Have you ever heard of the so-called Fake-Door Testing? If not:

Fake-door testing is a very easy method by which we can measure interest in a product (or a new feature of the product) with very little need for real development or programming.

The process is made up of 4 steps:

  1. We create a landing page, where we explain the purpose of the service (optimally in one sentence). Users can also register here.
  2. Then advertise the landing page and begin to bring in potential registered users.
  3. After that we send a message to the registered users, saying “Apologies, but this function/service is not yet available – but we will inform you when its ready.”
  4. Eventually we measure how many people “register” on our page (by number and in percentage as well).

It’s this easy. If enough people register, then we can suspect if the product is worthwhile to develop – or not.

The advantages of fake-door-testing:

  1. You obviously save a lot of development time and money
  2. You can validate (or bin) your idea in a short time-frame
  3. If you’re skillful you can collect many relevant email addresses who you can notify during the real launch. (In fact, you can bring them in for usability tests and user interviews.)

Any of the above 3 can be key to launching a new business. At the same time, it’s good to keep the disadvantages in mind as well.

The disadvantages of fake-door-testing:

1) It’s not too kind.

Fact: There will be users who will feel like you scammed them and will not use your product for this very reason. BUT! Don’t forget that during the first testing phase you only reach out to a small part of your target audience – so, if you’re good, then the long-term fate of your business will not depend on this.

2) It decreases your credibility – especially if accidentally let’s say a journalist gets involved who will post about it in the media. Because of this you have to be very careful if you are an already working business and you want to validate a new function. (e.g. You may have seen such messages on Facebook:

fake-door testing

I never actually read or heard case studies about fake-door-testing from a Facebook developer directly, but the legends say that Facebook also did this. :-))

These are the things to consider before trying fake-door-testing.

Do it like a pro! A few tips:

Let’s see what kind of tips and tricks there are for a perfect fake-door test:

  1. Preferably, the user should not know that there is no product. So “lie like a pro”… But of course you need to find a balance between how accurate you want the testing to be (your product is a total scam) and how big remorse you want to feel at the end of the day (and because of this, you hint at the fact that there is no product).
  2. Collect email addresses! This is good for a number of reasons. For one, your marketing costs are not going to waste. Secondly, it will be easier to communicate to your registered users that there will be a product and they are not being scammed (that much).
  3. If you’re not up for creating a landing page, you can make an “advertisement-test” as well. This means that you put $50 on a Facebook ad and you watch the CTR. (It could also take our user to a completely fake domain). If it’s high enough, then you’re good. Although you will have 2 problems: you can’t collect email addresses. Also, your ad may not be doing well because you targeted incorrectly (and not because the product is bad).

Supplements (thanks to Krisztián Toba!):  “ad testing” can be done with a lead-type ad, so you don’t have to give up on valuable email addresses. In more detail:

  1. Define accurate measurements! Like with all other tests, you need easily measurable goals! (e.g. CTR, number of registered users, proportion of registered users, etc…)
  2. Communicate well! As there is a little spoof in this tool, your communication with the users must be sensitive. (Eg. don’t write “Haha you blew it, there is no product at all, and we got your email address.” – but “Apologies, this product is not yet available. But we are working really hard on it and your registration gives us extra motivation. We promise that you will be the first to know about future developments!” Of course a scriptwriter will be able to write a better one.)

Wanna give it a go?

There was a time I didn’t like fake-door-testing. But actually it does have the advantage that I couldn’t not use it. If you’ve already tried it, then share your experiences –  feel free to add your comments!

Good luck!

And if you want to be notified first about new content on data36 blog (like articles, videos, handbooks, etc.), sign up for the Newsletter!

Tomi Mester