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4 Key Steps to take your digital concept from idea to reality

Last updated
12th July 2021
Written by
Harry Cobbold

So you’ve got an idea. Something which you think could change the game and alter its target market. If your startup heavily revolves around tech and you’re not already a digital developer or tech master yourself, you might end up with a bit of a headache over how to get from A to B.

Given that we build digital platforms and regularly help startups make their digital dreams a reality, we’ve got some great advice for anyone unsure what to do next.

1. Refining your idea

Don't make any assumptions about your target market or go in all guns blazing when it comes to features. Instead, refine your idea to prevent becoming overwhelmed and ensure you’re starting out with the essential features required to function.

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Consider:

Who is your target user? Every decision you make should be with your future user/customer in mind. What are their needs and pain-points? Does your product meet these? How do you plan to carry out user testing and interviews to refine your idea in the near and long term?

What are your competitors doing? How can you differentiate? Is there really a gap in the market for what you want to do, or is there a way to do what’s already being done, but much better? How do you plan to maintain performance to meet or supersede their offering?

What’s technically possible? Talk to a techy - particularly if tech isn't your forte, it’s very important to get someone on-board who knows the ins and outs of what it takes to reach your end goal. This could be a friend, network connection, consultant or agency. Whoever you choose should understand what you’re hoping to develop, and gauge a rough idea on how to go about it. This will give you a firm grounding on what’s possible and where to go next.

What’s your budget and how feasible is the project? This one goes without saying, but forecasting what your likely upfront expenditure will be is key in the early stages to avoid wasted time and be prepared for future funding bids.

2. Build a tech plan

Do you know what you’re building and how to get there? How should you actually go about your build?

In the Unfold studio, our method of choice is the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) approach. The MVP methodology involves building a web app or digital platform to MVP stage first, and building new features iteratively from this foundation based on findings from user research.

The benefits of this method are:

  1. You waste far less time and money building features you don’t need.
  2. Helps you stick to your budget.
  3. Each new feature is released based on the findings from your user research, meaning that the end product drives far higher conversions and user retention.
  4. You can launch to market in record time, meaning you learn more from real-world users quicker.

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How to use the MVP methodology

This process involves an iterative build process. Rather than building a website or app in one large, feature-rich release (which could take months/years to produce), we instead recommend that you:

  1. Firstly, refine your idea further and conduct user research to quickly gain real customer insight.
  2. Now, think big picture - where do you want to take the product longer term? List out all the features you’d like in your platform in an ideal world. Think back to your users, what would they like to see? What are your competitors failing to offer and what can you do better?
  3. Then, condense these features down - what are the minimum features that your platform couldn’t operate without? These should be the features you start out with and include in your MVP. Any other features should all be implemented gradually and only if they’re proven to be effective and necessary through user testing.
  4. Design wireframes and build out the design to a low or no-code prototype, to test the proposition cheaply with customers, without wasting valuable developer hours coding the full MVP.
  5. Conduct more user research on the basis of the prototype, which will give you information to further refine your MVP features.
  6. Create a website or platform which comprises only the highest value features (as decided on by user testing so far).
  7. From here on out each new feature of the platform should be built iteratively, one at a time. Test each new feature with users before fully building and releasing, this will prevent hours of wasted time building features which don’t end up working or improving user conversions.

3. User testing

Once you’ve gone through this prototyping process, user testing will become central to your platform’s ongoing development and success.

User testing methods we use and recommend are:

Channeling your findings from these and turning them into tangible results should be your focus and part of a continued improvement model going forward.

4. Fundraising

If you get to the point of looking for investment in your idea, the MVP model will give you a great start to attract investors and a proof point on which to base a valuation.

Investors will want to see that you have a clear handle over the cause and effect for changes in your platform. The iterative build process and user testing will allow you to easily track and attribute performance against changes you’ve made. You’ll also likely have a much higher understanding of your audience and their purchase habits than businesses not following this model, which make your business an even more attractive prospect.

Getting a handle on your facts and figures will also be very useful in the instance that you may need to hit certain metrics before being released a round of funding. If you didn’t understand how each part of your business affects each metric, you might really struggle to gain control and implement changes to make a significant effect.

For any entrepreneur in the tech space, navigating each step of the start-up process can be confusing. If you’re really feeling bogged down, it’s definitely best to get an experienced team on side, whether that be joining an accelerator/incubator or getting specific consultation in the areas you’re lacking knowledge.

About the author

Harry Cobbold is Managing Director at Unfold, a Bristol-based UX and digital development agency.

Harry has led numerous award-winning teams, delivering digital experiences that bring businesses closer to their users and drive better results. At Unfold he helps ambitious start-ups and scale-ups accelerate their business by simplifying their user experience and creating marketing-leading digital platforms.

If you’d like to discuss your project or idea, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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