When Should You Build an App?
Dom holding a phone to his ear, smiling.
Dom Maurice
September 29, 2023

I have an idea!

We have all had those moments of thinking of a great app idea, in fact, there are whole online communities where people can submit their own. But is jumping straight into developing the right thing to do? Maybe you need to define your brand or have a captivating tagline. Well in the world of Product there is much more to consider and define, so before you make big decisions on ‘Tinder for dogs’ or ‘Uber but for unicycles’, here are some things you need in place beforehand.

Problem to be Solved

All Products, whether physical or digital, solve a problem. Don’t be tempted to make an app if you are just taking one solution and applying it to another demographic. Instead, start from the point of view of the user and empathise with them. Start with a simple identification of the person you wish to become a user, then what struggle do they face completing a certain action and why. Then finally, how they feel in this situation. You should have a statement like so:

As a [type of person] I find [some difficulty] to [complete an action] because [some reason]. This makes me feel [something negative].


As a busy professional, I find I don’t have time to cook every day because I have too much work and I don’t have the hour in the day to prepare meals. This makes me feel I am not eating healthy and spending too much money.

Speculative Proposal

After having an idea of the problem to be solved, then a Speculative Proposal can be stated. This is not a solution to put forward, but more of the condition that has to be met in order to for a solution to succeed. For example, if the problem is “I find it hard to work out because I find it boring”, then the speculative proposal could be “a fun way to work out”, or “offer a sense of competition”, or even “give a financial incentive”. This should lead again to a feeling that the person will have if to take this path. And finally, some appeal to us creating the product/service, most probably as a source of business. The Speculative Proposal will look like this:

If we [create something] that will [offer a new action] then [value to be consumed], therefore the person will feel [something positive] and in turn [some value to the creator].


If we build a source of information that will have a dry store, long life prominent shopping list for 15-20 minute meals then people who are time-poor will be able to shop and cook between their busy schedules, therefore will feel that they can eat healthily and in a financially more appropriate way and in turn we can sell services and products to facilitate that shopping list.


One of my common sayings is Assumption = Risk, whether you are managing anything it’s where problems are going to arise. So the next stage is to validate your assumptions. This can be achieved by desktop research and interviews with people (when you have a working product data becomes your 3rd avenue).

User Interviews are tough because you have to find people to talk to. Use social media to reach out and ask questions, join communities of people in the field that the product might exist, and build a survey on a free tool like Google Forms in Drive (be wary not to rely on surveys as the conversation can give you amazing insight)

Desktop Research is a grind but useful. Find similar products and services and assess how people use them. Note that some may not be obvious, a well-crafted newsletter is as much a product as an app. Search for research that someone else has already done, many big sites publish findings.

If assumptions turn out to be false, then go back to speculations and adjust accordingly, rinse and repeat until you are confident. This is now your Problem Statement.

Minimum Viable Product

Right, so now an app? Nope, but Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a debated topic. The fact is a good MVP is an experiment to show that the problem stated needs solving. What needs a lot of focus is the word “Minimum”. Successful MVP launches are tiny, cheap, fast to turn around, low to no code, and the results are evident and quickly obtained. Buffer famously built a landing page as an MVP, that consisted of a value proposition, tier price selection, and finally a sign up that just prompted they were early and you would be updated on launch. Going back to the example:


MVP MiniMenu: A wiki-style page that has 7 recipes (one per day) that use few ingredients, take 20mins to prepare and cook, require little skill and knowledge, and require few or no foods that perish in under a week.

Connect to your Audience

With your MVP it’s time to get it to people in order to see if the approach is one that people even want, because even though you recognise the problem, and have the best solution for it, people just may not accept it. Sometimes it is a case that a solution is too forward-thinking and way beyond its time, Google Glasses is denied in 2014, and yet Apple Glasses is the future in 2022 (well, possibly).

Find your audience in the people you connected with through validation, send it to friends and family. Post in early adopter forums and communities. They will tell you the important details but never say “well they just don’t get it” if it’s negative.

The App

Finally, everything we need should be in place. The reason we want to leave this so late is that building an app is expensive, which includes not only financial, but with people working on it, and time. Building any product needs to be set up for success and that is answering the fundamental question of “do people want this”, and as assumption = risk you have to be confident in investing in ideas. One important fact exists, a product can be as much a Twitter account, email newsletter, or blog and therefore an app is not always the answer, but going through this journey will tell you that.


In conclusion, building an app is costly in money, time and in the hours of work for people, so the process to get to market is to make sure you are as certain as possible before deciding to build anything. Build small and get it to work then move forward to scale up. If your value proposition does not work at the small level it won’t magically make sense with millions of users. You have to build for a few, then some more, then for many.

Thanks for reading and for any help on your decision making then feel free to contact me 😊