Why great ideas do not translate to great products


Abdul Rafiq

Despite the brilliance of many innovative concepts, the journey from idea to marketable product is fraught with challenges. Great ideas often falter due to a variety of factors including insufficient market research, inadequate funding, lack of technical feasibility, and poor execution. Moreover, successful product development requires a blend of creativity, strategic planning, and robust implementation processes.

Summary of the article

  • The Myth of the perfect idea - most ideas fail
  • The goal of a startup founder is to achieve 'product-market fit' -not 'idea-market fit
  • Smart founders invest in developing the user experience first
  • Investing in UX early helps convince early investors and significantly lowers development costs

The myth of the perfect idea - most ideas fail

It's a common misconception among entrepreneurs that a brilliant idea is sufficient for business success. This belief leads many to focus solely on the innovation of their concepts, overlooking the critical elements of execution and market alignment. History shows us numerous examples of "perfect" ideas that failed because they didn't adequately address actual user needs or market conditions.

Microsoft Founder holding Microsoft zune
Microsoft Zune: Introduced as a competitor to Apple’s iPod, the Zune was Microsoft's attempt to capture the digital music player market. Despite having good hardware, the Zune struggled with software issues, a cumbersome user interface, and content transfer and management difficulties. It failed to integrate smoothly with the user ecosystem, which Apple had adeptly created around iTunes and the iPod.

The key takeaway here is that an idea, regardless of its initial appeal or innovation, can only succeed with a rigorous process of validation and adaptation. This adaptation process involves understanding and integrating real users' feedback, adjusting product features, and sometimes pivoting the concept entirely to better meet market demands.

The goal of a startup founder is to achieve 'product-market fit' and not 'idea-market fit'

For startup founders, the ultimate goal is not to validate an idea but to achieve product-market fit. This concept involves creating a product that solves a problem or fulfils a need in a way that resonates deeply with the target market. Achieving product-market fit requires more than just market research; it necessitates putting a functional product into the hands of users as quickly as possible and iteratively refining it based on their actual usage and feedback. 

This process is often iterative and requires founders to be flexible and responsive to feedback, making adjustments that sometimes diverge significantly from the original idea. The journey to product-market fit is about evolving with your customers' needs, ensuring that the product remains relevant and highly valued.

Google Glass by Google
Google Glass: Launched in 2013, Google Glass was a pioneering product in the wearable technology space. It promised a futuristic experience of augmented reality and hands-free information. However, it suffered from several UX issues such as privacy concerns, limited battery life, and social awkwardness when worn in public. The interface was also not intuitive for many users, contributing to its lack of widespread adoption.

Smart founders invest in developing user experience first

Did you know? Don Norman first coined the term "User Experience" in the early 1990s while he was working at Apple. He emphasised that the scope of UX goes beyond the product interface to include all aspects of a person's experience with a system, including industrial design, graphics, the interface, and physical interaction. 

It is precisely why Steve Jobs - a “designer” founder - understood the value of comprehensive user experience and insisted on designing products with the end-user in mind, a philosophy that has made Apple a leader in design and user satisfaction, and one of the most valuable companies in the world.

So how do you achieve that?

Step 1: Visualising the user journey with user flows

User Flow Journey of Options MD

One of the first steps in the UX process is to develop user flows, which are diagrams that outline the path a user takes with a product from entry point right through to the final interaction. Tools like Figma can help founders create these user flows, providing a visual representation of every step a user might take. This process is invaluable for identifying potential pain points and opportunities for improvement before any real coding begins. 

“This approach ensures the product you build isn't just based on what you think users want, but on what they genuinely need and prefer.

By mapping out these flows early, founders can ensure that their product aligns with real user behaviors and preferences, which often differ significantly from initial assumptions.

