Creating a product is a very complex process. However, there’s no point I starting the design and development works without validating your idea. It’s the very first step for every new product idea. Without proper validation you risk wasting time, materials and money on a product that doesn’t stand a chance on the market. Building a prototype is one of the best ways to validate your product idea and the first step to creating a product that users will love. So, how can you create a prototype to validate your idea?

What Are Prototypes?

Before we dive into specific methods of how you can make a prototype and test it, let’s first establish what prototyping actually is. Prototypes are used to capture concepts and ideas into tangible forms that can be tested. They are like sketches of the final product. Prototypes represent all the functionalities of the product without any of the additional visuals (like branding, pictures or illustrations). Prototypes can be of various different fidelity levels – from a simple sketch on paper to a highly-functional digital prototype made using InVision or Figma. Depending on the project stage and specific testing needs, you can use different levels of fidelity. For example, if you’re just getting started with a new idea, there’s no need to make a high-fidelity interactive prototype. Instead, you can make a low-cost paper one to test on a few users and get their initial feedback. Generally speaking, the further along the design process you are, the higher fidelity should the prototypes be.

Why Should I Bother Prototyping?

From our experience, most companies don’t really grasp why prototyping is so beneficial. For many it seems like a waste of time. However, it truly is the fastest and cheapest way to test your product. So, what are some key benefits of prototyping?

1. Minimize Risk

First of all, prototyping early on will help you minimize risks. The sooner you build a prototype, the sooner you will find errors and mistakes. Prototyping is also the best way to get a better understanding of what the users are looking for and how they perceive your product idea. Without such research, you risk building a product that will not hold its own on the market.

2. Test Ideas

Prototypes are a great way of quickly testing feature ideas. If you create even a simple paper prototype, you will be able to quickly test new concepts and get almost instant feedback from your team and target users. Prototypes are helpful tools, at every stage of the design process.

3. Provide A Sense Of Ownership

A prototype can create a sense of ownership within all the stakeholders, making it easier for them to engage with the project. If you sense that someone on the team is not that invested, presenting them with a prototype will be a good step towards creating an emotional bond with the product.

4. Better Pitch

When pitching your idea to someone within your company or to outside investors, it’s good to have a prototype at hand. People who you’re pitching your business idea to will get to see and experience the product before they make a decision, which may greatly influence whether they decide to back you. After all, it’s better to make decisions about something you can actually see and use than to decide on a completely imaginary product.

5. Get Surprising Insights

Some insights are impossible to come by without prototypes. What do I mean? Well, when testing your prototype with the target users you may come across insights you would not otherwise have found. Things like accessibility issues or unexpected edge cases. Getting those insights during prototyping ahead of time and preparing for them before you launch the product will help you avoid costly mistakes and help make your product more user-friendly.

Build Prototypes To Create Better Products

As you can see, there’s a lot of benefits to prototyping. But perhaps the biggest one is this – prototyping enables you and your team to build better products. And better products mean more satisfied users. And that leads to growth and increased revenue. So, basically what every company wants. Think of it this way – investing in prototypes early on is much cheaper than paying to solve issues later, when the product has launched. You will avoid a ton of unnecessary work by spending a bit more time on testing your ideas. Now that you’re convinced that building prototypes is the way to go, let’s get into how to create and test good prototypes.

First Steps With Prototyping

Before you dive into drawing actual prototypes, you should do some basic research on your business idea in general. Get an overview of the market, competitors and the user’s needs. This way, you will be able to direct your ideas into specific segments of the market and create a better prototype. Here’s some questions you need to ask yourself and your team before you move on with the process:

1. What Problem Will The Product Solve?

First, ask yourself how your product will help the users. Without identifying how you will be able to help the target audience, you can’t move on to designing the solution. Think about possible use cases. You might want to try creating a problem statement to get a general overview of the purpose of your product.

2. What Similar Products Are Already On The Market?

Try to find competitive products that people are using now. Search not only within the same industry as your business but also across other industries. You might find something that solves the same problem but regarding a different target group.

3. Who Is The Target User? What Are Their Goals?

The next thing you need to get to know is who are your target users. What do they really want and need? What are they looking for from your product? How will it integrate into their daily lives? How will they be using it? Don’t get tangled with your own expectations, try to really think outside the box and place yourself inside the user-like mindset.

4. What Type Of Product Is It?

With the target user and their goals in mind, think about what type of product you should make. Depending on the target audience, they may need it to work on different devices and platforms. For example, some age groups are more likely to use mobile devices while others prefer using web devices. You need to know what you’re actually making before starting to work on your first prototype.

