How to Determine Viability of Idea

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Before devoting so much time to an idea it’s helpful to follow certain processes to prevent you from wasting your precious time and energy. An example to help educate the concept: Our earth is changing and it’s not for the best. According to arcadiapower.com over half of the plastic that’s produced is not recycled in the US at all. Over 100 billion plastic bottles were sold, of which 57 percent were for bottled water.¹ Although plastic water bottles are convenient and relatively cheap, they contribute to a sizable portion of polluting the earth. I believe the environment is one of the most critical problems that needs to be addressed and hopefully solved if we want our earth to be a sustainable place to live for generations to come. My ultimate goal is to encourage people to buy less water bottles and use more refillable water bottles by creating an application to help people locate water fountains or water refill stations. Although the idea is not revolutionary, it hopefully, will make it easier to wean people off of single use plastic water bottles. Below are the steps to determine whether this or any idea is viable and ready for action.

The PEST Analysis

An idea alone is insufficient to follow through fully without a PEST analysis to determines if the idea is ready for the current market. The PEST analysis determines the political, economical, social, and technological viability of the idea to best understand wether it makes sense to act on such an idea.

The PEST(Political, Economical, Social, Technological) analysis for helping people find water fountains and water refill stations are as follows:

Politically, there is great interest in improving our environment and making earth a more sustainable place to live. Multiple laws have been enacted to make earth cleaner, such as enforcing car companies to raise their miles-per-gallon benchmark ever higher, which ultimately helps to reduce fossil fuel usage by making cars more efficient².

Economically, bottled water are relatively cheap, but are not completely free, water fountains, on the other hand is completely free so economically, it shouldn’t be a problem to most people.

Socially, as a collective, people are more concerned about the environment than ever. Through social nudging and social encouragement, it’s definitely possible we can all be weaned off of plastic bottled water just like other social faux pas.

Technologically, creating such an application should be a breeze. There currently are applications to help people find their favorite restaurants, find their closest supermarkets, or their closest gym, et cetera. As such, implementing a way to locate the closest water fountain or water refill station should be technologically feasible.

Competitors

To further explore an idea, it is imperative to look at competitors of similar ideas. Currently on the market, there is an app called weTap³, which does similarly to what I am proposing. My idea however, would also include regular chemical testings of water fountains to asses the cleanliness of them. My idea also includes locations for paid water refill stations because although people are concerned about the environment people are also equally concerned about their health and what they ingest. Having a mechanism to help users choose a specific water fountain or refill station that’s right for them personally is important.

The User Interview Process

To make sure an idea is user approved it is smart to perform user interviews tactically. The purpose of a user interview is to gain insights into a domain or application ideas. It might be trivial to ask users input before launching a product but when done properly it can help determine whether an idea should be launched, which can save developers time and energy needlessly devoted to a product that won’t be necessary successful. Additionally, user interviews can even help spark additional features or can pivot the direction of an idea for the better.

Before starting off with questions to users about your domain, start by asking permission if they would like to answer some questions. Once permission has been granted, start by asking some starter questions; for my domain I started asking if they like to drink water and if they drink exclusively bottled water or also drink water from water fountains and/or from refillable water bottles. Those are considered starter questions because they would qualify or disqualify the user from the me asking them additional questions from my domain. In my case, had the user answered to only drinking water from plastic bottles, then I would disqualify that user and move on to the next person.

The next step in the user interview is to ask open-ended questions. These questions will encourage the user to give their personal perspectives about your domain. Some of my open-ended questions were: how do you feel about the environment and how do you feel about bottled water. I interviewed a couple of people in their 20s, 30s and 50s. The responses I got from asking them about the environment were that they were alarmed or worried about the environment. Additionally, most said they were somewhat concerned about plastic waste.

The final step to understanding the most from potential users is by asking deep dive questions. Deep dive questions are reserved for people that are receptive to a domain. They are used to gain personal insights into an actual app idea. Some of my deep dive questions were: how would you feel if there’s an application where it can point you to the nearest water fountain. The responses were mostly negative because most said water fountains are chemically dirty and inconvenient. The other question was how do you feel about having water refill stations all over the city? The responses were mostly positive and some were skeptical of adding another contraption that will clutters the city/area and eventually get vandalized.

User interviews not only help gain valuable insights into an idea they also help in deciding whether it’s worth the time and effort to develop your idea. In my situation, the responses were mixed so the idea is worth some more user interviews or surveys to actually commit precious time to developing an actual product. Additionally, it helped me to restructure my application idea by adding a paid water refill stations along with providing directions to the nearest free public drinking fountains due to users voicing concerns about the inconvenience and water purity of public drinking fountains.

User Journey

As with user interviews helping to gauge user interests in the idea, user journeys can help developers design features of the idea during the development process. User journey is a tool of which developers use to help improve the navigation of their application or to add new features. An example of a user journey could be the all the meticulous steps of which a typical user would take within an application or website in order to get what they are looking for or to find answers to a question they had.

For my case, a typical user journey could be as follows:

My name is Mike, and I am a person who is concerned about the environment and would like to pollute the earth as little as possible and I currently feel quit thirsty and would like to find a closest drinking fountain to quench my thirst, or refill my water bottle. I open my application and it shows me a map of all the nearest water fountains. I then pick one that is nearest to me and get directions to that particular fountain. When I get there to my surprised the water fountain is no longer there, I am frustrated and would like to voice my opinion of the non-existence water fountain. So I open the app again and this time I select the paid option on the menu and find one that’s closest to me. Once I got there I found it clean and the water refreshing and want to voice that so other people can come to that particular refill station.

From the user journey above, unlucky Mike came to a drinking fountain that is no longer accessible or present even though it’s still a valid option on the application. Mike’s user journey would help me to include an option for users to label locations as being outdated or invalid so future users would needlessly walk to nowhere. Also, Mike would not only like to inform future users of dead-end spots he would like to promote pristine drinking spots so users can make more informed decisions.

User journeys can especially be helpful to developers by directing the flow of the application based on what a particular user want to accomplish or retrieve.

Wireframe

After all the possible features have been gleaned from all the user journeys, it is time to make the application idea become alive visually by creating a wireframe. A wireframe is a rough visual representation of the actual flow and look of your actual application. Since wireframes are static and can be hand-drawn, very little time is needed to create one, which makes it possible to quickly change or add things based on feedback.

The following is a wireframe of my application idea:

Go Forth and Conquer

Developing and gauging if an idea is going to be successful is not an easy or a straightforward task but there are steps to help guide you to not waste valuable time on ideas which simply cannot be launched at the moment. For my idea of helping people location water stations, performing a PEST analysis, conducting users interview, getting user journey, and making wireframes all helped in improving and presenting my idea. Now go forth and test if your idea is perfect for the moment by using the steps above.

Citations:

[1]: (September 19, 2017) 15 Key Facts and Statistics About Bottled Water https://blog.arcadiapower.com/15-key-facts-statistics-bottled-water/

[2]: Bill Howard (September 9, 2019) 4 Automakers Agree to Cleaner California Air. Now They May Be Sued. https://www.extremetech.com/extreme/298078-4-automakers-agree-to-cleaner-california-air-now-they-may-be-sued

[3]: (September 22, 2019) http://wetap.org/

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