Why It’s Important to Think Beyond Your Prototype Software Application
Designing, developing and launching a new software product is a challenging endeavor. Creating a prototype software application can be a valuable step along the way. You may already be familiar with stories about excited entrepreneurs who skip this phase altogether, choosing to build out a complete product to match their vision of what their target customers will line up to buy. You know how that story often ends.
So is it wise to defer all thought about the ultimate product in favor of focusing solely on a simple prototype software application? In our opinion, this could be just as costly of a mistake as the one made by the over-confident entrepreneurs we described above. We recommend thinking beyond the prototype even before it’s been created.
To understand this recommendation, let’s start by mapping out how a prototype software application, proper planning and development practices, and a minimum viable product all fit together to help an entrepreneur or startup meet business goals.
Goal #1: Get it as “Right” as Possible from the Beginning
When we’re breaking new ground with a software application, we are generally relying upon our own interpretation of the prospective user’s needs. So even though the true end user may have little direct involvement in defining the feature set, it is critical that a user requirements document is created. When time-to-market is critical, we take care during the development of this document to identify the most important application capabilities – the core functionality that we want a prototype to show off.
Use proper planning and development practices, like creation of a user requirements document, to identify and keep the focus on the most important features for a good user experience.
Goal #2: Validate with Prospective Customers EARLY
Here is where a prototype software application fits in. It’s one thing for us to talk about what our product will do and how it will solve a problem. It’s another thing to show off how it will work and even allow a prospective customer to interact with it. Taking this step accelerates our progress in two ways: 1) we get more detailed and useful feedback, and 2) we start to get potential early adopters energized.
Keep investment in the prototype software application lean. Its purpose is to solicit feedback and pique the interest of your potential early adopters.
Goal #3: Transform Early “Fans” into Paying Customers Quickly
Even though this goal appears 3rd, a big mistake that we help our clients avoid is ignoring it until goals #1 and #2 have been tackled. If we are successful in getting feedback and energizing the potential client base, then we have also set the expectation that we will deliver. We have to be careful about what we wish for…
Struggle to provide the identified features, or take too long to migrate from prototype to product, and we may lose all the momentum we create. By properly designing a data model and software architecture in parallel with the prototype development work, we can be poised to quickly move from prototype into beta. Moreover, careful consideration of the user requirements along with feedback from the prototype phase, allows for the creation of a minimum viable application – a quick-to-market product that tests the willingness of the target client to invest in your solution.
Draft application architecture in parallel with prototype development and focus on core functionality – a minimum viable product – in order to capture momentum and early revenue.
Questions about how to take your idea from concept to reality? Feel free to comment below, or contact us for a conversation.