Article
SaaS business

updated on:

9 Jul

,

2024

How to validate a SaaS idea? (no code, no designer, no funding)

8

min to read

Kateryna Mayka

Writer at Eleken

Kateryna Mayka

Writer at Eleken

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Got a SaaS idea you're itching to launch? Slow down for a moment. Before you invest time and money, there's a critical phase you shouldn't skip: real-world startup idea validation.

And as a startup visionary, you would likely search for a quick, cost-effective way to test your concept. Enter 'Building in Public' (BIP) — a method that allows you to test your ideas directly with your target audience without any coding, designing, or upfront funding.

As a UI/UX design agency specializing in SaaS, we can say that before a startup achieves product-market fit, it goes through a process of continuous quick iterations. So, in this article, we'll guide you through validating your business idea in three stages (iterations), leveraging the power of BIP.

Validation 1.0: idea validation

Let's begin at the very start: you have an idea buzzing in your head. Your first task? At this point, your main goal is to see if this idea has any potential. And of course, as an effective entrepreneur, you should focus on resolving this question using minimal resources.

That’s where the Building in public approach proves useful. Let’s figure out what it all is about.

BIP, or Building in Public, is when a company or startup chooses to openly share every step of their product creation journey with the audience. It means they share both their successes and challenges, as well as business metrics and insights.

Now, you might be wondering, “Why would someone do that?” or “Isn't there a risk in sharing all that inside information?” 

  • First things first, startup ideas are overrated. This might be an unpopular opinion, but what really matters is how you bring those ideas to life. So, there's no need to stress over someone taking your idea.

Consider Notion, a workplace productivity tool launched in 2016. When Notion entered the market, there were already numerous established players like Evernote, Trello, and Asana. The idea of an all-in-one workspace wasn't new.

Notion statistics on profitability
Notion proves to be successful, showcasing execution over uniqueness. Image credit: notionavenue.co

Yet, Notion has grown rapidly, reaching a $10 billion valuation in 2021. What set them apart wasn't the core concept, but their execution. They created a highly flexible, customizable platform that could replace multiple tools. Their focus on user experience, community building, and continuous improvement helped them stand out in a crowded field.

  • Second, Building in Public gives startup founders big benefits that make it worth the risk. Being transparent helps to 
  • Connect with like-minded people
  • Find investors and key team members
  • Establish trust in your community, without pushing sales
  • Show yourself as an expert in your field

And what’s most valuable for us is that BIP can be very helpful in obtaining early feedback on your feature ideas, designs, strategies, and so on.

How to validate your business idea with a build in public approach? 

First of all, choose a channel where you feel comfortable creating content and decide what kind of content you want to share

1. Engage with your community

  • Use Twitter, Reddit, Discord, or any other specialized forums where your target audience hangs out.
  • Take part in conversations and provide value, rather than just promoting your idea.

For inspiration, check out Xavier Coiffard's profile on X where he talks about startups and marketing. 

Validating SaaS idea with build in public method

  • You can try to share a brief outline or prototype of your idea on social media or other platforms and ask for honest feedback.

Take a look at this thread. Atul shared the whole process of Finance Tracker creation from day 1 and got his feedback.

Using BIP to validate your startup idea

He makes posts till the launch day. 

build in public approach example

how to validate a SaaS idea? real examples
  • You can also organize webinars, Ask Me Anything sessions, or even physical meetups to discuss your idea, answer questions, and gather even more feedback.

Just take a look how many comments and reposts Karthik Sridharan got with Ask Me Anything after sharing his success with Flexiple. People really like it when you share openly with them (and give them real value).

validating SaaS idea in public

2. Be regular with your updates

My next tip on adopting BIP is sharing progress updates weekly, monthly, daily or else to show what you've learned, what you've done, and what’s coming up next. Consistency is key in building trust and keeping your audience engaged. By maintaining a steady flow of information, you're not only documenting your journey but also inviting your followers to be part of it. This regular sharing creates a sense of community and allows your audience to feel invested in your progress.

For example, here’s the monthly Build in public update Kavya did for her SaaS app ResumeyPro. 

strategies on how to validate your SaaS idea

This post definitely motivates readers to come back for more updates on progress next month. 

Make your posts addictive as a TV series. 

