How to Validate Your Ideas for Free With This Landing Page

Written by Craig Morrison - Get free updates on new posts here.


You know what I’m really good at? Coming up with shitty ideas.

I bet you’ve had a few yourself.

You’re out taking the dog for a walk when genius strikes. You’ve got the best idea anyone has ever had. You rush home, open up Evernote, and perform a full brain dump.

I’ve done this countless times. I’ve also spent money developing those ideas. Lot’s of money.

The biggest problem? Those ideas sucked, and no one wanted to buy/use what I built.

I could have avoided spending my money and time on those ideas if I had just taken a minute to validate my idea first.

What Does Validating an Idea Mean?

What do I mean by validating? I mean finding out if anyone wants the product before you spend time and money building it.

For example, let’s say I think selling milkshakes at a track meet is a good idea. I buy all the gear, blenders, milk, chocolate, coolers, etc. I head out to the track meet only to find out no one even wants my milkshakes.

My milkshakes are literally bringing no boys to the yard.

I could curse and swear and call everyone insane, but whose fault is it? It’s mine. If I had asked first, I could have found out that people would much rather buy bananas at a track meet.

How Do I Validate My Idea?

Regardless of how you do it, it’s all the same result. You need to talk to people. You need to find out if they need it, and if they do, exactly what it is they need. This is called validated learning.

Today, I’m going to show you how to build a landing page that looks like your product already exists, complete with pricing plans and features. I’ll explain why in a minute.

Many services around the web allow to build plug and play landing pages, but they’ll cost you. Sites like LeadPages or Unbounce do this quite well.

But if the point of all this is to validate the idea before we spend any money on it, why would we start by spending money?

Instead, we’re going to learn how to validate your idea, for free, using an HTML template I’ve built and integrating it with free accounts from Wufoo and MailChimp.

Before we get started, let’s take a look at what we’ll be building. Click here to see a live version of the landing page template.

Bonus: Download the PSD file if you want to customize the look of your landing page.

Thumb

Click image to see full live version

What You’ll Need

To make this landing page work, we’re going to be taking advantage of a couple of services that offer free plans.

Complete the follow steps before moving on:

  1. Download my free HTML landing page template
  2. Download an HTML editor and install it (download this one if you don’t have one)
  3. Create a free Mailchimp.com account
  4. Create a free Wufoo.com account
  5. Open a web hosting account with Dreamhost.com

All done? Awesome.

Before we get into the code, I want to explain why this isn’t a traditional “coming soon” page and the advantages of creating something a little better.

Validation Done Right

The concept of validation gave birth to a number of people creating “coming soon” landing pages. These pages gave the visitor a few lines about the product, and asked for their email in order to be notified when the product was live.

The problem with these pages is that although collecting emails does prove some interest in the idea, it doesn’t prove that those people are willing to pay for it or use it.

We don’t learn anything about those people, except for the fact that they liked the sentence or two you wrote. We don’t know exactly what they’re looking for, or even the reason why they need the product.

On top of everything, by the time you’re actually ready to go live, all those emails have gone cold, because you haven’t kept them updated. So you launch under the impression you’ve got 500 potential users, and you end up with 10.

I first read about this shift in “validation thinking” after reading Joel Gascolgne’s post on how he validated the idea for his (now very successful) web app Buffer.

Instead of just collecting as many email addresses as he could, he spent time creating a dialogue with those who did sign up.

Through many emails and Skype chats, he discovered what people actually wanted out of an app like his, instead of just building what his initial idea was.

In place of a “coming soon” page, he built a landing page that made it look like the product already existed, included pricing and plans. This way, the only sign ups he received were from people who were willing to actually pay for the service.

He still let them know before they signed up that they hadn’t launched yet, but only after they were making the commitment to pay (by clicking the sign up button).

The outcome of this process is that when you’re finished, you’ve got a base of people who you know are willing to pay for your product, and who you’ve been in constant communication with.

Makes way more sense than 500 cold fish emails and a great big guess at what the product should offer, right?

