A product prototype is that critical piece between the concept and the final product that dictates how successful a product will be when it hits the market. A prototype sells your product to retailers or investors without you committing to the final product yet.
While a prototype never hits the market like an MVP, it lands in the hands of a few users, helping companies steal a peek at how their customers will interact with the product.
Further, the prototype helps you test and validate your idea with real users and add features or eliminate from it based on their feedback.
Your prototype is a crucial part of the development process. And yet, many startups fail to build one that resembles their vision for the final product. Besides falling short of regulatory requirements, there are a few mistakes startups can steer clear of when prototyping.
Let’s look at a few common prototyping mistakes startups make that set them up for setbacks and how they can avoid them.
The Most Common Prototyping Pitfalls to Avoid
Striving for Perfection
Over-engineering, overthinking and chasing the perfect prototype for your product will kill a prototype’s primary function- to get validated quickly and often. Remember, prototypes are built for learning and not for scaling.
By spending time perfecting a prototype, startups often miss the point. Prototypes should consume only so much time, energy and cost as is necessary to drive feedback from users.
The more you invest in a prototype, the more biased you get toward how it already is and the less likely you are to take feedback constructively and revise the idea to the tune of your customers’ experiences.
Find out the cheapest and fastest way to build your product prototype and all the perfecting can come later when you start building the final product.
Prototyping Without a Goal
It’s a mistake to start prototyping without first pinning down what you want to achieve with it. Do you want to check the flow of the website or app? Who are the stakeholders involved? What’s the timeline of prototype development?
All of these answers will act as the north star to the entire activity, steering you back into the lane if you go astray.
Additionally, include what success would look like for this prototyping activity. For instance, to one founder, lots of customer feedback on the UX can mean success, while testing the flow might sound like success to another.
Prototyping Too Early
Refrain your designers from rushing into the prototyping phase without a clear idea of the design solution they will be implementing. The design needs to be worked on before firing up a prototyping tool.
The problem here is that a prototyping window forces designers to focus on the alignment and layout and the top-level design thinking is lost. While skipping the design process, you can get biased toward the design solution you come with the first time. And it may not be the best one.
A simple way to avoid this mistake is to brainstorm several design solutions with design thinking, involve stakeholders for feedback and come up with mockups and sketches for the main pages before prototyping them.
Not Prototyping Interactivity
A good prototype allows users to do more than transition between pages. It offers a realistic user experience to engage with. When creating a prototype for user feedback, ensure that the interface responds to user inputs just as the final product.
If you want user feedback on expandable menus or navigation flows, then you need an interactive prototype. Additionally, a fully clickable prototype makes the design handoff and development process easier.
And finally, an interactive prototype gives your users the full range of functions to interact with, making their feedback all the more valuable.
Including the User Too Late in the Process
Startups often forget to integrate feedback early and frequently in the prototyping process. One of the easy ways to take a prototype to the next level is to solicit reviews from different people throughout the development cycle.
Asking for feedback from other designers, product users and stakeholders late means going in with a huge risk of losing time and money already invested in the prototype.
Avoid the mistake of working in a silo until it’s too late and expensive to incorporate feedback.
Not Weighing in Opinions That Differ From the Majority
As you start gathering feedback from various entities frequently, you find opinions that rather stand out. These rare opinions could reveal something you might not have noticed about the prototype so far. That could include a hidden customer need or specific feedback about navigation or flow in your app.
On the other hand, rare feedback could simply mean a bad fit. For instance, you are interested in hearing from software developers and this person is an HR.
Assess the feedback that stands out. Is it trying to show you something useful, or is it an opinion from outside your ideal user market?
Using the Wrong Technology
Another mistake startups make is choosing the wrong prototyping tool. One way to choose the right one is to start with your goal in mind. Do you need a low fidelity or high fidelity prototype?
When designers choose a tool they are comfortable with or one that their company provides, they create low-fidelity prototypes with the image-based approach as opposed to the code-based method.
Choose a tool that fits your purpose, whether you need a whiteboard and marker or an interactive, life-like prototype with advanced interactions.
While there’s no one way to get it right, avoiding these prototyping mistakes will ensure that you have a hiccup-free development experience with the right user feedback built into the final product.
Seeking to build a proof of concept / clickable prototype? Contact us for our software prototyping services!