TOOL: Creating a Prototype – Tools to Get You Started

A Prototype is worth a thousand words

I used to run a company that sold a software product used to create interactive prototypes of web and mobile sites and applications. I can tell you from personal experience that from end users to investors if you are trying to get someone to understand your solution, they need to see it and interact with it.

That’s the number one reason to prototype: A picture (especially an interactive one) is worth a thousand words.

Here are seven more considerations:

1.Don’t make the prototype better than it needs to be.
A prototype doesn’t have to be pixel-perfect. It just needs to be enough to get the point across. Sometimes higher fidelity makes sense; sometimes lower fidelity is a fit—especially when you can get the feedback you need with less fidelity.

2. Most prototypes don’t produce usable code but can be an artifact in the
handoff process to designers and developers. In fact, an interactive prototype is the best artifact for them to look at to see what you are trying to accomplish. In this regard, prototyping fits well into the agile development process as a way to more clearly define the feature backlog for your development team.

3. If you do a lot of prototyping, it may be worth learning a tool that can do more than the simple ones.
A simple tool with less functionality may meet basic needs. Tools that are more robust, with features that produce prototypes that more closely match the final system regarding interactivity and visuals, will be harder to learn.

4. Collaboration features collect feedback and manage comments.
If you have a process for gathering and managing feedback, you may not need built-in collaboration features. If not, doing customer testing and validation without a way of recording comments is not a good idea.

5. Some prototyping tools are more integrated than others.
If you use a certain design tool, for example, Photoshop, Illustrator, or Sketch, it will save time if you can directly use files.

6. Are you designing for a smart phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, or multiple devices?
You should consider prototyping for how you want the application to work on each type of device.  Some prototyping tools are friendlier to responsive design.

7. What’s your budget?
Prototyping tools range from free to very costly. Some have free trials.Getting close to the bullseye with a product is all about iteration. There’s nothing more valuable to the product design process than direct feedback from customers and prospects, and with the prototyping tools available today, it’s easier than ever before to take an iterative approach to development based on market and customer validation.

Make the right decision on tools to prototype by comparing information from these seven sites.

Every startup is different—but they all have at least two things in common. There’s never enough money or time, and gaining early adopters and first customers is more difficult and take longer than could ever be imagined.

Software prototyping helps with both.

Prototyping is the gold standard for building software solutions that users love.

Do you have a favorite prototyping tool or advice about prototyping for other entrepreneurs? Tell us in the comments.

Rev1 Ventures does not endorse or recommend any of the tools mentioned here. This article is for information purposes only.