Is your software idea worth developing?

Maybe you want to be your own boss, or maybe you’re fed up of dealing with a common problem in your daily life. Maybe you’ve simply had a lightbulb moment while sat at the desk. Whatever the reason, you’ve come up with a software idea. Now you can develop it, put it on the market and watch the cash roll in… right?

Well, unfortunately, not all ideas are good ideas. Building your software solution doesn’t necessarily mean customers will come. In a tech landscape where ideas are ten a penny, launching a new software product is both expensive and time-consuming. Your idea could be your opportunity to become the next Elon Musk, or it could fall flat at the starting line.

So, how can you tell if your software idea is worth developing? We’ve outlined four core questions to ask yourself when deciding if you should develop your solution.



1.    Does your software idea solve a common problem?

First, identify the problem that your software idea will solve. It’s this simple: if your software idea doesn’t solve a problem, it isn’t going to be marketable. It might sound obvious, but even the biggest companies are guilty of launching ill-defined, pointless software. (Apple’s Ping, or Microsoft’s Bob, anybody?)

Your software needs to solve a problem that plagues a large group of people. The more common the problem, the higher your chances of market success.

So, to assess whether the problem your software idea addresses is common, try searching for blogs and forums discussing the issue. Mine message boards, go deep into subreddits, explore Quora threads, monitor social media, and comb through Stack Overflow questions.

If you find a lot of people expressing similar gripes and seeking solutions to the same problem, you know you’ve hit a common, shared experience. Bingo. Your software idea could be of interest to more than you alone.



2.    How urgent is the problem?

Once you’ve ascertained that your software idea a) solves a problem and b) meets a consumer need, you need to question the scale of the problem. Is the problem urgent enough to warrant people spending money on a solution? Essentially, you need to assess how valuable your solution would be to your target audience.

You can approach this in a few ways. One is to look at the solutions or workarounds that people are already using. Ask if they’re inconvenient, or a solution that people have paid for. If consumers are already paying for fixes to the problem, you know that it’s urgent enough to warrant a customer base spending money.

You can also conduct some user research to ascertain whether your solution resonates. Spend some time digging deeper into your potential audience’s problems and pains, and put your feelers out in the online communities you’ve already tapped into. Ask questions. Participate in discussions. Start validating and improving your software idea.

If you get positive, usable feedback, you know that people take the problem seriously, and see it as one that needs to be solved.



3.    What is your target market?

Next, research the market that you’re (potentially) about to enter. Who is your user base, and what do they look like? What is the size of your total addressable market? How can you infiltrate that market?

By spending time researching your market, you’ll identify not only the customers that you’re later targeting, but also the scale of your competition. More alternative software solutions mean more competition.

Competition is not always a bad thing, but it’s important to take the amount of rival solutions into account. Unfortunately, the paradox of choice means that even if you have a great software idea, it can easily fall flat in a saturated market.

So, carefully examine the existing solutions solving the problem your idea caters to. If there are loads of solutions available, your software idea could get lost amidst the mass of competitors vying for customer attention. This doesn’t mean, however, that you should instantly scrap your idea.



4.    Does your software idea offer something competitors don’t?

Even if there are alternative solutions available, your software idea could be worth developing if you can identify an exclusive feature or ability. It’s all about giving your solution that competitive edge. You can, of course, replicate an existing solution. But having a product strength where a competitor is weak can help attract customers.

Analyse the existing solutions to the problem and ask if your idea does something that these don’t. This might not be a completely unique feature, but it could boast a strength where a competitor is weaker.

You can find such weaknesses, threats and strengths in both your products and your competitor’s solutions by applying a SWOT test. A SWOT analysis is a study of the software and company that looks for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.



Execution is everything

In the words of Chris Sacca: “Ideas are cheap, execution is everything.” Every day, millions of us have new software ideas pop into our heads. Some are pipe dreams, some are pointless… and some are prime opportunities to make a difference.

Ultimately, deciding whether your software idea is worth developing comes down to a mix of common sense, strict scoping, and sheer determination. Not only will you need to identify a clear demand for your idea, you’ll also need the hard work and the execution to carry it through.



Useful links

The top 3 benefits of building an MVP: why you need to begin with a minimum viable product

What is a user story and why should you be writing them?

The death of the unique feature set, and what it means for your brand