It is hard to decide for young startups how to build their product and which feature to build next. To do so it’s crucial to find out what the customer wants without spending too many resources to build already complex solutions that might never be used. That´s why prototyping is common sense for many teams to test their ideas first with a prototype before developing them with high costs and risk.
But how do you build a good prototype, what traps should you be aware of? First of all, there is no general solution to this question. Every product or feature is individual and needs a unique prototype. So how to get started then?
From a prototype, you want to learn something, and to do this, some known guidelines lead to success. This blog post will share the most important prototyping principles to get great insights from your next prototype.
1. Set a goal for the prototype
First, you have to be clear about what you want to test and improve. After deciding what you want to test, write it down and make it visible. With a tangible goal, you will have it much more manageable.
2. Trying is better than thinking
One main thing of prototyping is getting honest feedback on ideas instead of simply assuming you already have the answer. However, with this mindset, many great solutions would never have been discovered and it is not helpful for the process in which new solutions should be explored. Instead, explore with a fresh mind and start testing quickly, to get real insights.
3. Done is better than perfect
It is vital to limit the scope to what is needed to create the prototype. Don’t get stuck in every detail of the prototype. Aim for a minimum viable value instead of technically almost finished solutions.
4. If you can’t make it, fake it
There might be parts of your product that you cannot build right away. To avoid running in one direction at great expense, offering the customer the underlying function without actually having the expected finished solution is worthwhile. If the test is positive, you can put effort and cost into the feature with a clear conscience.
5. Don’t fall in love with your first idea
To find the best solution for your purpose it is necessary to be open to changes and new ideas. Try to feel comfortable in a fluent state and test several alternatives. If you fine-tune your idea too early, it’s hard to develop and explore alternatives.
6. Iterate and refine
After receiving new insights, the quickest way to check whether you understood this feedback right is to develop another prototype. Usually, prototypes go through several rounds of iteration in this way. This requires a culture of fast prototyping to hold down failures and lead to faster learnings.
Don’t lose too much time with overplanning and start testing. Ask yourself “How can the same experience be conveyed quickly and cheaply, or the same benefits delivered as with the finished solution?”.