Prototyping is a technique used to test and validate ideas early in the design process. It helps create a shared understanding of what the product will look like and how it will work.
The difference between prototyping and design is that prototyping does not require a high level of skill in visual design or coding. Designers use prototypes to get feedback on how their product might work in the real world before they spend time and money on developing it fully.
A prototype lets you see how your product will work in real life, and is a great way to get feedback from people who will eventually be using it. They are important because they help designers find flaws in their design before they invest too much time or resources into it. This is especially important with regard to identifying if potential customers find a concept valuable enough to pay for or not. Think of it as the first product-market-fit test.
Designing wireframes and mockups with no code is a great way to save time and get feedback on your ideas.
There are many wireframing tools available for designers. However, the best one we found is called Figma. It’s powerful, intuitive and easy to use.
Figma is a design tool that enables you to create wireframes, mockups and prototypes without any coding skills required. It's also a collaborative program so you can share your work with colleagues or clients in real-time as needed!
If you want something a little more fun and a little less design-intensive, we also recommend Miro for initially sketching out your idea.
Prototyping tools are a great way to collaborate with clients, gather feedback, and validate design concepts before you invest in building something. The key to deciding what to use is to know what the core problem you’re trying to solve so that you can know how best to deliver the value your potential clients need and want.
The top 9+ popular prototyping tools are: Airtable, Adalo, Notion, Squarespace, Tribe, Sharetribe, Typeform, Teachable, and Zapier. For other great apps to help your startup in general, check out this article.
Airtable + Stackerhq.com= this combo allows you to turn tables of data or data inputs instantly into an app-like tool.
Adalo= if you believe a mobile app makes the most sense to start, you can find a variety of simple templated mobile apps in Adalo. Making anything too big or complicated won’t work well here, but if you need mobile and simplicity fast, this works great.
Notion + Super.so= Notion is a highly flexible word docs meets database collaboration tool, and Super can turn Notion pages into a website. We’ve used this to prototype complex processes for clients.
Tribe.so= is your app idea community focused? Tribe can instantly build you an entire community to manage. The best part? You can later seamlessly integrate it into a full app and can customize widgets on it in the mean time. We’ve seen clients combine this with Memberspace and Teachable for a paid community with courses.
Sharetribe= do you need a marketplace platform? Look no further. Sharetribe allows you to quickly and easily setup a marketplace. Yes, there are many limitations- but it makes the perfect prototype and even MVP for some. We used this to test our first ever startup in 2017 and it has become much better since!
Typeform= if you need quizzes, surveys, a branching logic tree, or even just a contact widget, Typeform makes a beautiful user experience that is easily editable with detailed analytics. It can also connect to things like google sheets and mailchimp for automated data storage and email sequences- and you can attach a payment section to turn it into a custom checkout!
Zapier= have a variety of tools, a CRM, a e-commerce website (wordpress, squarespace, wix, or our favorite- webflow), or want to connect the above together? Zapier can connect to hundreds of different apps for automations between them. No need to build your custom tool right away if you can connect a bunch of others together.
Why a plus (+)? Because YOU are the final piece and magic sauce. You want to focus on delivering the core underlying value that your clients are looking for and delivering that magic moment where it is accomplished for them. By having your team fill in the blanks and manually connect processes, you can accomplish most anything without code. Yes- it will not scale! But you don’t need to scale yet, you need to prove, or disprove, your idea and get traction. Once you prove it, go all in. If you disprove it, pivot and make another test.
Prior to raising money or even pitching the idea to pursue the prototype with you team, you may need to know how to communicate the idea to help you focus on what to build and pursue. Here's our article on the 7 P's of Pitching to help you with that!
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