Wear your customer hat to validate an idea…

Two days ago I posted “My 8 Yeses to Get an Idea Off the Ground” decision framework on IndieHackers… And today I want to share the product idea that spawned the framework, and how it performed when put to the test.

Earlier this week, I was working on a Shopify app when a product idea popped into my head. I jumped ahead of myself and immediately started building the MVP. But then, realizing my error, I decided to take a step back, create the 8 Yeses chart, and go back to the right step: Go find potential customers.

But before I dive into how I tried to validate the idea, I should probably tell you what the idea is!

Idea: a Shopify app that offers subscription support service to fix store theme issues/bugs and customization
Why: I built a Shopify store last year and as a software engineer, I wanted to tweak it like I do with anything else and I assumed any store owner would want to do the same.
Hypothesis: store owners, especially the newbies, want to make changes to their store and customize it but there is no dedicated service to do that. Their only options are to go hire a Shopify dev on Fiverr or Upwork, which costs $$$ if you want to do it regularly, or invest the time to learn basic coding skills themselves.
Validation: I went and created my first MVP Experiment Canvas that you can see here:

As you can see in the canvas, to validate the idea I had to run an experiment that required me to build a landing page, share it, and see how many signups I got. But wait a second, I don’t want to build anything before I make sure people actually have the problem that I’m attempting to solve. To do that, I had to wear the magic hat, the customer hat! So, disguised as a customer, I went sneaking around the web to see what I could find.

I joined a couple Facebook groups for Shopify newbies (my profile originally said that I’m a software engineer, so I had to hide that) and posted on a couple of them. Went to reddit, did the same. And for good measure, I posted on a Shopify community forum. Here’s a sample of what I posted. Please forgive my lil’ lies over there — sorry not sorry 😜:

a question I posted on Shopify Form

Now what answers did I get to those questions? 🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩

yup, red flags all over the place. Most of the assumptions I made were wrong.

First, 70%+ of the issues that a new store owners face are theme related, that’s good news. The bad news is that most of the new store owners don’t spend time playing around with their theme, this is not why they are on Shopify, they want to SELL.
And what themes do most of them use anyway? Shopify free themes ofc, which Shopify gives 100% support for free. And for those with custom themes, they will go to the theme’s original developer for support.

If you check my MVP canvas under “risk assumption” you will see: “The riskiest assumption is that each store owner needs such a service at least 4–5 times a month” which now I can confidently say is a totally invalid assumption.

So here is my take away:
The bad: the idea is dead before I even started
The good: the idea is dead before I even started, and I didn’t waste days working on a landing page, or worse, weeks building a tool nobody needs.

The mistake I’ve been repeating for the last 3–4 years is jumping ahead and skipping the idea validation. If I had done these little tricks with every idea that I had, it would have saved me weeks of coding projects that never saw the light of day.

So, if you are reading this and you are already working on something without a concrete evidence that there are people out there who want your product. STOP EVERYTHING and go create your MVP canvas and ask yourself, “How can I validate my idea without spending any $ or writing any code?” I know sometimes it’s really hard to work with these 2 constraints, but give it a try and you may be surprised with the results.

Note to self: you are good at building things, now go out there and master the idea-validation process before you start building again.

You can follow me on Twitter as I continue to document my journey.