How to find product ideas

Many developers want to build their own projects, that’s often why they became developers in the first place. Now building is fun but feeling useful motivates personal investment. Building something nobody wants is depressing 😔

A common question developers ask themselves is “what could I build?” given that it should be motivating and that there are people who want to use it. Like for any skill in life you can learn and train yourself to find relevant answers to this question. Eventually you will get better not only at finding good product ideas but also at identifying new ways of finding those ideas!

This article is oriented for web developers but those advices could be applied to any domain. Let’s begin with a couple of advices that might seem obvious but force yourself to stick to it in practice:

  • Be curious. Don’t stick to things you already know.
  • Be social. Sharing your assumptions greatly improves the generation of valuable ideas.
  • Don’t throw ideas away even if they seem worthless at first.
  • Value small ideas as they need less efforts to build.

Co-working spaces are ideal to meet other makers and confront ideas

💡 Let’s find ideas

Here are a couple of techniques to generate product ideas by yourself. There is a ton of other approaches online, but those are the ones I tried and liked the most.

Keep track of all the ideas that come to your mind

Store them on Google Docs or Trello, they both work well on mobile so you can access and edit your ideas wherever you want. After a couple of weeks or months you should have a decent amount of inspiration and recurring themes. Those are the subjects that motive you. I personally sort ideas in columns as follows: Draft/Promising/Building/Released/Canceled and Questioned (when I am not sure the idea is worth it)

Think of what tools you miss at work

Every now and then new online tools pop into existence and suddenly everybody swears only by it. This never stops, right? It means there are continuously new manners of improving how people work.

Look at specific uses you have of general purposes tools

Many people use Notion, Google Drive, shared Excel or internal wikis to store and share data because they don’t have the right tools to do it. Maybe would you need a better task management app specific to your job? Or a better way to follow new employees onboarding than a shared Google Sheet?

Pick an existing idea and adapt it for a specific niche

The same service can be adapted for a niche market and bring real value to this niche. Take customer service softwares; you will find the big ones but also the ones specialized for young startups, e-commerce companies, phone calls services, and so on.

Reuse a product you already made but adapt its purpose

Already built a project? Maybe could you reuse its database, target its user base again, analyze its users behaviors or convert this homemade app into a SaaS. There are infinite usage variations for an app.

Ask yourself what you would like somebody else to build for you

Especially if it sounds boring or complex. Ask yourself if you would pay for it? Or do you know people who would pay for it?

Sign up on online product ideas communities

Several online communities are dedicated to gathering needs here and there before synthesizing them in newsletters or forums, such as the Opps Daily newsletter or 5 ideas a day.

Get inspiration by reading other makers interviews

Many people documented their journey while building their products and after releasing it. Have a look at Indie Hackers interviews or WIP to get insights on how makers found their ideas and business models.

Get inspiration from designers projects

On communities like Dribbble or Behance designers and artists are sharing projects they did for clients or for themselves. Many visuals they produce are just drafts, ideas, school works or canceled projects so don’t hesitate to get inspiration from those.

Join makers communities and pay attention to recurring “how do you XXX?” / “how can I XXX?” questions

On Indie Hackers Makers makers share knowledge about entrepreneurship and web development. If you keep browsing those for weeks you will notice some questions are super recurrent, maybe can you build something that answers those questions definitely 👼

Track tasks you are used to that take time and try to externalize them

Like commuting, cooking, doing the dishes, washing clothes, etc. those can be translated to physical or online services.

Look at domains that are getting old and guess what could replace them in the future

What do people really want from press or television? Can you provide at least part of those services in new ways?

Build something to help a close relation

By helping people you spend time with, not only are you doing something nice for them but also discover problems and needs you would never have thought about. If more people could benefit from what you did for one person, perhaps should you build a service out of it.

Notice unusual uses you have of online tools

Do you send yourself emails with attached documents so you can pass them from a computer to another or to your phone? Or do you use a note taking app to store passwords or addresses? You may not be the only one to use it this “unusual” way and could serve this unusual purpose with another more adapted tool.

Record what you do during the day

Even the most basic actions, then think of tools that could help do it faster or more efficiently.

Pick a big solution you use and build something smaller

What about building a service that does mostly the same thing but simpler, with less features, and make it cheaper? Many successful products got bigger and bigger over time (and most of the time their price follows) while some users only need the basics.

Solve something that scandalizes you

Be engaged and put your skills at the service of a cause that motivates you socially.

Dig into unsexy domains

Some subjects need tools but nobody builds them because they don’t look fun. To name a few; teachers, doctors, nurses, lawyers or public service workers usually have bad softwares to help them work. There is probably room for improvements.

Explore new platforms

New platforms and technologies like social networks games, Virtual Reality, AI or blockchains bring new interactions and create new activity sectors.

Build a product that does one feature you love

You don’t need to solve a complex problem. To relieve one pain can bring enough value; such as comments on articles, sharing buttons, checkout pages, etc.

Sell something else than a software

Your service does not have to be a software. You could sell knowledge with a book or mentorship, build a paying community or fill a database and make people pay to access it. The goal is to provide something people want.

Get out, learn new things, get new passions and make new friends

It might sound funny the first time you read this, but it is probably the best advice of this entire list 🚀

Be patient

And keep looking for ideas. Nobody has every day strokes of genius!

By reading this list I bet you got some ideas in mind! Don’t forget to write them down somewhere before you forget them.

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