5. What Are The Goals For The Prototyping Process?

The last thing to set before getting to work on your prototypes is the goals. Before you actually create the prototype, you need to have an idea of what you want them to achieve. Depending on your specific goals, you may want to create a higher or lower fidelity prototype. This will also determine whether you need to build a digital prototype or whether a simple paper one will be enough.

Drawing Your First Prototype

After you’ve gathered all the information and have an idea of what the product might look like, it’s time to get started with drawing your prototype. Start with gathering your materials (whether it will be a pen and paper or a marker and a whiteboard) and start sketching. If it’s your first time designing a prototype, you might want to use a free template of the device you’re designing for. There’s plenty of free device designs available online that you can download and draw on. It will make it easier for you to create something that’s suited perfectly for a certain device.

Sketch User Flows

It’s important that your sketch will show the user flow of the product. Make sure to mark what happens when the user does a certain action (basically, what happens when they click a button or a section). After you create a few screens, you will get a better idea of what’s the overall shape of the product, and it will become easier to create a user flow.

Give Yourself Time

Although we tend to use prototypes for rapid testing, you don’t have to rush the process if it’s your first time drawing a prototype. When working with materials like pen and paper you have the advantage of being able to experiment and try out various different concepts. Don’t get stressed when your prototype doesn’t look good or looks messy. The point of a prototype is to explore different ideas and designs for free, without the need to build an actual app.

Hand-Made Designs Are Different From Digital Ones

When working on a paper prototype you will get a better idea of where content like pictures and illustrations fit into the design. However, you need to keep in mind that the size of your writing and drawings is not representative of digital designs and, therefore, when you decide to move on to a higher fidelity prototype, it may look different and you may have to change the length of your content etc.

High-Fidelity Prototypes

After you’ve created paper prototypes you’re happy with, you can try to create high-fidelity prototypes. However, there’s not always a need for a high-fidelity prototypes. Sometimes a sketch will be enough to use it during tests. Depending on your goals you may be able to move on without a more complex, digital prototype. What’s also important to know is that higher-fidelity prototypes are not that easy to make and are less cost-effective than paper ones. Making digital prototypes is not that easy and usually requires using online prototyping software like Adobe XD, Figma or InVision which are not that simple to get started with and do come at a cost. However, if your objective is to use a digital, high-fidelity prototype – here’s what to focus on when creating one.

What Is The Fidelity Of A Prototype?

We keep talking about low and high fidelity prototypes, but what does that actually mean? The fidelity of a prototype is determined by the complexity of it, meaning the level of interactivity, visual design and content. Depending on what you want to achieve with the prototype, you can opt for different levels of fidelity in your prototype design. However, you should keep in mind that the higher-fidelity the prototype, the more it’s going to cost to make it and the longer it will take.

How To Test Your Prototype?

Now that you have a prototype ready, you can start testing it. How to do that? Well, the method of testing your prototype will depend on what you look to achieve. For rapid testing, you might want to see if anyone in your environment matches the target audience and could take part into testing. If you want to get quantitative feedback, you might email the prototype you made with a questionnaire to people who fit into your target audience. However, if you want to get more specific, qualitative feedback, you might want to consider conducting IDIs or In-Depth Interviews. These interviews are one-on-one meetings when you sit down with a user and ask them to use your prototype, perform specific tasks and share their thoughts. Using IDIs is a very effective method of gathering quality insights, but it does take more time to do and will not be a free testing method. Most participants won’t be willing to give away their time for free, so you might want to be prepared to pay small rewards to each participant. Additionally, conducting IDIs is not an easy task, so you might want to consider hiring a designer or a UX Design company to help you out.

Use Testing Tools To Make Your Work Easier

If you don’t want to work with a designer or an agency, you can start by conducting smaller tests yourself using the available tools. There’s plenty of software available to analyze your design. For example using the HotJar app, you can distinguish problem areas within your design that make users confused or test whether your design keeps their attention for certain amounts of time. Another great way to test the prototype design you made would be creating a landing page that presents a few screens of the product and launching a mini ad campaign to see how many people would be interested in such an idea. You can also ask those people to leave their email address and then later use it to send them additional questions or ask for their feedback.

Keep Your Objectives In Mind

Remember when we talked about objectives and goals earlier? Well, it’s very important to keep them in mind when testing your prototype design. Don’t rush into testing methods simply because they are quick or free. Think about the results they will provide and how those insights will benefit your product. Start small and don’t waste time and money on extensive testing. After you start your tests, gather the insights and improve your prototype design along the process. This ensures that by the end of testing, you will have the most viable product that’s likely to succeed on the market.

Get Expert Help

If you feel like you need expert help to validate your product idea email us or click here to schedule a free consultation with one of our specialists. Our team will help you with everything from research, through testing, UX Design and UI Design to developing and launching your product.