Fake it Before you Make it - why you should create a prototype before development

Fake it Before you Make it - why you should create a prototype before development

Building an application prototype will help you ensure that you deliver the right product to your customers, at the lowest cost, and with the fastest delivery timeline. 

We frequently get involved with customers late in their product development journey. They have a great idea for their software. They start building the software. And when they deliver that software to their customers they realize that the need for what they built isn’t quite aligned. Also, without a clear vision for their product, they find that they are constantly having to invest in their product development effort over the course of several software adjustments. This is costly and time-consuming and rarely guarantees success with the software being built.

Don't frustrate your users!

Getting started with a software prototype is actually very easy. It can be as simple as drawing pictures of your envisioned product on a whiteboard or even a napkin. You can then take these pictures and put them in front of customers. Explain what you are trying to achieve or what problem you are trying to solve. Then present your customers with your envisioned solutions. They will have opinions and feedback.

The most difficult part for you will be hearing the feedback and correctly categorizing their feedback. You see, it's important that you have a vision in your mind. Some feedback will be ground breaking. Some feedback will need to be permanently filed under “not important” or “not critical” to my solutions success. Make sure you don’t inject your opinions into that conversation and only take feedback that aligns with your vision!

Getting your ideas down on a napkin is super cheap!

At some point in this journey you will need to graduate from the napkin and whiteboard drawings to a digital tool. Don’t worry! Your next step can be as simple as Google Slides. Draw some simple shapes. Add button clicks to the screen so that you can navigate from one screen to another. This is a great way to achieve a low fidelity (not yet worried about colors and a perfect design) and low-cost clickable prototype. 

Now you have something you can email a customer to “walk through”. You can also put this in front of a customer during an interview. Ask the customer to perform a task in your prototype. Watch them...don’t steer them. See if they can navigate your solution to perform the described task. If they can’t...you have work to do!

Wireframe tools exist for Google Slides

Iterating in this fashion, design a little, interview a little, design some more - is a very low-cost way to find that ah-ha moment with your software. Once you have worked out the majority of the kinks you are ready to invest in a proper design and a high-fidelity clickable prototype. Now the design, the layout, the UI controls - it all matters. This too needs to be tested with your users.

This is also something that you can most likely build yourself. There are many easy to approach tools ready for novice designers to tackle to build their prototypes. They have many UI controls available for web and mobile prototype development. You can easily drag together the screens that matter most to you. Some example tools:

  • Figma
  • Sketch
  • Adobe XD
Using Figma to create a prototype

With a great understanding of your software, validated by a few customer interviews, and refined to describe just enough software to solve your problems - you are now ready to have software engineers build your software. Also, with a great prototype, you should be able to source a few estimates for the cost of your software. Those estimates should be able to be pretty accurate from a team size, budget, and delivery timeline perspective.

At INVENTIVE we have a design team made up of talented user experience and design professionals. We have performed many interviews and have helped inform the direction a quality product should take. We can help you as early as the napkin phase with some product strategy. We can also get involved with your high-fidelity design and prototyping. And of course, we would love the opportunity to bid on building your perfect software.


Andrew Siemer

About Andrew Siemer

Founder and CEO

After an honorable discharge from the Army in 1998, Andy immediately started digging into the technology scene. Having served in 2nd Ranger Battalion and 14th Military Intelligence, Andy is capable of tackling stressful situations while keeping his exuberant smile fully intact. In addition to many consulting engagements from Los Angeles to NY to London over the past 20 years, Andy has worked as the Chief Architect for Dell where he led the rebuild of dell.com. Click here to check out Andy's Forbes Technology Council profile.

  • Army Ranger
  • ASP Insider
  • Azure Advisor
  • Microsoft VTSP

Books Authored

  • 5 Secrets to a Programmer’s DREAM Career
  • ASP.NET 3.5 Social Networking
  • ASP.NET 4 Social Networking
  • ASP.NET MVC 2 Cookbook
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