Project Management

Why You Shouldn’t Always Build a Tech Company to Solve User Problems

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Are You a Content Creator or a Technical Person?

With social media platforms turning an average Joe into a content creator, many want to monetize their content creation efforts by releasing a mobile app.

Sure, a mobile app can be a lucrative venture, but there are many variables to consider before going down the mobile app development path.

These variables include:

  • Should you build an app at all? How else can you monetize what you create?
  • Is your app solving a problem by delivering content or giving users a tool to perform an action?
  • Do you have enough runway to manage the team to work and maintain the mobile app?
  • If you have to build an app to solve user problems, in what technology should you build it?

Let’s take a fitness app as an example. Usually, fitness apps are content driven — they are simply a viewer of data.

Content only

An optimal way to monetize content consumption would be to set up a community on Mighty Networks and share your content there. There’s minimum effort involved in this from the technical side.

Primarily content with some functionality

But if you feel that you have a strong following that would appreciate having a mobile app, you should validate this assumption by using one of the no-code tools. No-code mobile app builders help founders put together a working product that can be shipped to users in weeks (even days).

The upside of building with a no-code solution instead of going custom is that you leave a way to extend the app with features that go beyond content consumption (e.g., food tracking).

Functionality first, content later

But, if the problem your target audience is experiencing can only be solved through technology (for example, you’re delivering a complex CRM mobile product for people on the go), the number of variables drastically increases.

Here’s a three-question approach to making a decision how to best go forward with your idea:

  • If your product is content and you want it to stay that way, use Mighty Networks or something similar to deliver the content to your audience effectively at a low cost.
  • If your product is content but you might want to add features to it later, use a no-code tool to build a simple infrastructure that can be extended.
  • If the core of your idea is to create business logic enabled by tech, you most likely need custom development and a solid business plan with financial backing. Most importantly, though, you need considerable technical knowledge to be able to manage the business and its development effectively.

If the third bullet matches your experience, read on to learn how to further validate this assumption and what custom development often entails. And if you can still choose a different path.

Going Down the Rabbit Hole — Endless Development with No Outcomes

Starting a project already brings a platter of risks to the table. Custom product development further compounds that risk. One of those risks is falling down the rabbit hole of endless development — an obsessed perfectionism — that leads to no outcomes.

With custom, the results can be impressive, far surpassing what you can achieve with other solutions in terms of customizability, data security, and performance. But how will you know where to draw a line when too much custom and tweaking is actually negatively impacting the progress of your product?

Even a crystal clear idea is just the tip of the iceberg that is your project. The deeper under the surface you look, the bigger the complexity of the structure. Misjudge the structure’s size and you’re looking at a behemoth that takes an eternity to build.

So with that grand prelude checked off, let’s assume you still want to pursue developing a custom mobile app.

Choosing Validation over Perfection Isn’t Easy But It’s Necessary

So you know now that the key to doing products well is to quickly validate ideas. You don’t always need custom to do it. Yes, sometimes even with a complex project like the CRM for mobile phones.

The thing with starting your product’s journey with custom development is that the possibilities of custom can easily stunt growth — you’ll be sweating over fonts, colors, and button sizes, instead of experimenting and learning fast to speed up the launch.

That’s precisely why before you choose custom development, you first have to do a reality check and review what’s your unfair advantage:

  • Business relationships
  • Available runway
  • Technical acumen
  • Domain knowledge

If you can only solve your target audience’s problem through technology, technical acumen should be your unfair advantage as a founder. You’ll need technical skills to spearhead the product’s development and remain in control of the process.

Technical acumen is critical for custom development simply because it lets you make a lot of product decisions, and work, on your own. However, the best business decisions are always made using a combination of data, expertise, and proper advice — rarely when only one criterion is met.

Another unfair advantage could be your ability to bring in customers.

So in the example of a fitness app, if an influencer with a considerable following started the user acquisition process, the likelihood of getting the necessary — and profitable — number increases by orders of magnitude. Still, even influencers with a loyal fan base, don’t have a guarantee that the digital product will be successful. But the chances are higher.

What it all means is that forking over a lot for custom development of unvalidated ideas can very often lead to product failure due to insufficient funds or lack of traction.

Getting Your Hands Dirty and Doing Proper Validation

You can’t estimate software development — there's always something that needs to be refined to better adjust your product to your target’s audience problem. Software needs to be an enabler, a critical component that creates value.

But how do you know if it’s software and not operations or content that creates real value for your users? You start with an MVP. And here’s how to approach it:

  1. Problem-solution fit
  2. Product-market fit
  3. Scaling

Problem-solution fit

You start with checking if there’s enough of a problem among your target audience to potentially be a viable business idea. This can be done using a no-code tool (custom makes it complicated as we’ve already established) but doesn’t have to be.

Consider the Mafia Offer (or another form of MVP).

The goal of the Mafia Offer is to empirically check if a solution brings value to customers. If need be during this stage, you get your hands dirty and do the work manually instead of relying on software.

With Maffia Offer, you simply check if an idea — the offer — resonates with your target audience. It requires creativity and commitment, but it’s a low-cost validation approach without software whatsoever. If you can find 10 people who will pay for that offer, you can consider the idea initially validated. You can now get feedback, data, and insights, and then make an informed decision on the next steps. 

The truth is you can validate most products using human interaction only — simply manual human effort.

Product-market fit

When you have validated the problem and there’s a profitable pool of users that want the solution you’re providing, the time has come to release the actual product for more data. You could opt for custom development now — after all, you’ve validated the idea. But there’s also the no-code approach. You can launch the product as a no-code MVP that takes only days to release.


Your product has been on the market for several months now, and there are more user verticals in the ecosystem. Some users are more mature. They’re not freaky about the product but still use it. But they don’t have to — they can easily go over to the competition if you don’t innovate or meet their needs better than the competition would. This is where no-code development might not be enough.

While no-code is evolving rapidly, it still has limitations in a few areas that might be critical for your business.

This is when custom development comes into play. Custom lets companies personalize experiences for users and add integrations and features that aren’t yet covered by no-code platforms.

In other words, as the product grows the need for custom development increases. Of course, it all depends on the product, and some apps can be operating on a no-code platform for their whole lifecycle.

Finding the Ratio of Technical Focus in Product Development

Every digital product’s journey is tough. If you find that you really need software to solve your audience’s problems, be a minimalist. Build a minimal backlog. Remember, ticking off multiple backlog items doesn’t equal good product and customer validation.

Custom development is often a distraction at the start of the project where instead of focusing on validation, you iterate on font sizes. Focus on developing customers and making sure your idea resonates and is viable from a business perspective.

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