I’m pretty sure this happened to you countless times. It did to me, at least. You have that (apparently) brilliant idea, you’re super pumped about it, that’s something you’ve never seen before… then you find out it’s out there already. Maybe there are even 2–3–4 similar products already on the market.
That’s disappointing, for sure. But hey, that’s fine!
When I was younger I had this idea that every product should be new and “#disruptive” (buzzword alert!). Sure, it’s nice if it is, but if not it doesn’t mean you should drop the thing entirely.
The first thing you should think about, is that finding other products similar to what you have in mind is a pretty good form of validation
That’s right! If someone else went through the hassle of creating that product, investing time, money, resources in it, it’s probably because your concept is targeting a real need. It’s something. It’s actually more than something, it’s what you need to know to really start investing in your own product.
Secondly, it saves time. Someone else did research and came up with a concept and then developed a product to solve that same problem/need you want to tackle. That doesn’t mean you should skip the research phase, but checking existing products it’s for sure a good starting point.
The point is not making the first product. The point is making the best one.
It’s basically how Apple operates. Apple detractors (a.k.a. haters) often point out how this or that brand came up with that particular feature first. Thanks, we know it. Apple philosophy is not really about innovating with new features, but coming out with those features the best way they could be made. GUI were already a thing when the Mac came out. Touch screens and smartphones were already on the market when the iPhone arrived. Etc.
Now we could argue for hours about this and that product, but let’s keep the Apple thing for another time. That’s not the point here, but I think you got the idea.
So, your idea has been made already. What can you do?
- Take a look at all the products that could be your competitors. Not necessarily in the same exact market, think outside the box (banality alert). If you’re planning on making the new Uber, don’t look just at Uber and Lyft. Look at local transportation apps or car rentals apps or bike sharing etc.
- List all the good things you find in those products as well as the pain points as a user, but also on a business standpoint.
Where to find users’ pain points? Start from the product’s reviews! Those are an invaluable source of information!
At this point, what could your product bring to the users as added value? How can you differentiate from the others?
Maybe you can:
- Add a feature lots of people are asking for and it’s still missing on other products
- Target a different group (youngsters vs. adults, business vs. leisure, locals vs. tourists, …)
- Have a different UX (more/less playful, more/less minimal, …)
- Use a different business model (one time payment vs. subscription vs. free with ads vs. free with premium version vs. …)
There will always be space on the market for GOOD products. No design is flawless, there’s always room for improvement.
The thing to remember is: don’t copy, don’t steal, but improve, make it better, make it easier, make it more enjoyable.
Don’t reskin it, but rethink it.