3. Try pilot programs

The next tip to get even more valuable feedback is to launch pilot programs. These small-scale trials can provide deep insights into how your product performs in real-world scenarios. Here's how to approach this: 

  • Offer to solve your target problem for a few people for free or at a discounted rate, in exchange for feedback. This creates a win-win situation: your early adopters get a solution to their problem, and you get invaluable real-world testing.
  • Use no-code tools, AI-generated tools, or raw prototypes to showcase your idea — it’s just testing, and loyal audience will be fine with that. Remember, at this stage, functionality trumps polish. Your goal is to validate the core concept, not to impress with flashy design.
  • Use tools like GitHub or Trello to let the audience publicly track your development process and allow people to suggest features or improvements. This level of transparency not only builds trust but also turns your audience into active participants in your product's evolution.

By implementing pilot programs, you're not just gathering feedback; you're building a community of early adopters who feel invested in your product's success. Their experiences and insights can help you refine your offering, identify potential issues early, and even discover new use cases you hadn't considered.

4. Try funding in public

If all goes well and you feel that the core audience believes in your idea, you have excellent crowdfunding opportunities. This stage is not just about raising money; it's a powerful way to validate market demand and gauge the true level of interest in your product. 

  1. Leverage your engaged community to start a pre-order campaign. Offer special perks like lifetime discounts, priority support, or input on future features to those who commit early. This not only generates initial revenue but also rewards your most loyal followers. Use platforms like Paddle to easily set up and manage these pre-orders, and consider adding a countdown timer to create urgency.
  2. Create a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign to gain funds for your project. These platforms provide visibility and credibility, potentially attracting backers beyond your immediate network. Craft a compelling campaign that showcases your product's value and the journey you've shared with your audience so far.
  3. Propose milestones for your project and ask for funding to reach each one. This step-by-step approach can make larger funding goals feel more achievable to backers. It also allows you to demonstrate progress clearly, maintaining enthusiasm and trust.

When you see the idea has its paying audience, you can bring it further to a product worth paying for. And this mark the beginning of our next iteration.

Validation 2.0: MVP validation

There's no need to delve into what an MVP is or how to build one, as there's plenty of information available online. Just in case, I’ll include useful links on Eleken’s blog where we wrote 

For our topic, it’s more important to focus on how to validate your MVP without investing too many engineering resources. One approach that comes to mind first is leveraging no-code platforms.

Since MVPs can take various forms, there are a lot of different no-code tools to create them

  • WordPress, Weblfow, or Framer to build a website.
  • Figma or Flutterflow to create a clickable prototype.
  • Bubble, AppSmith, or Formaloo to build an MVP app. 

No matter what tool you choose, the key is to keep your MVP focused on your core value proposition and nothing more. This is precisely why hiring a designer at this stage can be a game-changer. They can help you start small and minimize risks.  

  • A designer will help you prioritize features and discard those that are non-essential for your MVP.
  • A designer can create a quick and cheap prototype to test with your audience (much quicker than coding the same functionality).
  • You can collect feedback on prototypes and iterate your design until you’re ready to code your MVP.

My confidence in recommending a designer during the MVP validation stage comes from our work at Eleken, where we've seen how good design helps MVPs succeed faster.

For instance, just recently our designers helped our client YouVet go from concept of their learning system to prototype and ultimately to MVP design in just three months!

  • It took us one month to design a prototype that went from hand-drawn sketches to high-fidelity prototypes. As a result, our prototypes helped Youvet attract funding and proceed with building the minimum viable product.
SaaS idea validation with a prototype
Going from sketches to polished prototypes for YouVet
  • After that, it took us two more months to create the MVP design. And guess what helped us keep up with the tight timeline?   

Our designer used a low-code tool, Retool, to build and test part of an MVP while developers were busy with other tasks.

Part of YouVet we built with a low-code tool for idea validation
Part of YouVet we built with a low-code tool
  • We also tried out the no-code tool called Framer to create a landing page in just three days. It was a breeze to use so YouVet launched the landing way before the product itself. This helped kickstart their pre-launch marketing efforts.
using no-code tool to build a landing page and validate SaaS startup idea
The landing page we built with a no-code tool for YouVet

As you can see, a good designer is actually able to save your time and budget greatly when launching an MVP. And when you have your MVP success, you’re ready to invest more in the project and scale it with low risk. That’s a sign we got to the last step of validating product ideas.

Validation 3.0: product validation

If you’ve done everything right, at this stage of business validation you have a loyal community to support you and offer ways for your product’s improvement.

Gather feedback and make small steps to keep improving the experience of your existing users as well as attract new ones. 

If your current no-code tools can't handle user needs or lack necessary features, consider investing in developing a custom product with a professional designer and developers.

Remember to always communicate with your users and always improve based on their feedback. After all, this is your audience who can help validate your SaaS idea with no-code, no-designer, and no-funding.

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