Concept testing and validating: this is how you do it in 2021

In this handbook we cover the testing and validation of concepts and new ideas, also known as concept testing. We discuss the definition of concept testing, which research methods are best to use for this and show you how to get started with it yourself.

Working on a new concept or idea?

Test it with your target audience

What is concept testing?

In concept testing, you ask for feedback from the target group at an early stage to validate a concept or idea and find out to what extent a prototype or mock-up can solve the user's problem.

Research methods used for concept testing are often qualitative in nature. In a concept test you can use in-depth interviews, focus groups and usability research.

When do you (not) use concept testing?

Before we discuss when it is best to test and validate your concept or business idea, it is a good idea to define what you do not want to use a concept test for.

A concept test is not used to determine whether there is a problem, but to test and validate whether the right solution exists for the problem. How? By testing the concept with the target audience.

So before you begin a concept test, there is no discussion or doubt about the problem you want to solve. The problem is clear, now it's just a matter of finding out if and what the solution is that will best solve the problem for the end user.  

Are you wondering if there is a demand for your product? Then you don't want to use a concept test, but use market research or in-depth interviews to find out if there really is a problem. Are you in this phase? Then we recommend you read the book The Mom Test.

Why it pays to test and validate your idea or concept

There are numerous reasons why validating your business idea can only work to your advantage. Below we discuss the three biggest benefits of concept testing.

Concept testing saves you from failure 

Over 90% of all new business ideas fail. And if there's anything sinful, it's putting large amounts of capital and time into a product that was already doomed to fail in advance.

Of course, testing a proposition or proof of concept also takes time. But it is still much cheaper than launching a (digital) product that has no chance of success.

Save on development costs 

By letting users give their opinion in a prototype test, you save money and time in the development of your product. Did you know that it can cost up to 100x as much to make changes only after it has been developed?

Programmers spend on average 40 to 50% of their time on work that could have been avoided by testing and validating the concept with the target group at an early stage (see this article).

Validate your proposition or idea (and get peace of mind) 

By testing your proposition and validating your business idea, you ensure that you can make investment decisions based not on gut feeling or personal preference, but on research data. The results from a concept test show you immediately which solution works and which does not.

This not only prevents you from making mistakes, but also helps you get buy-in from stakeholders and prevents endless discussions about concepts that do not appeal to the target group.

This is how you test and validate your concept, proposition and business idea with your target audience
Do you want to make sure your proof of concept, proposition or business idea connects with your target audience? Then we explain below how you can get started.

1. Determine what you want to test

For best results with concept testing, we advise our clients to have at least a few rough designs developed. This helps testers get an idea of what the solution might look like and therefore provides better research questions.

You can think of a sketch, mock-us, wireframe or a prototype. In most cases, the prototypes are not yet fully clickable.

2. Choose the right research method

In most cases, concept testing involves working with prototypes that are not (yet) clickable, or only to a very limited extent. The focus of a concept test is therefore not so much on usability in itself, but mainly on validating the concept or idea itself.

This way you make sure you find out if the developed concept can solve the previously defined problem (to a sufficient degree) - and you can prevent a fiasco.

To answer this question, moderated usability research is often the best option. In a moderated usability test, a UX researcher sits together with a tester from the target group and, while showing the screens created, the researcher continuously asks in-depth questions.

Limited budget? Then sometimes companies also choose to conduct unmoderated usability research. In this case, the prototypes are often easy to click through, so testers get a good impression of how the product should eventually work. You can read more about prototype testing here.  

3. Testing with the target group

Because you want to validate your proposition with the target group, it is crucial that you perform concept testing with users who are part of the target group of your product.

There is often more to recruiting respondents than meets the eye. Need help? Then use our pool of over 7500 respondents.

4. Conducting concept testing

Before you start the concept testing sessions, you will want to have recorded the course of the test in a test plan. By defining the questionnaire and topics you want to cover during a concept test in the test plan, you make sure you get the most out of the research.

Do you want to perform a concept test yourself and validate your idea? Download the concept test questionnaire to get you started.

5. Validate the concept

Now that all the research results are in, you can start analyzing the sessions and collecting and comparing the research notes. The goal is to validate the concept and to be able to answer the question "To what extent does our (proof of) concept solve the previously defined problem for the target group?