So, we’re basically recreating this tactic using the HTML code you downloaded above. Now let’s get started setting it up.

Want to improve your landing page design?

Download my free eBook How to Easily Increase Landing Page Conversions by using a simple design tactic.

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Step 1: Unpacking and Configuring the HTML

Our first step is going to be unpacking the ZIP file you downloaded and editing all the parts of the HTML in order to customize the landing page properly.

Follow along in the video below and if you have any questions, please leave me comment at the bottom of the article and I’ll answer as soon as I can.

This step involves writing a good Unique Value Proposition. For help, check out my post outlining some of the things to avoid when writing a UVP.

Not a fan of videos? Please leave a comment below and let me know. I’m considering writing out all the steps as well.

Step 2: Creating the Email Form in Wufoo

At this point, we’ve got the landing page looking like you’re own.

It’s got your unique value proposition, it’s got your own pricing plans (if any) and some descriptions of the great features and benefits of your product.

Now we’re going to make it work.

Before watching the video, log into your Wufoo account you created at the beginning of this tutorial.

In the video below, we’ll be creating the Wufoo form we’re going to be hooking up to the landing page.

Step 3: Creating a MailChimp Email list & Configuring Wufoo

By now, we’ve got a Wufoo form configured just the way we want it to.

The next step is to send the emails that the Wufoo collects automatically to an email list that is stored by MailChimp.

Before watching the video, log into your MailChimp account you created at the beginning of this tutorial.

In the video below, we’re going to be creating the email list and then telling Wufoo to automatically add those emails to this list.

Step 4: Adding the Wufoo Form to our Landing Page Code

Finally, we’re going to download the code from our Wufoo form and add it manually to the landing page HTML code.

This is a easy step and only involves copying and pasting a couple lines of code.

Step 5: Testing the Sign Up Form

Now it’s time to take this bad boy for a spin and see if it works. Enter your own email and check for the following:

  1. You get a confirmation email sent to you from Wufoo telling you someone has subscribed to your email list
  2. The email you subscribed with has been added to your Mail Chimp list
  3. You get a confirmation email sent from you, thanking you for subscribing and letting you know that you’ll be in touch.

I’ll quickly go through this in the video below.

Step 6: Getting the Site Online

Depending on your level of knowledge, this might be all you need to get going on validating you idea. But, for those that aren’t sure what to do next, I’ve created a step by step tutorial for getting your site online.

To start, head on over to Dreamhost (opens in new tab), my choice for quality, low traffic hosting. Watch the video below for instructions on how to get your site hosted online.

Let’s Summarize

By now you should have a fully functioning site for validating your idea.

You next step is to start driving traffic to the site. You can do this through a number of channels, such as Facebook ads or guest posting on other blogs.

I’ll be covering getting traffic to your landing page at a later time. If you want that article sooner than later, please leave me a comment below and I’ll up the priority of that post.

Here are a few key points to keep in mind while going through your validation exercise:

  • A/B test your landing page – To get the most people signing up for your product, you need to try different variations of your landing page. Try changing the value proposition, features and pricing plans. Record which version does better and stick with that one.
  • Talk to the people who sign up – Don’t focus on getting as many people as possible to sign up, instead, value the people who do sign up. Reach out to them and start a dialogue. Find out what exactly it is they are looking for. Then try changing your landing page based on their feedback and see if it improves conversions.
  • Change your idea – Don’t be afraid to change your idea. If you speak to 100 people and they give you feedback on what they are looking for, don’t get defensive and stick by your original idea. Embrace feedback and change.

And please, leave your site in the comments for your validation experiment using the above code! I’d love to see them all.

Want to improve your landing page design?

Download my free eBook How to Easily Increase Landing Page Conversions by using a simple design tactic.

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  • Hassan Rashid

    CAN’T WAIT FOR THE NEXT POST!!! P.S. I’ll leave a link to my site today after editing everything 🙂

  • Sameer

    Great blog post, I don’t subscribe often but you got me! I get a lot of free time at the office albeit it has to be quiet time. Would love to be able to read the instructions as opposed to watching a YouTube video.

