Prototyping means creating an early version of a future product, starting to develop its layout.
The prototyping process is relatively fast, which makes it possible to test the basic product functionality long before the end of development.
The main goal of prototyping is to understand whether the product really implements the core idea and satisfies the users’ needs.
If not, the layout changes and adapts until it becomes a strong base for a future product.
Why prototyping is worth doing
For both small startups and big enterprises, prototyping has great practical importance.
On the one hand, prototyping underlines possible weaknesses of the core idea and intended implementation methods, and, on the other hand, it clears the way for effective solutions.
We have highlighted 5 main reasons why prototyping is worth doing.
Reason №1. A picture is worth a thousand words
At the very beginning, when the customer and the team are discussing the idea of the product and its implementation, everything seems transparent. However, hearing and seeing are not the same thing.
Only prototyping gives all parties a unified perception of what the product should actually be.
Whether the prototype is interactive or paper - it doesn’t matter. The prototype’s objectives are to demonstrate the basic capabilities and general concept of the product, and most critically, to give the product owner and tech team an understanding that they are both looking in the same direction.
Reason №2. The faster you fail, the sooner you succeed
Prototyping includes the process of testing hypotheses and finding the best solution.
The speed of prototype creation is a big advantage here: the earlier the team tests various technical approaches in product development, the sooner unsuitable ones will be detected and the best ones will be found.
Working on one startup project, Techstack developed an application to search for user photos on external Internet resources using just a selfie. Having started work on the prototype, our team faced a challenge: there are many good services and libraries that detect and recognize faces in photos, but there are practically no solutions that can compare faces to identify a person.
Having developed several prototypes and convinced of the inefficiency of the technologies used, we decided to test the idea of using AI and deep neural networks. The result was excellent: this technical stack made it possible to detect, compare and match faces in photos - in different locations, with different shooting quality, lighting method, face angle, and position.
The end result was an application that can find any user image in external resources based only on their selfies. Prototyping helped find the most appropriate technical solution to implement this idea.
Reason №3. The optimal solution can reduce customer costs
One of the strongest benefits of prototyping: it helps save money, time, and resources.
A multimillion-dollar investment in a product, the implementation of which can only be seen in 5 years, is a serious risk for a business. There are many reasons for concern: the product may not be in demand, the market situation may change, etc.
In the meantime, the flexibility of prototyping allows you to see the basic version of the product as soon as possible, and just as quickly assess its performance - in user interaction, in market behavior - anywhere.
Also, let’s not forget about finding the best technical services described above.
During the prototyping process, the tech team looks for both technically efficient and financially viable solutions.
One customer contacted Techstack with a request to reduce server costs.
After initial analysis, our team found that the excess server expenses were due to the monolithic architecture on which the platform was based.
Server resizing and auto-scaling could not solve the issue well enough, so we refactored some parts of the application using serverless technology. This approach helped to cut the server costs in half and completely maintain app functionality.
Reason №4. Dropping excess weight shifts focus on important things
When brainstorming features to improve the product, keep in mind the main purpose of its creation.
Prototyping highlights the focal points: only necessary features that directly affect the product functionality, only optimal technologies that ensure the product quality.
Moving from prototype to prototype, the product owner and tech team come to a really good product which fits into the market, achieves business goals, and is liked by users.
Based on marketing research, a customer contacted Techstack with a request to improve the product with about 10 new features. During the prototyping process, our team found that to meet brand new users’ needs (as well as those of the market), it was enough to implement only two main features.
Testing and launch of a subsequent product fully confirmed this hypothesis: the product, improved by two new features, has now taken one of the leading market positions.
Reason №5. Clients first
The product owner and tech team can believe in the high usability and unconditional success of the future product, but without user testing, these thoughts are just hypotheses.
Of course, full product testing among real users is possible no earlier than the onset of the MVP stage.
However, prototypes can be effectively tested in small groups to determine how much users like the product.
An advantage of user testing at this stage is prototype flexibility. Having tested the basic version of the product and received feedback, the tech team can make the necessary changes and adapt the product to the real users’ needs in short order. Fast iterations of “testing - analyzing feedback - making changes” improve the prototype until it best meets the users’ needs and becomes a truly excellent base for a real product.
The development process is a journey from an initial idea to a successful product and prototyping gives you a head start on this challenging journey.
By creating an early model, you test ideas, technical hypotheses, user reactions, find the best solutions, and as a result, build a strong foundation for the future product.
And that is a strong case for why prototyping is worth doing.