Be A Pro: 5 Steps To A Great Product Prototype

The goal of a prototype is to evaluate an idea. But until this point, Dunne’s story isn’t unique. Many entrepreneurs conceive of product ideas at the most unlikely times and in the most.

I didn’t really understand what the app was for and what information it presented. “Give it some time,” I thought to myself. “Maybe it’s learning the car and my driving and will soon present useful information.” The app was very well designed. It was beautiful. However, at some point I wasn’t sure I was doing everything right, or perhaps I just needed to invest a little more time in trying to figure out what was going on. I didn’t get it.

A few days after I installed it, my wife went with the kids to one of their baseball league games 45 minutes away from our home on a weekday evening. It was a cold fall night and when the game was over she found herself in the car with three kids, including a four-month-old screaming, tired baby and a car that wouldn’t start. The car was relatively new, without any history of issues, and no mechanical failures at all. “Take it out,” I suggested. Immediately after my wife pulled the Automatic car adapter out of its data port, the ignition started. That ended up being our Automatic’s swan song. I didn’t want it anymore.

  1. Our 5-Step Process For Writing Product Specs. For much of its life, a product spec is a work in progress. That’s how it should be. You’ll be getting new information and dealing with potential setbacks throughout the process.
  2. A little over a year ago, I decided to take a shot at selling a digital product: I put together a collection of my columns and articles, created PDF and Kindle versions, and did a little marketing.

Maybe that’s a big coincidence, maybe it’s me, or maybe the car breaking down had nothing to do with the Automatic. I have no idea. And I’m not mad at Automatic. I’m sure they have a great product. The point is that when I bought it, I wanted it without any clue whether I needed it or not.

If a customer is still in the initial steps of product development and only wants a minimum viable product (MVP) or a rough prototype to analyze its use cases, we may skip refining the drawing. If you're looking to make a plastic prototype, the Engineering Resource Center is a great place to go. They're very easy to work with and their prototypes are consistenty high quality. Their engineers will help select the best materials, verify your design to ensure that it's made to specification, and can even produce small production volumes.

One of the most interesting questions that product development practitioners, entrepreneurs, and investors ask themselves is “Do people want the product?” In other words, once people read, hear, or talk about or interact with the product, would they want to buy and use it? This question is interesting, since it can be perceived as a critical question to get an answer to; however, it is not really a question about design and user experience of products, but rather one that concerns marketing them.

User researchers are sometimes uncomfortable answering this question with different methods such as focus groups, opinion polls, and Net Promoter Scores (NPS) because these methods focus on what people think rather than what they actually do. However, the Lean Startup management approach has brought to life several lightweight, nimble, and non-wasteful research techniques. These techniques force research participants to demonstrate a behavior that indicates what they want. By that, they help generate useful results to answer the wants question.

This chapter will walk you through two fun, effective research methods that provide an answer to the question “Do people want the product?” without writing one line of code. Actually, with one of the methods you will need to write two to three lines of code, but no more than that, I promise.

Be A Pro: 5 Steps To A Great Product Prototype Requires

Be a pro: 5 steps to a great product prototype must

Why Is This Question Important?

The question “Do people want the product?” is important for understanding and learning about the state of mind of your target audience after it is exposed to the product or some kind of communication about it. Answering this question is key in making you more aware of current pain points of your audience. When people express a wish by demonstrating a certain behavior, they imply there’s something wrong in the world and that they care about it. This is exactly what you look for when you are on a quest to validate your key product and user assumptions.

Why the Want Question Is Different

What people want is a question that can be asked and answered before a specific product or service even exists. It is a question that affects product marketing and communication more than its design and features. Yes, when you ask people what they want, their answer includes products, features, and services. Yet they have no idea what they are talking about. They sound believable, but they’re not. They’re not bad people, and they are not liars. Basically, they have no clue, but they think they do and want to be helpful. That’s human nature. In order for people to want a product or perceive it as something they need, three things must happen:

  • They must know about the product. Your marketing and public relations channels must meet your audience.
  • They must understand the product’s value. Words, images, demos, and videos must communicate the value of the product and make potential customers feel it solves a problem or meets a need they have. The exception is that sometime, when non-important purchasing decisions are made, people tend to fudge the understanding of the value.
  • They must agree to the product’s cost. Potential customers must accept the price point and be willing to pay what you ask for the product.

Note that all of the above has nothing to do with product design, unlike the rest of the questions discussed in this book.

When Should You Ask It?

You should ask yourself the question “Do people want my product?” all the time—right when you have an idea, when you make a lot of progress with building and developing the product, and definitely after you launch it. Keep doing that. By asking the question before you actually build the product, feature, or service, you are reducing waste—time, resources, and energy (Figure 5.3). The more you learn about what people want before you build anything, the less time and effort you will spend on redundant code, hundreds of hours of irrelevant meetings, and negative emotions of team members when they realize they wasted their blood, sweat, and tears on something nobody wanted.

Research techniques covered in this chapter involve some manner of pretending you have a product or service, and therefore require you to create a manual, prototype, or page that is a key component used during research. It is a great time to ask the “wants” question when you have such a manual, prototype, or page.