    • Thanks for letting me know Sameer! I think I’ll take the time to write them out, especially from now on. You can expect to see more posts like these from me coming soon, so you won’t regret subscribing!

  • ArMi

    Craig, nice post! I am just wondering what if you try to validate idea which is free at first and only later you are planning to put some paid features (a.k.a premium stuff or etc). What would be best practices for it?

    • Hey ArMi,

      Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.

      The free part of your idea would be the core value, or solution to a problem that you’re providing. The premium stuff you charge for would be extras that expand on that core value.

      So, validating a idea with a free plan is totally fine. If someone is willing to pay you, it just makes your “validation” that much stronger.

      This landing page will work totally fine for that. If you want to leave the pricing plans out, I show you how to remove them in the video tutorials.

  • Justin

    Thanks for the template Craig. I just uploaded my landing page. Made some tweaks to it, but overall kept it the same. The website is http://www.salesondemand.co Would love any feedback you have.

    • Hi Justin! Great job!!!

      Two big points. One, put back the CTA button that appears under your copy at the top. This is going to be your highest converting button on your page. Without it, you’re literally throwing away conversions.

      Two, work a bit more on your value proposition. Take a look at this article I wrote on Unique Value Propositions for some advice.

    • VWFeature

      Page loads wrong in Chrome & FF?

  • petejayhuang

    This happens to be an assignment that I have to do – create a landing page, advertise and test validation!

    • Really? Very cool! For what class?

      • petejayhuang

        UCL Technology Entrepreneurship! Check it out its really quite interesting. I’m building a new comment platform as my dissertation idea actually, any chance I could get your thoughts?

        • Sure send me an email, craig at usabilityhour dot com

  • Andrew

    Just commenting to join the “not a fan of videos” camp.

    • Good to know! If I find the time, I’m going to write this tutorial out as well.

  • Lazio

    Great post Craig, I’m building my own now. I’ll let you know when I’m done. One question, can one change the background image? I mean the blue background where one’s value proposition is place. I have a very catching image that will catch the interest of potential customers other than the text alone.
    Many thanks

    • Yup, you can easily change the background image.

      Under the images folder, just replace “bg.jpg” with your own image (name it bg.jpg as well).

      Word of warning though, make sure you choose a background that will allow the white font to contrast on top of it.

      If it’s a photo that has white in it, user an image editor to put a layer of black over it and make it 50% transparent.

      • Lazio

        Thanks Craig, I finally did change it but like you rightly said the contrast with the white font don’t look nice. I tried using image editor but the quality was compromised, I had to stick with the blue background. Thanks

        • I’m going to be releasing a “toolkit” shortly that includes various landing page templates that are easily customizable. I’ll notify you when it’s coming!

          • Lazio

            Alright, that will be great. One question please, can I change the font color?

  • Bill Glover

    I saw this when it first came up on reddit and am just getting around to validating a new idea, so I thought I would take a closer look.

    Nice tutorial, and great template!

    Even though I have experience with HTML/CSS and Mail Chimp etc. this is still a great starting point. I like the way that you ended-up with a page that is so simple that is seems responsive without having to drag in bootstrap and the kitchen sink. What was even better for me was watching how you did your explainer video. Very cool the way you avoided assuming too much about your audience’s experience level. I’m taking notes.

    • Thanks Bill!! Glad you’re getting some value from it.

  • Undead Wax

    I used your template and it’s been great. Any chance of a follow up with how to integrate with Analytics?

    My website is http://www.undeadwax.com. Thanks again!

    • Hey! I’m working on a very very big follow up to this post.

      Do you just mean how to include Google Analytics in the template?

      • Undead Wax

        Yeah I am trying to integrate Google Analytics goals to get better and more data, I figure some other readers might be looking to do the same thing. Thanks for the great post and looking forward to the follow up!

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  • Hi Craig, came across your post on reddit. I read the same article and found it helpful except he stated he had quite a few Twitter followers prior to making the landing page so he didn’t have to do anything to get that 120 signup which led to 50 customer conversations to validate his idea. I’m struggling with the traffic part / customer conversation even though I’m part of the community. Is this as more critical than paying for a landing page?

