Some good ideas here. My thinking is, You cant really validate an idea without building something first. Unles there is a way to validate ideas first. You will need at least a website and a minimal viable product of some sort , to see if you can sign users up.
We recently built and launched startmydomain for people who want to build a coming soon website, and collect visitor emails. We though it was a great idea, as using the service you can throw together a coming soon website, in minutes, without coding or hosting.
But I am going to be completely honest here, we are having a hard time getting users on the site. We though this would be a no brainier, as already people currently have to download templates, wire them up, do some coding and find a hosting company. We thought , hey, this is brilliant, but just because we though it was brilliant does not mean others will.
I am not sure if I should keep the site up, or shut it down. It is a gamble though, to build something at it takes up a lot of time and effort. If there was a way to validate ideas and not products it would save us all a lot of work .
I oppose the conventional wisdom that it's always cheaper to test through non-programming methods than to build pieces of an MVP in real code. I'm a software engineer. With 17 years of experience. It's much cheaper for me to build, both in time and in psychological friction. It all depends on who you are and the relative costs of different actions to you. The risk for me is not that it's less expensive to test with non-programming methods, but that I'm always tempted to polish to perfection before releasing, because pride in my craft competes with business reality in my set of values. But I digress.
To answer your original question, I'll piggyback off of @[Rob G] and say that it's important to keep in mind adoption order. Remember Crossing the Chasm? Moore defines the subsets of the population who adopt technologies and products first, second, last, and so on. Build the version of the product that will attract the innovators first, and the early adopters second. As you hit each stage, you'll need to change your product to attract new segments while retaining previous ones. Because network effects work the way they do, this acquisition order is key in building your network.