For this to happen, we need an Impact on the actor which comes from a Feature idea.
Now let’s reverse the process, start with the idea and work your way back to the goal. By doing so, you can determine if the feature will have the necessary impact on users that will help you realize the goal.
The Kano model for idea validation
The Kano model comes at the last stage of the validation process.
Once you have identified the ideas that have the potential to drive your goals, you need to validate them with customers. Specifically, you need to check if it’s useful to them and if they are happy to pay for it.
Kano analysis based on user interviews will help you identify the features that are absolutely essential for your product to work (Basics), those that improve product performance (Satisfiers), and those that will keep existing users and give you a competitive edge (Delighters).
Based on that, you can prioritize feature development.
Of course, before you commit to any of them, you also need to test their business viability. Can you afford to build it? Is the investment worth it given the forecast return?
Tried and tested methods to validate new ideas
Let’s now look at a few methods a PM can use to assess the validity of new feature ideas.
Use the Minimum Viable Feature process
Minimum viable features allow you to test your feature ideas before investing in their further development.
So if you’re building a search engine, a minimum viable feature would be running a text search without the ability to filter the search results by their types. This would be enough to verify the demand for the feature before you enhance its functionality.
Use the Minimum Delightful Product process
The minimum viable features may be enough to test the idea, but they won’t be appealing enough to attract a wider customer base. To achieve that, you need a minimum delightful product.
That’s when you may need to add the Satisfiers and Delighters you’ve identified in your Kano Analysis.
Set regular user interviews with your power users and early adopters
Regular user interviews with your most engaged users are a great opportunity to better understand their needs and pain points.
Power users and early adopters are typically keen to help because they’re passionate about new products. They will help you verify your assumptions and show potential weaknesses or inconsistencies in the initial idea.
Beware though, power users are only a small fraction of your user base. Make sure that you validate your feature ideas also with other user segments at later stages.
Collect feedback on existing features from different customer segments
User feedback is another essential way to collect and validate ideas for new features and their improvements.
For example, if you’ve just launched a feature, use your adoption platform of choice to create an in-app survey. Trigger it contextually as soon as a user engages with it.
To make your surveys relevant, target specific user segments. For example, it could be a particular age group or the user personas that you’ve linked with the feature in the reverse impact tree.
In your surveys, focus on general feature satisfaction (Do you like it? Yes/No) and ask for qualitative feedback on how to improve it.
In addition to these, give your users a chance to submit their feedback and feature requests any time they want. Just add a feedback widget in a clearly visible place on your UI or in the resource center.
Use fake door testing before building
Fake door tests are a well-known and effective method of validating feature ideas before you even start building them.
If you’re thinking of adding a new feature to your product, you can add it to your UI as if it was ready. If it’s a new product, build the landing page. Next, use in-app messages or paid ads to attract users and watch their engagement.
If enough users click on the feature or try to book the demo, it’s a green light to build it.
Apart from collecting usage data, you can use the test to recruit beta testers for when the product is finally ready.
Use prototypes and collect feedback
Prototype testing is one of the most effective ways of validating product ideas.
For starters, it allows you to understand how users engage with the product idea. You can simply put it in front of the users and watch them engage. Following it up with a quick interview will give you insights into how they feel about the product and how to improve it.
What’s more, prototypes give your engineers and developers a very clear idea of what the product should look and work like. Thanks to them, they will be able to estimate more accurately what it will take to build it and the possible challenges involved.
This is essential to validate the economic viability of new features or products.
Use beta tests to validate ideas with the right target audience
Beta tests are the final chance to test your product before you launch it.
The advantage of beta testing is that you can test the product with your target users and collect real-life data to improve the product.
However, this is on a limited scale, so the potential damage is limited if things go wrong. At the same time, if their experience is positive, your beta testers can help you promote the product.
How Userpilot can help you validate new features
Userpilot is a product adoption platform but it doesn’t mean its use is limited to after you build the product. You can easily leverage it to validate your feature ideas.
How? Do you mean apart from using tooltips and modals to run fake door tests and recruit beta testers? Or tracking and analyzing feature usage?
The ability to design highly customized user surveys is one of Userpilot’s strengths. The editor is intuitive to use and the process doesn’t require any coding whatsoever.
Surveys are a powerful tool when it comes to feature validation. Especially when combined with the advanced user segmentation that allows you to target specific user groups.
Implementing a new feature validation framework allows teams to determine how sound a feature idea is from the user and business perspectives.
By validating your features, you’ll be able to deliver optimum value to your users, build a product that’s easy and fun to use, and reduce costs.
If you would like to see Userpilot can help your business validate feature ideas, book a Userpilot demo!