I am sometimes referred to as the idea guy but back in my twenties, no one was willing to give me a dime to bring these ideas to life. I ended up using my own money and time to learn what it took to execute an idea. I’m glad no one gave me money in my twenties as it would all have been lost. My ideas ranged from bad to great but I had not yet learned the skills needed to bring those ideas to life.
If you have no track record of building products and companies, you are in the same shoes I was in my twenties. People might be excited about your idea and even want to be involved in some capacity but as soon as they are asked to pull out their checkbooks they take a few steps backward. The request for money causes most people to immediately think logically and evaluate the risk. With no track record, the risk of failure is perceived to be very high which is why it is extremely difficult to raise funding. This is where a working prototype becomes critical.
I dedicate a full chapter on this topic in my upcoming book, which is available now for pre-sale. In this article, I want to give you the thirty-thousand-foot view of the importance of a prototype and how to go about building one.
What exactly is a prototype? In software development, a prototype is a working model of your product. It is the intersection between your idea and the MVP (minimal viable product). The primary goal of your prototype is to help you flesh out the key features before building the MVP and to demonstrate that you are capable of execution and give you credibility in the eyes of early investors.
Some questions to ask before building a prototype
How do you see your product solving the problem?
What is the business model and how will you generate revenue?
What are the main features and how will they work together?
Who will you get feedback from as you build the prototype?
A prototype will allow you to fine-tune your design and functionality, and you become clear on the types of users you need to support. When you present anyone a prototype, they will undoubtedly take you more seriously.
Handing over a prototype to a designer and a developer will guarantee a smoother development process and allows a developer to provide feedback on what is possible and what is not.
Steps for Building your Prototype
Step 1 is research. Study competitor products and get inspiration for how you would design your prototype.
Step 2 is making a list of the features that you think are needed in your prototype while being cautious of scope creep.
Step 3 is to identify user groups, which can be differentiated by age, need, frequency, and information.
Step 4 is to create sketches of the main pages of your web or mobile app.
Step 5 is to turn your sketch into a wireframe and create flow charts for important features to capture the user’s journey.
Step 6 is to create your prototype.
While it may sound like there’s a lot of work to do to get to step 6, it’s because it is indeed a lot of work. At each step, you get the opportunity to fine-tune your product, get feedback, and further validate your problem statement and your value proposition at a very low cost.
Once you have a prototype, your main focus should be getting relevant feedback. From the feedback, you’ll then be able to modify the prototype before proceeding to build your MVP. By being laser-focused on the problem and the market, you increase the chances of a successful MVP, cheaper development process, and gain credibility that you can actually execute and you are not all talk.
To dive deeper into the value and process of building a prototype and list of resources to help you along the way, please check out my book Side Adventure by clicking here. Pre-sale now. Shipping on April 22nd.