Behind the Glasses: How software developers decide if your idea is worthwhile

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that when it comes to vetting ideas, software developers tend to take a pretty systematic approach. Creating a successful and profitable digital product requires careful planning—all the way from the birth of the idea to the ongoing development necessary after its launch. Product development isn’t about throwing a bunch of concepts at the wall and seeing what sticks; it’s about establishing frameworks and creating criteria to ensure each project is set up to succeed from the beginning.

So how do software developers decide if your idea is worthwhile? They start by asking three questions:

Does it solve a problem?

Many people assume the product development process begins with ideating, but that’s actually the wrong first step. Before coming up with ideas for a product, you first have to define the opportunity. A good opportunity is objective, is supported by facts, has context, and provides a measurable upside/cost. Do your research and focus on identifying problems that can shape and improve the experiences of your employees and customers—don’t get caught up in the bells and whistles of a shiny new app or website. Digital products should serve a purpose and be a means to an end, not the end itself. A good software development partner will always ask what problem your product is trying to solve before pushing forward.

Does it provide a benefit?

As much as we love Kevin Costner, we’re not big fans of the classic Field of Dreams refrain, “If you build it, they will come.” Many millions of dollars have been wasted on the assumption that consumers will inherently find a benefit in a product once it’s launched, but this is rarely the case. A good digital product has clearly-defined benefits for consumers that are identified early and built into the development process. This applies to digital products for internal use as well. Ask yourself if the project has a defined scope of benefits for your organization, and consider whether the product is going to solve a problem in a more cost-effective manner than the process or product your organization is currently using.

Does it already exist?

We’ve all heard an aspiring tech entrepreneur describe their latest idea by saying “it’s like [insert popular app, service, or social media platform here], but better.” More often than not, those ideas quickly crash and burn. When developing a digital product it’s important to consider whether the product mimics or overlaps any existing services and, if so, what your version offers that’s unique.

Even if you create a “better” (with better being a highly subjective term) version of an existing product or service, you’re still faced with an uphill battle. Convincing users to stop using an already established product or service and flock to yours is incredibly difficult. A more user-friendly interface or a couple of new features probably aren’t going to be enough to get people to make the switch. A good developer should help you understand your product’s differentiators and ability to compete in an already demanding marketplace before beginning the development process.

All that said, it’s possible to devise the type of idea developers will get excited about—just keep them in mind. Have you faced obstacles in getting a developer to work on your product? How did you overcome them?

Doug Linsmeyer

Author: Doug Linsmeyer

As Digital Technology Director at The Nerdery, Doug orchestrates digital transformation in clients' businesses as a partner to clients and leader of delivery teams in driving results. Doug studied civil engineering at North Dakota State University and Michigan Technological University before beginning his Nerdery career in 2012 as a Senior Software Engineer. An adept problem solver, Doug has a knack for understanding new systems by quickly breaking them down to figure out which levers to pull to get desired results. Doug co-founded The Nerdery’s Phoenix office—and while he misses fishing in Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes, he’s committed to The Nerdery's work in the desert.

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