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What is prototyping and why use it to test your ideas? What do you think of when you hear the word prototyping? Isn’t it something that inventors or tech wizards or developers do? Is it about building a robot or a working model of a tech product or software app?
Today we are here to bust a few myths about prototyping and demonstrate to you that this is actually a critical practice for developing new products, no matter who you are, how far along the process you are, or how technical or non-technical your product is.
Let’s start with three different myths about prototyping, to show you what prototyping is and is not.
What is prototyping and why is it necessary to test your ideas? A prototype by some popular definitions is stated as ‘an early sample model or release of a product built to test a concept or process’. We’re not really the biggest fans of this type of definition, as it kind of denotes that a prototype of a product should be pretty far fleshed out.
The fact is that you can build a prototype way sooner than any formal development takes place. In fact, you can prototype an idea that could be currently living in your head right now. Our GrowGetters definition of a prototype is ‘a partially formed mockup that’s been designed to test a product idea with your intended or ideal users’.
So when we use the word ‘prototype’, this can be as rough or as far as you want it to be, long as you are able to really test the idea with your ideal users.
All right, so onto myth number two. This one is also wrong.
Again, prototypes can take just about any form. From simple sketches, and mood boards to storyboards, to even improv and role-playing. It could be a splash page or a sales page on a website, or it can just be some roughly drawn-out paper prototypes and wireframes. It can be as creative and as lofi as it needs to be to get the idea across.
But the thing is, it should be rapid because you want to learn as much about your users interacting with your idea as early and as quickly as possible. And why is that? Well, It’s so you can make changes and improvements to the idea before going into build mode and even starting to spend any more time on it.
Myth number three is also wrong! You can employ prototyping for just about any idea you have. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a physical product, but it can be a service, it can be an experience, or even a digital content-based product.
You might be asking right now, why do I even need to prototype an idea? Well, it’s because prototyping allows you to test your idea with the people that matter the most: your desired customers or users.
One of the key aspects of prototyping is that it generates empathy for your ideal users. Any product designed without understanding your customer’s needs can result in superfluous or even annoying features. It can result in poor designs and ultimately it can even, not really solve a genuine problem your users might have.
When you’re prototyping, it’s like your customers are giving you a gift. They’re giving you a gift of the feedback that they have for your rough sketch, your mockup, and your rough prototype. That’s a gift because you are getting so many valuable insights into how they perceive and would use your product. And you’re getting them at such an early stage of the process that you can mold that product to their needs before spending any time, money, and energy developing a fully finished product. And then testing it.
So in this way, you are almost co-creating the idea for the product with your customers, and it allows you to fail fast if necessary. When we say fail fast, we mean you will save a ton of headaches, time, and money by testing an idea before it’s even touched the build, design, or production phases.
In a nutshell, the main point of prototyping is iteration. You are prototyping early, so you can refine your concept or idea in a really iterative process. It’s rapid. It’s very much a process of testing, learning, and implementing.
Before you even think about building a product or launching it, prototyping is also just as much about learning as it is actually about doing. Even the sheer act of prototype is getting you one step closer to taking that idea out of your head and actually doing something about it.
What prototyping hacks can you use to test your ideas? We are going to give you a few brilliant prototyping hacks to get that idea out of your head and into the hands of your potential future users without building a single thing.
Ever heard of the saying that an image says more than a thousand words? Well, that’s exactly what a mood board is intended to convey. A mood board is a compilation or collage of images, text, and materials, usually on a poster, or on a virtual canvas. It should be highly visual and convey a sense of emotion or feeling in a really quick and easy way.
Using a mood board as a prototype is a really great medium if you want to communicate a certain atmosphere around your product or service, or if you wanna communicate any multisensory qualities of your product. You can present your mood board to your test users to gauge their initial feedback on the emotional sense of what your idea hopes to convey.
Hack number two is the use of paper wireframes. A traditional wireframe, in case you don’t know, is used for a digital product or service, which shows in a 2D way what it will look like and do from a purely functional perspective. It looks a little bit like a blueprint of an app.
Paper wireframing is pretty much the same, except it’s the really quick and easy paper version of it. This is when you are really sketching it out.
This is a little hack for the early project phases, especially when it’s a digital content product. Since you can really iterate quickly through lots of design changes, you can start testing usability, switch around features, and you can do it directly with your intended users or customers.
Hack number three is creating a sales page. Can you actually articulate that idea in your head into a sales page for it? How would you sell this idea?
This is a really awesome way to test with your intended users to see if your idea is compelling enough or interesting enough for them to actually click through and sign up.
Again, why should you use prototyping to test your ideas? You could even test if your ideal customers would click through and sign up to buy. Depending on the nature of your product, you might be in a position to already pre-sell the product before it’s been built. And honestly, nothing says ‘I’m into your product’ more than when your users hand over their cash and put their money where their mouth is.
That’s a wrap for today! We hope we’ve made prototyping a bit more accessible, a little bit more practical, and most importantly: fun for you.
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