How Creating a Prototype Can Help Your Startup Succeed?

71% of startups fail because of not selling the idea to the market or investors. How can a prototype help with that?

90% of startups fail.

Crazy statistics, right? What are the reasons for such a large failure rate? The number one reason that accounts for 35% of cases is the inability to raise capital or lack of funding for your startup (according to research by CBInsights). Next reason? Misreading market demand.

[Source: Statista]

If you are a startup founder, you obviously want to be in the 10% of startups that make it. Creating a prototype can dramatically increase your chances of success. How? Let’s talk about it now.

What is a prototype?

A prototype of a software product is a graphical representation of how your system or mobile application should work. It demonstrates the expected features, workflow, and basic UI/UX. Usually, it is not a working model, it’s the look (UI) and feel (UX) of the product.

Sometimes, it is a clickable prototype that you can show to potential users or investors to explain how your product works and what are its advantages.

Prior to the prototype, there sometimes is a proof of concept (POC) stage, where the technical feasibility is checked as well as whether it would be possible to do this feature or product without going through the roof budget-wise. (As I used to tell my boss at my first job, “Everything is technically possible, but it’s all a matter of how much time and money we’re willing to invest into it.”)

For example, for one of our clients, we had to check the technical possibility of integrating with Snapchat in order to perform actions that were not standard for Snapchat. Once we researched this issue, we realized that it is not possible in such a way that was envisioned by the client, and, as a result, the client saved a lot of money on developing a product that would not work in the end because of the third-party integration issues.

The proof of concept (POC) stage isn’t free, but when you consider the consequences, it is a good investment. (However, we won’t stop at the POC here for long and save the information for a later article.)

What are the reasons to get a prototype?

Among the reasons to get a prototype, there are the following:

  • Verifying market needs – do people need it at all? Will people use it at all?
  • Explaining how your idea works – is it easy to understand? Is it easy to use?
  • Understanding product limitations – what are things this product won’t be able to cover?
  • Calculating the budget – what are the things or features you should focus on in the first place according to the market demand?
  • Accelerating the release – what are the bottlenecks that should be taken into account and taken care of in the first place?

What are the advantages of a prototype?

A prototype is useful when you’re looking for investments or need to test out ideas in the real-life market. 

Why?

  • Quicker results
  • Easier to adapt to the market needs and pivot if necessary 
  • Lowers the costs of future development because you need fewer adjustments at the later stages of development

What does a prototype include?

At HUSPI, we believe that a quick prototype is one of the best tools that a business owner or a startupper has. That is one of the easiest ways to test an idea – whether you are starting a completely new idea or adding a new layer of services to your existing product. 

For example, below is a prototype for one of our real estate clients: 

A prototype of a real estate software solution

As you can see, this is a graphical representation of the idea they had. The input data for this was a discussion where the clients talked about their requirements, projected features, and business goals they would like to achieve with the help of this tool. 

The next step is for our business analysts and project managers to sit down with the UI and UX designers to see how to put it all together, taking into account the perceived user flow: 

  • How do users get to the website and what is their first call to action? ? (Yes, this is more about marketing, but when you think of the user experience, this is important to consider as well.)
  • How do users understand what’s expected of them? How do we explain it to them so their navigation is easier?
  • What features are available right away and what might be hidden from the view at the first glance?
  • What features should be included in order to make the product more streamlined besides the ones that were named by the clients, etc.?

As a result, the prototype usually includes a schematic representation of how the system should work and/or wireframes with basic UI and UX.

Wireframes.

Wireframes are the basic (usually black and white) designs of your future app or web system screens that show the layout of different icons, features, links, pictures, and other elements. This is done in preparation for the UI and UX designs. 

User Interface (UI) design.

The software might have a bunch of useful features but if it looks weird, the chances that people will use it go down dramatically. Yes, there is a ton of software that still uses the Windows 3.1 look and feel and people use it – but that’s more out of habit because those products have been available for decades. 

For a new kid on the block, it’s important to look good – or at least clean and understandable. 

User Experience (UX) design.

Following up on the previous point, your product might have great features and might look great, but if the user doesn’t understand how your product works… well, he won’t use it. 

User experience design is not so much about graphics as about psychology, ease of navigation, and the smoothness of a flow. 

Clickable prototypes are very helpful here because a potential user or investor can click around to see the connections between different screens and how the app should work.

Who are the main target audiences for the Prototype?

Investors.

Investors need to clearly understand what exactly they are investing in. After all, the development of the software or app isn’t cheap, but if the investor sees the potential, the ROI would be justified and more ensured.

Prototype in this case helps to show the investors something more concrete than just telling them how wonderful your product is or showing them a pretty presentation.

Users.

Many startups fail because their founders think “We came up with the perfect solution to the problem!”, develop the app or software, release it to the markets, spend a fortune in marketing… and realize that users didn’t have this problem in the first place or didn’t think that a solution is needed.

It’s important to test out your ideas with real-life people. You might have stumbled upon a diamond, but unless people realize the value of your diamond, it’ll just remain to be a fancy stone that no one needs. 

In this case, a prototype is very useful because you can create focus groups to get feedback and adjust the flows or features. As an owner of the idea, you already know why this is such a cool thing and you also know how it should work. But an average person, 

  • needs to be sold the idea
  • needs to intuitively understand the value, and 
  • needs to know how this particular app or system would make their personal or work life better.

What you should know about developing a prototype?

The process of preparation of a prototype depends on the business analysts you work with (it’s better to choose companies that have experience with your particular industry because they might know the hidden challenges) and on how well you, as an idea owner, understand what you want to achieve with this product. 

Abstain from the idea that your product is so necessary that once you tell people about it, they will immediately fall in love with this solution.

They won’t. 

Therefore, start with defining a clear target audience – not just “male-female, from 3 to 99 years old, everywhere around the world.” Unless you’re LEGO, this isn’t your target audience. Start smaller, start more concrete, and grow from there.

  • What is the overall business goal you want to achieve for your business?
  • What are the monetization options for your product or service?
  • Write down the list of features you think are important
  • Think of the flow you envision for your users to go through
  • Who are your users – what are their demographics? What do they do? Where do they live? What languages do they speak? What do they do for a living?
  • Who are your users – are there different types of users with different features or flows?
  • Who are your users – what levels of access do you need in your product?

The clearer the picture is in your mind, the easier it’ll be to create a Prototype.

How much does a prototype cost?

The price greatly depends on the tasks that are expected to be done or analyzed. If it is something small, for example, researching if the service can be integrated with another third-party system, it can be as low as $2.5K. If, however, you need an entire large product to be assessed from scratch, the Prototype can be up to $20K or more. 

The average price for a prototype at HUSPI starts at $5K-$10K. 

Should you invest in a prototype when you can spend these finances on development? Yes.

Creating a prototype, in any way, costs less than developing the product. Consider it a type of insurance before you spend even more money in case your idea needs a pivot or should be scrapped altogether. 

Besides, as we mentioned earlier, it lowers the cost of further development because you figured most of the things out in terms of the flow.

Would you like to get a prototype estimate? 

Leave your details below and let’s get down to business.