5 Signs Your Startup Needs a Prototype

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A prototype is a visual, tangible representation of an application that doesn’t require full-fledged development. Our clients have found these models incredibly useful in applying a lean methodology to their application build. So how do you know if you need a prototype?startup-prototype

  1. You are seeking outside investment.  Very few investors and customers understand code, but most understand design.  A picture is worth a thousand words.  Customers and investors don’t have time for a thousand words, so designed screens do the communicating for you.
  2. You still aren’t sure whether customers will pay to use your product.  Getting this question answered as soon as possible (without investing your entire budget) will serve both you and your investors. Building a prototype and using it to sell or pre-sell your intended customers reveals volumes about usability, features, and pricing, which are all critical to success.
  3. You’re interested in user testing.  Conventional product development wisdom states that it takes four tries to get it right.  Spending a fraction of your budget on a prototype and then conducting user testing will allow you to get through a couple of product iterations while preserving cash.
  4. You have developers, but know you’ll need UX expertise to build a world-class product.  Workflow documentation is often inadequate to move quickly into production. Our UX team has been able to jump in and deliver product planning, design, and front-end code to client developer teams, which saves them from having to hire and manage, and creates massive efficiency gains for developer teams.
  5. You’re bootstrapping.  Prototyping is a great way to minimize risk at the early stage.  Most MVPs (Minimally Viable Products) require significant investment.  Getting something built shows progress, and can be used to create traction, which is a powerful currency in the early stage.

Prototypes can be incredibly powerful.  One of our startup clients invested about $20,000 in a prototype with us, used it to pre-sell contracts worth over $1MM. That demonstration of traction got them an investor round of $3.4MM.


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