Prototyping

Why Prototyping is an Entrepreneur’s Secret Weapon

November 2, 2017

Every entrepreneur is looking for the secret to success. They read about how others managed to achieve great things, pouring over every detail to look for hacks they could incorporate into their own strategy, as well as what didn’t work so they know what to avoid. While there isn’t one specific thing that safeguards against any venture’s failure, there are tips and tricks startup founders can use to get themselves on the right path — and one of the best is mobile app prototyping.

We’ve helped quite a few people through this startup thing (and we’ve clearly been through it ourselves). If we’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that mobile apps that have been through the prototyping phase are leaps and bounds ahead of their competition. If your newest startup is creating a mobile app, look no further for your secret weapon.

Prototyping Can Help You Get Seed Funding

Most people find it uncomfortable to ask others for money — no matter the reasoning. Whether we need five dollars to cover the tip for lunch or a hundred thousand to fund our new business idea, it’s still awkward to admit you don’t have what you need to cover the tab. But because your business needs the cash, you have to just figure out a way to push through the cringe-inducing feeling and do it anyway.

A photo of three people gathered at a table for a meeting
Prototyping can help you get the seed funding you need to jumpstart your small business.

It might go without saying, but having confidence in your startup is crucial to convincing outside investors to fund it. Even if you’re rock solid on your business model, if you don’t sound confident in your pitch, how can you expect someone else to invest in you? Luckily, we have something that will keep you standing tall and ready for anything during your meeting: prototyping.

Prototyping can showcase the hard work and attention to detail you’ve already invested in your own baby, so they can assume you’ll continue to be as dedicated as you’ve ever been when the funding comes through. Understandably, most people won’t consider investing in a company if the owner hasn’t demonstrated a significant time commitment of his or her own.

A mobile app prototype will show investors you’ve thought completely through your business concept — from the customer’s first touch with your product to the mobile app and all the way to loyal, repeat customer. It doesn’t have to be perfect and you can always make changes later, but having a functional prototype is going to wow those potential investors a lot more than a bunch of sketches in a PowerPoint presentation would.

But perhaps most importantly, it will help show them proof of concept, which is obviously a big deal when you’re trying to get them to provide seed funding. Anyone would feel more comfortable writing a check for something they can see and touch and manipulate. And speaking of, make sure you bring a tablet (or two) with you to that pitch meeting so the investors can pass it around and play with your prototype with their own fingertips.

Prototyping Can Give You A Leg-Up

Mobile app prototyping is a frequently missed step in the startup process, but those who invest the time in it are able to take their startups to the next level. It’s understandable that entrepreneurs want to get their businesses off the ground and start recouping money. Who wants to press pause on their mobile app design to make a prototype? Certainly not your competition, who is racing you to the finish line.

A photo of a man walking on a trail while checking his smartphone.
Our app lets you work on your prototype from anywhere.

The truth of the matter is that your competition won’t impress investors the way you will with your prototype. Again, people want to see examples of what they’re investing in before they front the money, so don’t skip this step. This will allow you to feasibly (and more confidently) ask for a higher dollar amount, and because your presentation is so much more compelling than the others they’ve seen, you’ll probably get it.

Of course, more funding means more flexibility in your business plan, in addition to the luxury of planning ahead. Next quarter, when your competition is scrambling to fix the bugs they didn’t anticipate in their mobile app, you’ll be soaking up all that user data and planning your first big update with new features.

So while they’re looking for cash to fix all their problems, you’ll be using your stockpiled cash to focus on the future. You won’t have half the issues they do because you addressed issues in the prototyping phase, which meant you weren’t wasting cash in development. You’ll get to have a more visionary strategy, setting yourself up as the leader in your industry, as opposed to a reactionary strategy where you’re simply treading water.

Prototyping Communicates More Effectively Than Sketching

We’re willing to bet a lot of successful mobile app designs have started at the same place: a simple sketch, perhaps on a bar napkin or piece of scrap paper. They’re done with whatever writing utensil is nearby and that little sketch gets crumpled into a pocket or a purse before the end of the evening to be elaborated upon at a later time.

Sketches are an important step in the design process. They help us communicate ideas with fellow designers, work through design issues we might be stuck on, and allow us to get ideas out of our heads before we forget them. But the communication possibilities of sketching are far more limited than those of mobile app prototyping.

A photo of a designer sketching in a notebook outside with morning coffee.
Sketching and coffee go together like peanut butter and jelly.

Sketches are static images. They can’t move, you can’t transform them into something else with a simple touch of the finger, and they’ll never be able to convey motion the way a functional prototype would. Don’t get us wrong — we love sketches and we always draw wireframes for our new mobile app designs, but we also make prototypes.

Prototyping is just as imperative as sketching because it answers the questions sketches can’t. What shade of green are we talking about for the background? Sure, you can use colored pencils on your sketch, but in the end, your developer is still going to be looking for an exact color code. Are we talking hunter green or forest green? Your prototype will be able to answer those questions without adding a bunch of emails to the process.

And because prototypes are animated, you can perfectly illustrate your desired transitions, from wipes to fades with no problem at all. Do you want the wipe to go from left to right or right to left? What do these drop down menus look like on your checkout page? The prototype answers all these questions (and more) for you before the developer even asks.  

Prototyping Fits Into Your Entire Product Life Cycle

It’s easy to imagine how prototyping can fit into the beginning of your product life cycle. It helps you get your mobile app design into an animated, interactive format that’s easily sharable with friends, family, and potential investors. You’re able to work out the kinks and play with different ideas quickly, all in a way that is very easy to undo if you decide you don’t like it.

But what many entrepreneurs don’t realize is that it can be extremely versatile throughout the life of your mobile app. In the growth and maturity phases, you can use prototyping to test out new features and any changes you’re deciding to make based on your user data or shifts in design trends. Keeping up-to-date can extend your mobile app’s life for months or even years.

A photo of a smiling young woman holding a tablet.
Checking her prototype, probably.

Likewise, when you inevitably get to that decline phase, you can use prototyping to either completely revamp and relaunch your mobile app, or you can choose to move on to a new idea. Remember that declining doesn’t mean abandoning. If you still have users, you should still be working to keep the app functional. You can always pop back into your prototype to tweak things.

Making Entrepreneurs’ Lives Easier

Perhaps the best thing about mobile app prototyping is that it makes your life as an entrepreneur easier — and who isn’t interested in a tool like that? Startup founders have a million little details in their heads at all times. At some point, it starts to feel like you’re juggling a few too many items, so let that prototype take over some of the responsibility for you. When people ask what you’ve been working on lately, you can just whip out your smartphone, open up that prototype, and let it do the talking for you.

We want to help you harness prototyping as your secret weapon, too. Proto.io lets anyone build mobile app prototypes that feel real. No coding or design skills required. Bring your ideas to life quickly! Sign up for a free 15-day trial of Proto.io today and get started on your next mobile app design.

How do you use mobile app prototyping as your secret weapon? Let us know by tweeting us @Protoio!

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