You have an amazing new idea; the gears have been spinning, and you can’t wait to get started. You know it solves a real problem that many people experience, and you think it’s worth your time and investment. But do other people want to solve the problem the same way you do? Will they be as excited about your solution as you are?

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If you want to build a new house, do you go straight to the construction worker? No, you first work with an architect. Just like building a house, building digital products requires some forethought and planning. After all, it would be a travesty to build a house with a toilet in the middle of the kitchen; that would make going to the bathroom really uncomfortable. Similarly, you want to make sure the structure and layout of your product guarantees a smooth flow for customers and users.

Pros of the Prototype

Whether you want to build a business around a physical or digital product, one of the essential early steps in the inventing process is creating a prototype. With a prototype, you get to see your idea transformed into something tangible and real before investing significant funds in working directly with software developers.
In the digital world, a prototype is a series of drawings linked together that mimic the website or mobile app that makes up your vision. Creating a prototype is smart, and it also can be very exciting. This is your opportunity to tap into the creativity and problem-solving skills that inspired your idea in the first place.

We use the term “Minimal Viable Product,” or MVP, to describe this first prototype as it is the smallest possible group of features that make up a standalone product. This MVP needs to demonstrate enough features so that you can do customer research and validation. Most entrepreneurs are very optimistic and sometimes overlook this very crucial step.

Why is it important to prototype before hiring software developers? Building a prototype is significantly cheaper than going directly to build, and it can help protect you from the many common reasons startups fail. For example, pointing to several different reasons, failed startups ranked “no market need,” “ran out of cash,” “poor product,” and “need/lack business model” at the top of the list. With a prototype, you can:

  • Solicit more useful and actionable feedback from the people you speak to.
  • Refine your product features iteratively, quickly and affordably.
  • Describe your product more effectively with your stakeholders, potential investors, and business partners.
  • Validate your business model and estimate the business opportunity.
  • Detail the requirements to a development team in a way that minimizes costly changes in the future.

With an early prototype, you can prove the market efficiently, effectively and without investing too much too soon.

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