    • Hey Ashley,

      You bring up a good point. Traffic, and where it comes from, has a big impact on how your landing page performs, and that impacts your validation result.

      The best strategy I can suggest is to leverage other people’s audience.

      Find a blog who shares the same target customers as you and write a super valuable guest blog post. Pitch it to them. This isn’t as hard as it sounds.

      Make sure you tie the content into your landing page at some point (with a link). This will drive some traffic to your landing page (if the blog is big enough).

      This will be the right kind of traffic, and will have the most accurate result on whether your product idea is one that people are interested in.

      • Thanks Craig. I’m in the process of doing that now so will let you know how it goes. I started with a landing page with pricing but changed it because I didn’t know if people weren’t signing up because of the value prop or the pricing point. How do you tell the difference?

        • It’s all about trying different variations. If you have a steady flow of traffic to your site, you’ll want to try A/B testing.

          Try one version and see how many people sign up, then try switching up your value prop and pricing structure and see if that does better or worse.

  • Here’s my project cghell.com.
    Thank you so much for your advices, Craig! <3

  • Simon Brassard

    Hi Craig. Fantastic post! I am about to create my first landing page ever but their is so many different opinions on the subject. Your post helped me.

    I wondered if it was possible to change the images in the template, and if we could use an analytic tool to see our conversion rates? Thank you!

    • Thanks Simon! I’ll do a quick follow up post to explain how to set up Google Analytics and how to track conversion rates.

  • Abhe

    what a great informative post, learned a lot..i just need your help in the very last stage i am done with the landing page can you please help me with “How to link mailchimp to signup form directly without wufoo” and “How to place a survey(Google form) after they have signed up”..ASAP

  • Camilo Carrillo

    i downloaded a pdf book from you a year ago-good stuff. I wish this article was in my way 2 month ago and now my shitty idea could have proven something useful. At least i learnt some wordpress and plugin integrations, im using storefront theme (woocommerce) with page builder and mailchimp4wordpress.
    I fell in love so much with wordpress that i overlooked simple but powerfull html stuff like this and wanted to do a full ecommerce before even testing… I will test both now and slap myself in the face if yours converts more than mine !

    • You learn from mistakes, that’s the most important part!

  • Great article & great copywriting. I couldn’t wait to ‘sign up’ to your list. I come up with idea’s all the time – validation is key. Just what I needed. Thanks Craig!

    • Thanks!

      • Freddie Gonzalez

        Hey Craig,

        Just left you with a question below, so whenever you get a chance I could most certainly use your expertise! Thanks!

  • Ali Deniz Gülaçtı

    hi there, i loved your tutorial but i am terribly confused. where is the video for configuring the html?

  • Ali Deniz Gülaçtı

    useful not just for quickly prepping a validation page but also for getting warmed about html basics thanks to your comments in the code. perfect tutorial for beginners like me, your efforts are much appreciated craig. i will also share my work when i am done.

  • alexander Beck

    Amazing stuff!
    Thanks, Craig for your help.

    Unfortunately, I have issues on the wufoo page.

    I completed my landing page, made my wufoo form, copied the html into the landing page code, setup my mailchimp stuff… but when an eMail is entered there’s this error “unable to process form submission” on the wufoo page.

    The error appears with the previously entered eMail and a button to send the eMail – pressing that button completes without problems.

    It seems that the wufoo integration is wrong / different / been changed or whatever.

    BTW, my stuff is in German and hosted in Germany (maybe that’s a cause).

    I’d appreciate any insight from anyone.

    Thanks

    • alexander Beck

      I worked it out myself!
      Should anyone suffer something similar, here’s what I found out.
      Just copying the code stuff in value=”lorumipsom/lorumipsom/Ad=” from the wufoo html isn’t enough.
      I copied more and more bits and kept trying it.
      In the end I copied all three lines between and and it worked like it was supposed to.