Answering the Question with a Concierge MVP and Fake Doors Experiment

To answer the question “Do people want the product?” you must first understand what an MVP is and what it is not. An MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is the process of creating “a version of a new product that allows the team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least amount of effort.” [1] In other words, an MVP is a way to quickly validate, or most likely invalidate, an assumption.

An MVP is not version 1 of the product. As a matter of fact, some MVPs are not even products. For example, it could be a contract you try to persuade potential customers to sign and learn if they show enough interest. Or it could be a prototype with minimum functionality that allows its creators to test it with a subset of potential users to avoid building something people do not want. An MVP is not a cheaper product, nor it is a minimal version of a product with the smallest possible feature set. Think of an MVP as a series of experiments and research activities with the sole goal of helping you learn. Table 5.1 summarizes what an MVP is and is not.

Be a pro: 5 steps to a great product prototype project
A process that allows its creators to validate or invalidate assumptions quickly with a subset of potential usersA cheaper product
A prototype with minimum functionality that facilitates learning A minimal version of a product with the smallest possible feature set
An experiment to learn about potential users

A minimal version of a product with the smallest possible feature set

Version 1 of a product

Concierge MVP

Both Concierge MVP and Fake Doors are minimum viable products. The Concierge MVP is an MVP where you manually provide the functionality of the product to the customer. You guide your user through the solution to a problem. For example, Open Snow is a startup from Boulder, Colorado. It’s a team of meteorologists who specialize in (and are passionate about) weather forecasts for skiing resorts and destinations. They solve the problem of the non-existent, specific, and detailed snow sports weather forecast. Skiers invest a lot of time, money, and effort in planning ski trips. These trips might be canceled due to wrong (or too general) weather reports for the area, or even worse, skiers can go ahead with a trip only to find out that the actual weather does not permit any sports activity. Open Snow solves all of that.

One way of going about providing this service to skiers is developing an app or a Web site that can gather a person’s skiing plans and push snow sports weather reports in a timely and effective manner. The Concierge MVP approach is much simpler, less wasteful, and more effective for learning what skiers want. Rather than investing their time and money into building even a primitive version of an app or Web site, Open Snow can visit ski resorts, approach potential customers in person, and offer them the service they envision the app or Web site will eventually deliver. When they find someone interested in the service (for free at first), they will continue to provide value to the customer via email. They might ask interested customers to shoot them an email when they need a weather forecast for a ski resort and then respond with a full forecast to the customer’s inbox. Eventually, they should ask customers to pay for the service. The act of a customer who chooses to pay for a service serves as validation to Open Snow’s assumption about what people want.

Another great example for an MVP is how the founders of Get Maid chose to validate their idea. Get Maid is an app for booking a home cleaning service. The founders first created a front-end app that would send them a text message. They would call their network of maids and see who was available and then text the customer that the appointment was confirmed once they found a maid. This is an example of a more high-fidelity approach to an MVP, yet still one that does not involve fully developing the product.

Fake Doors

A Fake Doors experiment is a minimum viable product where you pretend to provide a product, feature, or service to Web page or app visitors. Without developing anything just yet, you communicate to visitors that the thing exists and ask them to act on it. If they do, you know they want it, and it’s time for you to start working on developing it. For example, imagine a grocery store Web site. If the store is thinking about developing a grocery shopping app and wants to know whether customers are interested or not, a call-to-action button could be added to the Web site. The button might be labeled as “Download our shopping app.” The store would have a powerful decision-making tool at hand if it saw a large ratio of people who clicked the button and divided that by those who were exposed to it.

Announcements gif. The act of announcing. A short message or commercial, especially a commercial spoken on radio or television. A card or piece of formal stationery containing a formal declaration of an event, as a wedding. Another word for announcements. Find more ways to say announcements, along with related words, antonyms and example phrases at Thesaurus.com, the world's most trusted free thesaurus.

Prototype

Why Concierge MVP and Fake Doors Experiments Work

Be A Pro: 5 Steps To A Great Product Prototype Template

Concierge MVP and Fake Doors are effective and efficient lean research techniques with the following benefits:

  • They are great methods for finding how potential customers perceive the value of an offering.
  • They are good for evaluating single, very small features through very specific services to entire product suites.
  • These techniques will reduce the risk of wasting time on expensive product development.
  • They’ll keep you from delivering features, products, and services your customers don’t really want.
  • They will force you to start speaking the language that resonates with customers, and practice and perfect it.

Other Questions Concierge MVP and Fake Doors Experiments Help Answer

Be A Pro: 5 Steps To A Great Product Prototype

Other than the “Do people want the product?” question, Concierge MVP and Fake Doors experiments are great methods for answering the following questions as well.

  • Which words should I use to describe my idea to people?
  • What will persuade people to try my product?
  • What are people’s responses when they first hear about my product?
  • Would people pay for my product or service?
  • How much would people pay for my product or service?
  • Do people perceive my product as something that solves a problem they care about?
  • Who is the audience of my product?