Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Whether you are developing a disruptively innovative product or a uniquely repurposed solution, and no matter how clear your idea and vision seem on paper, designing as simple as a paper prototype is the quickest and simplest way to identify and fill missing gaps while taking a different idea evaluation perspective.

Prototyping is an invaluable tool for every startup. While no entrepreneur is immune to making mistakes, prototyping is how you can make cheaper mistakes before making further investments in time and money. Here are three important reasons why you should create a prototype to develop your startup app idea.

1. Define Product Features

One of the biggest advantages of building prototypes in the very early stage of startup development is that it affords you greater clarity of your product features and functionality. Even with low-fidelity, hand-drawn prototypes, you can expand on your product idea and build finely detailed product attributes into your prototype. 

As you progress towards more advanced stages of prototyping using wireframes, clickable prototyping tools and even 3D printers, you can develop a superior understanding of the design and flow of your product as well as define and better understand the difference between must-have and good-to-have features.

Furthermore, technical or non-technical, anyone can prototype. With today’s no-code tools, you can create the first version of your product prototype in an afternoon. In fact, if you are a non-technical founder, your prototype will significantly simplify your presentation and explanation of product features and functionalities to your development recruits. 

Additionally, your prototype, along with your product requirements document, will provide your team with all the information they need to accurately estimate your project, which makes prototyping a great way to reduce avoidable expenses accrued as a result of building the wrong product or focusing on the wrong metrics.

2. Test And Sell Your Idea

Your demonstration is worth a million words. I found many entrepreneurs do a great job at creating a prototype for their ideas but hesitate to use it to sell the product or, at least, attract early adopters and future buyers. Robinhood and Dropbox are just two of many startups that attracted hundreds of thousands of early users with just a prototype.

Startups with a prototype are much more successful at pre-selling their ideas. If you are solving a big problem, customers will commit and help you fund its solution. Here’s a simple three-step process for idea validation and pre-selling.

  1. Interview future customers to learn about their needs and expectations. The interviews will help you better understand your market gap and opportunity to create a solution people need and will pay for.
  2. Create a clickable prototype that incorporates your value proposition refined from the insights gained through customer interviews.
  3. Create an irresistible pre-sale offer for your product and present it to your interviewees while using your prototype to demonstrate the value proposition.

One of the benefits of customer interviews is the relationship-building aspect of speaking with future customers. Their commitment decision is going to depend on their trust in your ability to deliver the solution.

With a few sales in hand, you will get a much clearer picture of your ideal customer profile and use the insights to design marketing campaigns targeting the same group which increases your chances of closing more deals.

3. Raise Funds

Whether you are looking to raise funds from customers or investors, your prototype will not only help you sell your vision but also, it serves as a signal of interest and commitment showing your investors that you have done your homework to articulate your value proposition through a visual, and better yet, functional solution.

In sum, think of your prototype as a marketing, development, sales, fundraising, ideation, validation, relationship building, and business development tool. It’s one of the investments with probably the highest guaranteed return you can make. Because in the worst case, you can quickly and cheaply learn that your product is not worth making in the first place, saving you tens of thousands of dollars and months of work.

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