      Good luck.

  • Shweta Saxena

    hi Craig, awesome post. Myself shweta and I run http://www.exploringstartups.com/, a community of wannapreneurs and startup entrepreneurs. Many of our users have this common query – how to validate our idea for free. When I came across your blogpost I found the exact answer to their query and was wondering if we can host your article in our blog section. Please let me know your views on the same.

    regards shweta

  • Lyn Bowker

    H Craig, just wanted to say a huge thanks for your work.

    Although I can see this post and the comments go back 2 years, I’ve only recently discovered you 🙂 I’d therefore like to know if you have an update on this matter, given the way things / tools / processes change so fast these days.

    Have followed you on Twitter today and providing you tell me the details are all still completely relevant in 2016 I’m going to do your landing page exercise to test out my biz idea which I’ve been procrastinating about what problem I should focus on to offer a solution for first. There’s so many!

    I really like the simplicity of this exercise and your extremely detailed walk through. The video thing works for me too – but having the steps set out in writing is so valuable.

    I’ve seen many recommendations about validating your biz or product idea before building it all out…but never such a detailed walk through that explains what things actually mean & why you’re doing them. I’m so grateful for the obviously large amount of work you’ve done to get this out.

    • Hi Lyn! Thanks for the kind words.

      This is simply one method of validating an idea, but it will still work and give you just as much insight as other ways.

      I would say the most valuable part of this exercise is attracting people who want to use your idea, and then being able to make direct contact with them and chat about their problems, why they want your idea, etc.

      This kind of learning will help shape how you build your first version of your product.

      Hope that helps!

  • Victor Björk

    What if I have a keyboard I want to sell. My potential customers would probably like to see how it looks etc. not just what it can do, right?

  • I’m glad I found this! As a person whose whole business model revolves around idea validation it’s great to see somone else put together an execution plan!
    Great post!

    • Freddie Gonzalez

      Hey Jeff,

      You seem to be one of the more recent folks who has commented here. I was hoping maybe you could help me? My post (right above this one actually) goes into detail, but basically when I open the zip to view the landing page, it is in script form with no UX/UI… would you happen to know the solution? Thanks!

      • It may just be old. Sorry I couldn’t help.

        • Freddie Gonzalez

          No worries! I was able to figure it out. I do have one question, maybe you can help. when I go to my webpage, a couple of the images do not load. Any idea why?

  • Freddie Gonzalez

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/420be9507b7a7ac161132c028f9a9db6e08b292cff14646220891612ebb8ecfb.jpg Hey Craig, I know that I am about 2 years behind the curve, BUT at least you know people are still finding this information useful and relevant. Question – When I open up the Zip drive and index.html, it opens it up through chrome and the page has all the same content as the one you’ve shown but is just in script form with no UX/UI. Also, when I manipulate the HTML in Sublime (which, I wasn’t able to just drag the file into Sublime, instead I had to save and then open it through Sublime) and save, I do not see it updating on the page itself (even after I refresh). HALP! I appreciate it!

    Freddie

    • Freddie Gonzalez

      I tested opening up the index page (landing page template) in a browser on a friends computer and it also appears like it does in the above photo. Could it be that the template is outdated? Sorry if this is a silly question, I’m just not incredible tech savy!

  • Bill Sanders

    Great advice, thanks, Craig!

    I would personally suggest starting even *before* building a landing page or an MVP to gauge initial interest: Time is your most valuable resource – don’t spend any more than necessary on something that you don’t even know is actually viable.

    Another point I would make is to not mistake your friends & family for your target audience – sometimes there may of course be overlaps, but a “yeah, that sounds cool” from your friends & family doesn’t cut it. There’s something called “Interviewer bias”, which means that your friends will rate your ideas more favorably than the general public.

    I’ve personally used http://www.ideacheck.io to validate my startup idea and get an initial sense of whether my ideas might actually be valuable. They take care of generating a questionnaire from the idea and put it to a panel of users from your target group. So far, the response to my ideas was mostly negative, but I’ve gained valuable feedback through this process.