How to Build Amazing Prototypes Quickly
Everyone talks about a prototype or a “minimum viable product” but what is it and how can you go about making your own for your startup?
Well to first set the scene a “Minimum Viable Product” or “Prototype” is the absolute bare minimum version of your product that you can test with a customer.
It should be a very rough, quick & dirty version of your product or service. Something that is just good enough for the customer to get a feeling for what the final product experience might look like.
I’ll say this one more time – it does NOT have to be a finished product. Check the prototype examples from famous companies on the second page – notice how basic they tend to be – the focus is always on showing one value of the product not the entire finished thing.
But anyway, why do you need a prototype?
It’s simple. You have a great idea in your head for a product. But that’s all it is: an idea. It’s an assumption you have that customers will LOVE your product and that you’re guaranteed to make millions.
Nine times out of 10 that is NOT the case. Most startups will end up with a product that was very different from their initial idea or they will fail because they didn’t build prototypes and get honest feedback from their customers.
A prototype allows you to test your assumptions with real customers helping you to go from a great idea in your head to a product that customers love, really quickly.
If you need any more help with prototyping just hit us up at: email@example.com
5 Tips for Building a Great Prototype Quickly
● One of the core principles of prototyping is that it should happen FAST.
● Aim to develop your prototype as quickly as possible in just a few days max – not weeks.
● The quicker you develop your first prototype the sooner you can begin to get feedback from customers to improve your product.
● Don’t waste precious time perfecting your prototype – get it out into the world ASAP.
2. Focus on ONE Core Value
● Start by asking yourself what’s the one core value that I can deliver to my customers.
● Then go prototype this one feature or aspect of your product.
● In some cases, this might be your basic product, in other cases, it may be only one feature of your product – choose whichever brings your customer the core value.
● The main point here is to avoid building a product with loads of features, instead start with what’s most important, validate that part with customers and build from there.
3. Consider Storyboarding or Customer Journey Maps
● For service or complicated technology consider using a customer journey map
● You can use this to map out how the customer currently faces their problem and then show how it is improved with your solution.
● A powerful & visual way to show exactly HOW your customer might use your product.
● The most important thing is to let the customer experience what it might be like to use the final product (HINT: This is why customer journey maps can be really effective).
● Try to capture the feeling of using your product or service in your prototype.
● Remember this is a MINIMUM viable product – it doesn’t need to be perfect, just good enough for the customer to get an idea of how it MIGHT look & feel.
● Here are some typical prototype examples: Paper prototype, storyboard, clickable prototype, explainer video, a fake online store, or landing page.
Quick Pro Tip: How to Frame your Prototype Testing
● When testing tell your customers, you’re testing out something new with this prototype.
● Saying “it’s a prototype” out loud reduces the expectations of a finished product & opens up customers more to give constructive feedback.
● Here’s a list of 10 super prototypes used by successful startups in their early days!
5 Tools for Prototyping
To help you get started with building a prototype here are some great free prototyping tools!
Miro’s Customer Journey Template
• Miro is an amazing tool for workshops, capturing your ideas & mapping processes.
• They have a detailed blog on customer journey mapping including multiple templates.
• This form of prototyping is particularly good for MedTech startups or service-based solutions.
• An extremely popular website for building literally any web app.
• Fantastic for a no-code fast prototype (yes, that’s right no coding experience required!)
• They’ve even got an academy with videos & guides showing you how to build your app (or famous apps like Duolingo or Uber Eats) with Bubble.io.
• This is a lot like bubble.io but has the added value of tools to support collaboration.
• You can easily design your web app & work on the same design as part of a team
• Students (or educators I guess) can apply for a free education plan free
• They have loads of guides for best practices and free templates to get you started
• I love animation videos because they help capture more emotion & experience.
• Demonstrate how your product will work with this free video animation tool.
• They’ve got loads of stock images & videos + templates to create your video quickly.
• They also have PowToon Labs with eBooks, podcasts, articles, tutorial & more.
• I LOVE this one: It converts any paper prototype or image into a clickable demo app.
• Very similar to Bubble.io & Figma but they also have mobile app versions as well.
• They have tonnes of free resources too: like eBooks, webinars & a free video course on prototyping basics!
• For more prototyping tools check out this cool list by Board of Innovation
• How to create a clickable prototype in Microsoft PowerPoint
BEST OF LUCK!
In case we missed some important tips or prototyping resources please send us a message so we can post it for all entrepreneurs as part of our free Startup Toolkit!
And of course, reach out if you need anything!
Dr. Alan Armstrong