Q & Answers

Help! My big idea was a flop!

On a regular basis, we have customers come to us after an idea was a total flop. They tried to solve the problem and they thought they did it right. Maybe it’s entrepreneur who tried to launch a larger version of their product but the launch was a failure. So now they’re stuck. They put all this work into this idea, but it didn’t work. So what should they do?

The Idea Flopped

It happens. It happens to everybody. It even happens in successful stories like Instagram. You know the first version of Instagram didn’t focus on filters or photographs. It was built to be a check-in app and was a competitor to a Foursquare. Turns out, people didn’t want to check-in with it, but they loved the filters. And so, now the world has Instagram, a huge company and an app that people love.

So it happened to you: you rolled out an idea, you tried something, and it totally flopped. What do you do?

Step 1: What went wrong?

Well, number one, you’ve got to find out what went wrong. You’ve got to go to the users who did not use the product and say, Okay, you said you would use this. If the problem was occurring, you said this product was the right way to solve it, and yet, you’re not using the software. So why?

Where did the flop happen?

You’ve got to ask: Where did we fail? Was it upon install and people didn’t actually ever open the product? Maybe it was too difficult to log in. Perhaps they didn’t like the dashboard. Find out where it was in the process that they said to themselves, I’m done with this thing.

Photo by Ian Kim on Unsplash

Could I have avoided that problem?

The next question to ask yourself, Could I have avoided that problem? Could we have designed that differently? Could we have developed that differently? Could we rolled out a different stack for our server backend? What could it be? Could I fix situation?

Was my solution good enough?

Was your solution actually solving the problem in a great way? There are a lot of way to solve a problem including a lot of bad ways: it can technically solve your problem, but not always in a way that a user likes (and if they don’t like it, they won’t use it).

So was your solution actually the best way to solve it? Did it actually give them the ROI they needed to invest the time in trying something new? Find out. Your approach may have been wrong.

Did the problem really need solving?

Maybe the perceived pain of the problem wasn’t actually that much of a pain. Maybe it flopped because it didn’t really need solving. Maybe people weren’t willing to pay the money to solve the problem even if they said they were.

So find out why they wouldn’t. You may not actually be solving a pain that people are willing to pay for it. If that’s the case, it’s a difficult reality to accept.

Step 2: What went right?

You also want to talk to people who really loved your product, because there are people out there who are going to adore it. There are those who get it in their hands and go, This is it. This is what I have been looking for. I need this.

What aspects worked well?

Even if everything about the product isn’t perfect, there are some aspects of it that really work. So you want to find the people who can identify what works for them. And there may be some overlap: some users may hate the product overall but love certain aspects of it. That is valuable information.

So what worked? Was it a feature? An interface element? What kind of thing was used the most? That’s what you need to know.

Where did users spend time?

Even if you can’t find people who love what you did, look and see where people were concentrating their time. Look at the product analytics, the data tracking information. Where were people spending most of their time? What were they clicking the most? That information will tell you either a) That piece of the software is really busted or b) This piece was really successful.

Would they give it another shot?

Always ask a user, whether that user loved it or hated it: If I redid this, would you be willing to try it again and test my solution? Hopefully they say yes – awesome – so that when you’re ready, you can get their feedback again.

Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

Step 3: Analyze and Revise

So now you have all this data from your flopped idea. What do you do with it? Bring it all together in a spreadsheet, analyze it, read it, find commonalities.

Find the patterns

Pay attention to what features users liked and which feature they abandoned. Where did they spend their time? Look for the patterns. Figure out what people love.

Focus on what’s working

You’ve distinguished these two groups of users: users who love your product overall and users who hate your product overall. If you can find features that both of those groups adore, then you may have found the last piece of the puzzle. That might indicate what is wrong and where you should focus your revision.

A lot of times, like our good buddies at Instagram, we’re focusing on too broad of a problem, or we’re not focusing on the right thing to solve the situation the right way. To fix that, we sometimes have to scale down and really find a clever way to solve stuff. Maybe that’s what you need to do. Maybe this one feature or this one function is so helpful that it alone can be your product.

Refine

You want to refine based on all this data. You’re not abandoning everything, but you are re-sculpting your product based on what people are telling you. This feedback is vital to a successful product.

Create a Prototype or Proof of Concept

Rather than rolling out another six months or a year long dev cycle and trying to create a product and launch and market and all of that stuff (which might just lead to another flop), create a prototype or a proof of concept.

This is something that’s actually built. This can be a new piece of software that you’re testing with target users. But you’re not building the full product; you’re building the core functionality that people loved, based on earlier feedback.

Test, add, test, revise, repeat

Once you have a successful proof of concept with positive feedback, you can go back and start adding in the other features that the product was supposed to have in the first place.

Start by adding in a feature (Feature A) that people loved previously and test it again. They’re still happy. Great. You’re rocking it.

Now you put in Feature B. Test it again. Positive results. Awesome.

Next is Feature C. Looks goods. Great. Look at this, you’re product is building.

Let’s go to Feature D. Oh crap. You tested D and everything fell apart. People abandoned the proof of concept. They abandoned the interactive prototype you were building. The users said it was too complicated.

Ah. Okay. So you don’t go beyond this. You’ve discovered that your product may have been too big. Maybe that’s why your idea flopped. Your solution may have been too unwieldy and not engaging enough. That’s okay. So maybe your product is just smaller. Maybe it’s A, B and C and a few small things.

Or maybe doing all of this together in one product is too much. So you have Product A, Product B, and Product C. You create three lines of products that connect with data but they’re different products because they do different things. When your in Product A, you don’t want to do what you do in Product C, but you do want the data to overlap. That could be the solution.

Consider a Design Sprint

What you don’t want to do is go into a full blown product building cycle because you don’t want to invest all that time and energy and money only for the idea to flop again. Consider a Rocksauce Design Sprint; we can do this for you in one to six weeks.

In a week, we ideate with you and create an interactive visual prototype of one small feature that we test with users. There isn’t development involved but it gets you started on a solid solution. With six weeks, we build an actual proof of concept; we UX and UI and work with development to find the way roll it out to users and get it tested.

So what’s next?

Maybe something’s stalled out. Maybe you need to recharge a product. Or maybe you just need some vision aligning. Wherever you’re at, we can help you break through the noise and get your project off the ground. Give us a call 866.981.6847 or send us a message. We’re here to help you solve your biggest problems.

Next Article: Everything is so big. Where do I even start?

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