So many startups fail because they are working for months on a product without testing or getting any feedback from their users. They launch the product only to quickly realize their solution is not solving any real problem or need. Every product decision the team makes shouldn’t be taken by gut feeling or by what the founders think is cool, it should be based on data and user feedback. We think this is a skill and a process that every team that is serious about their software solution should aspire to master.
Having a team focused on testing and feedback gathering will definitely pay dividends in the long run. Creating multiple prototypes for different hypotheses is a great way to get feedback in a less time-consuming and cost-effective manner, than creating the whole product or even the MVP.
Both MVP and Prototypes help your startup save time and money, but they fulfill different purposes. In this article, we will explain what the purpose of prototyping is and why you should focus on this process, before launching anything to the market.
Simply put, a prototype is just an approximation of your mobile product, used only for testing purposes, in a closed environment like a user testing-focused group or when pitching your business to investors for raising your Seed investment.
Prototypes are meant to answer questions, keep them focused on the hypothesis that you want to validate. You don’t need a fully functional product, just an easy and quick to build prototype so you can answer a specific set of questions.
More than that, their purpose is to quickly understand what challenges your users are facing when using your product and to test different flows and user stories. These tests are meant to improve the users’ experience of your mobile product and to build rapport with your early adopters.
An essential use case for your prototypes is to test if your app features are solving the problems of your target market. There is no need to code the whole feature, your team can simply create/draw some wireframes and link them together in order to create a functional prototype.
If your users are happy with the direction that the product is going and they think that will be a solution for their problem – that they will actually use (or even better, they want to buy the prototype), then you have the first sign of problem-solution fit.
This method of validation will also significantly reduce time-to-market since you don’t have to code + test + promote anything. Only the features that are validated after this process will go forward to development. In short, the number of flows that have to be improved will be reduced to a minimum before product release.
Now let’s talk a little bit about your early adopters or as Steve Blank liked to call them: your earlyvangelists. That group of people that really believe in the vision of your startup / share your vision, the persons that are willing to pay upfront in full, just to be the first that can put their hands on the product, even if it still has bugs and missing features.
Knowing who they are is crucial for every startup. Having interviews with different kinds of users will help you see patterns, understand their behaviors and discover why some users are really passionate about your vision. Also, if identified correctly and if you spend a little bit more time with them, you will be amazed by the feedback that they can give you (some of them can have real problems that you didn’t even think of).
After you discovered them, keep the relationship warm by keeping them up to date with the progress of the product. Remember, it is really important to treat these users as your heroes, because eventually if they become fans of your mobile app, they will be your influencers.
Let’s talk a little bit about the business side of things.
Prototypes also can be great for getting more stakeholders on board, like early investors (and is a great way to understand if the startup arouses interest in the investor communities), new team members and even mentors.
If you document all the versions of your product wireframes and mockups, you basically have a progress history of the product. This product history can be even more valuable if you add a spreadsheet or a PDF with all of the hypotheses that were tested, the results (user feedback), insights and in the end what made the team take that set of decisions. Fails should really be documented too, they will show a trial & error mindset, the thought process behind your decisions and the fact that every move was based on data.
BONUS TIP: Documents like these provide a sense of ownership to the startup stakeholders, this can make them become even more attached to the startup and its purpose, – the “Why” of the company.
If you’re still not sure how to use prototypes, or simply, need some help to develop your mobile app, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re always happy to help world-changing companies launch their next mobileReady product.