Step 2: Validating ideas with UX prototypes

Partipost ux design by Geddit Right
Partipost prototype

Following the creation of user flows, the next step is to develop UX prototypes. These are interactive models of the product that allow users to experience and interact with the design before development fully kicks off. Prototypes are more than just visual representations; they are functional tools that test both the appeal of an idea and its practical application. They let founders gather real data on how users interact with the product, what they enjoy, and what frustrates them. 

It’s a chance to spot the bumps in the road and smooth them out, ensuring that “when the product does hit the market, it’s not just functioning—it’s making users' lives easier and more enjoyable.” This stage is crucial for refining the product according to actual user feedback, ensuring the final product is not only functional but also intuitive and user-friendly.

Step 3: Conducting usability tests to refine the product

Usability testing
Usability testing NN group

Usability testing involves observing real users as they interact with the prototype to identify usability issues before the product goes to market. This testing is essential for iterating the design based on direct user feedback, enabling developers to adjust the UX to meet real needs effectively. 

“This is a huge advantage—it means you can make your product not just good, but great.”

Moreover, putting the time into usability testing now can save you a bundle later on. Skipping this step can lead to costly post-launch fixes and updates, which are not only expensive but can also damage your product’s reputation if users are frustrated from the get-go. In contrast, iterative testing and updates based on solid data can help ensure that your product is as user-friendly and effective as possible right out of the gate. This proactive approach is a smart investment, helping to ensure your startup’s resources are used efficiently and your product makes a splash for all the right reasons when it launches.

Step 4: Developing a "Minimum Viable Product" (MVP)

MVP Process
MVP Building Process

Finally, all the insights gathered from user flows, UX prototypes, and usability testing contribute to the development of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). This version of the product, which includes just enough features to satisfy early users, is crucial for testing hypotheses about product features and user behavior in real-world scenarios. 

The MVP approach is that it's designed to be a learning tool. It’s not about launching the perfect product on day one. Instead, it’s about getting something functional and useful out there as quickly as possible so you can start gathering real user feedback. 

This feedback is gold—it’s what you use to iterate, refine, and expand your product. Each feature, each user interaction help you learn more about what works and what doesn’t.

Think of your MVP as the foundation of a feedback-rich development cycle. It's a living, breathing platform that evolves based on user input. By focusing on user needs and preferences right from the start, and continuing to integrate this feedback into every development cycle, your startup stays aligned with its users. 

This iterative process not only enhances the product but also ensures that the direction of development is constantly attuned to what users want. This approach not only saves resources but also significantly increases the chances that your product will resonate with your target audience once it’s fully developed.

The MVP serves as a practical, feedback-rich platform that can guide further development cycles, ensuring that the startup continues to develop in a direction that meets its users' needs and preferences.

Investing in UX early helps convince early investors and significantly lowers development costs

A robust UX strategy is not only critical for securing user loyalty but also plays a vital role in attracting investment. Investors are increasingly recognising the importance of a user-centered design approach as indicative of a startup’s potential for success. 

A well-designed UX prototype demonstrates a startup's commitment to delivering quality and can significantly speed up the investment process. Furthermore, focusing on UX from the beginning can lead to substantial cost savings. 

Startups can identify usability issues and user needs early to avoid the costly rework often required when these factors are only considered after development. This not only saves money but also accelerates the product's time to market, giving startups a crucial competitive edge.

Conclusion Turning a good idea into a successful product is about a lot more than just having that initial spark of creativity. It involves a lot of testing, feedback, and careful consideration of how your product meets user needs—especially through its design. For any startup founder, investing in UX from the start isn’t just a good move—it's essential for building a product that's ready to succeed in the market.

Abdul Rafiq

Director & Head of Design of Geddit Right
LinkedIn Profile

I’ve helped over 100s of startups launch since 2012 from focusing on a UX-first approach. I guide founders to help turn their ideas into UX prototypes, in which they can test with users and convince investors. My clients have gone on to raise millions in pre-seed and seed funding, and some have gone on to become successful startups.

Learn more about my UX-first design and development engagement and case studies.

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