Should You Build a Prototype First?

Matt ShieldsMatt Shields Posts: 29subscriber Bronze Level Member

I've seen a lot of people who are building their ideas without testing it, and spending a lot on marketing in a hope that people will come to buy it. Some have been successful with this 'Build It and They Will Come' tactic.  Then, there are those who build prototypes of their ideas first and share it in popular crowdfunding sites to get supporters/backers. We also see some who have exceeded their funding goals with that approach even if the product is still a work-in-progress.

Which option do you think is better?

Let's say you want to build this fancy mobile app.  Gartner predicts that over 268 billion mobile downloads will generate $77 billion this year. It sounds promising if you dream of developing the next shiny app out there. In reality, it can be a mousetrap. Just because you are building a better one doesn't mean the world will knock on your door. You might even get inspired by the Pokémon craze or dream of coming up with the next Facebook.

It can be any product really... so, it's a choice between:

1. Build it first and work hard on marketing the final product, or
2. Build a prototype with a few functions and test how people will respond to it, then improve some more before selling it in the market

Both will cost time and money. It's a tough choice, I believe.  Thoughts?



Tagged:

Comments

  • Ryan O'BlenessRyan O'Bleness Birmingham, Mich. Posts: 829administrator Site Admin
    If it was me, I think I would go with option 2. It makes more sense to build a prototype and test it first in my eyes. Perhaps things like surveys, focus groups and even taking it to others in the field and taking their feedback to improve it will eventually make your product better. I think this option would take more time, and may be more money up front, but would eventually save you money in the long run.  
    Ryan O'Bleness
    Community Moderator
    StartupNation, LLC
  • GastonGaston Posts: 23subscriber Bronze Level Member
    Let's say you're making a video game. If you finish development and start marketing it (say a presentation at E3), you won't gain as much exposure since you would want to release the game as soon as it's done as opposed to dragging it out and teasing an already finished product for months. If you make a prototype (a vertical slice in video game slang) you will be able to tease the game at E3 and have enough time to build up the hype before the release. However, in this case there is a good chance that the final product will be inferior to the prototype you built. Most big game developers/publisher prefer the second option these days and it doesn't always work out. I guess there is no right answer here.
  • Matt ShieldsMatt Shields Posts: 29subscriber Bronze Level Member
    @Ryan O'Bleness Thanks for your thoughts; yes, it is tough as both options have its own advantages and disadvantages. Maybe, it will depend on who your target market and what your industry is. Like, if you're in retail, you'd put the product out there and spend on marketing it fast.

    @Gaston Thanks for your thoughts too. I guess, it's all about testing the market response until you come up with the product that your customers will love.
  • GastonGaston Posts: 23subscriber Bronze Level Member
    @Ryan O'Bleness Thanks for your thoughts; yes, it is tough as both options have its own advantages and disadvantages. Maybe, it will depend on who your target market and what your industry is. Like, if you're in retail, you'd put the product out there and spend on marketing it fast.

    @Gaston Thanks for your thoughts too. I guess, it's all about testing the market response until you come up with the product that your customers will love.
    Absolutely, as I said before, there is no right or wrong answer to this question. I guess you just gotta go with your gut feeling and it work!
  • raddevonraddevon Seattle, WA USAPosts: 1subscriber Member
    The prototype may not be as expensive as you think. The trick is to boil your idea down to the bare essentials. Even a company that will eventually be a tech company might have a very low-tech prototype.

    I like Derek Sivers' example of the person who wanted to build an app to suggest music to people. Derek suggested he start by simply suggesting music to people. That's a prototype that takes no software whatsoever.

    If you want to go one step further, you might try a Wizard of Oz prototype in which your prototype looks like the final automated product, but, in the background, the work is actually done by hand. If people are willing to pay for that, you have the capital to build the real deal. You can build the software and plug it into what you already have making the transition seamless to your users and taking the manual work off your plate.

    All that to say, a prototype or some form of customer development is essential. Investing a bunch of time and money into launching a business based on a hunch and then trying to market it to success is a losing battle.
  • Cora WilliamsCora Williams Phoenix, AZPosts: 5subscriber Member
  • Matt ShieldsMatt Shields Posts: 29subscriber Bronze Level Member
    Thanks @raddevon that gave me an idea; nice that you put in the words 'Wizard of Oz' type, especially where it concerns mobile apps. I guess, making things simple and pain-free for your users is the first step. Look at Google's search; no bells and whistles.

    Thanks @Cora Williams for the feedback ;)
  • CurtisMLeeCurtisMLee Posts: 34subscriber Bronze Level Member
    You are not legally required to create a prototype before filing a patent application. However, depending on your invention and the circumstances of your case, it may be beneficial to develop a prototype before filing a patent application
  • Tom AdamsTom Adams Posts: 47subscriber Bronze Level Member

    I've seen a lot of people who are building their ideas without testing it, and spending a lot on marketing in a hope that people will come to buy it. Some have been successful with this 'Build It and They Will Come' tactic.  Then, there are those who build prototypes of their ideas first and share it in popular crowdfunding sites to get supporters/backers. We also see some who have exceeded their funding goals with that approach even if the product is still a work-in-progress.

    Which option do you think is better?

    Let's say you want to build this fancy mobile app.  Gartner predicts that over 268 billion mobile downloads will generate $77 billion this year. It sounds promising if you dream of developing the next shiny app out there. In reality, it can be a mousetrap. Just because you are building a better one doesn't mean the world will knock on your door. You might even get inspired by the Pokémon craze or dream of coming up with the next Facebook.

    It can be any product really... so, it's a choice between:

    1. Build it first and work hard on marketing the final product, or
    2. Build a prototype with a few functions and test how people will respond to it, then improve some more before selling it in the market

    Both will cost time and money. It's a tough choice, I believe.  Thoughts?



    I would chose the 2nd strategy because I don't see the sense in spending a huge amount of your own time and some resources on something that nobody needs. It's much productive to choose the way №2
  • Matt ShieldsMatt Shields Posts: 29subscriber Bronze Level Member
    Wow, I didn't expect such awesome responses so far! This can become some hot debate item in the near future.

    Thanks @CurtisMLee that's a smart advice.  Thanks @Tom Adams that makes sense too!  I think what's tougher is if you have the same budget to spare for both options, then, we're now voting for which one will yield a better product at a faster time... and hit more sales. Business is a gamble, I guess.

    Enjoy Summer for now! (Feel free to add more thoughts) 
  • clinton-eqqisclinton-eqqis Posts: 2subscriber Member
    I feel like the biggest takeaway in the accelerator I was recently part of was to verify before building anything. Conduct user interviews, identify problems, and fine tune what your product/app will be based on your sample.
    I'm in my interview phase right now, practically forcing myself to not do other things, :D
  • Matt ShieldsMatt Shields Posts: 29subscriber Bronze Level Member
    @clinton-eqqis playing it safer these days, I assume.  Market research is something that many would like to skip as it may seem like a waste of time when you could have been building and testing your product already. I guess, it really depends on your time, budget and niche (maybe, I'm wrong). Thanks!
Sign In or Register to comment.