Digital Prototype: Validating Your Startup Idea
Many young entrepreneurs assume that they need to know how to code to prototype. But this is a myth. By using the right tools, you can create a digital prototype without knowing a single line of code.
The digital prototype is an essential part of any startup design process. It’s the moment when you see your project becoming reality. But more importantly, it’s when you’ll test-drive ideas for your product or service in a safe and cost-effective way.
In this article, you’ll find that developing a digital prototype is not as hard as it sounds. You’ll learn about the biggest challenges as well as the best tools to bring your startup idea to life.
Why Do You Need a Digital Prototype?
Competitor research, customer development, and validation are some of the crucial steps you need to take when launching a startup. You must go stage by stage before releasing your product or service on the market. Digital Prototyping is one of these important steps because it allows you to:
- Test your hypothesis in a cost-effective way
- Conduct usability tests with real users
- Get data to refine your ideas
- Validate your product
“It’s a critical step,” says Hannah Xue, Software Engineer at Airbnb and Software Mentor at European Innovation Academy “Having a digital prototype provides great help for initial demoing and user testing. These are essential to get critical early user feedback to help develop future iterations, and enables them to iterate fast in an early stage and shape the product towards the right direction early on.”
Creating a Digital Prototype
According to Zaid Haque, Microsoft Senior Program Manager and Design Mentor at EIA: “Without prototyping, we would have built an entire product/app, shipped it to customers only to realize it was not what they needed, and have to start from scratch. We all make mistakes – prototyping just helps us realize them sooner rather than later.”
The Digital Prototype is the following stage after the paper prototype. You can start by digitizing it and then work on the digital version. This is the moment where you need to think about each possible interaction.
Your digital prototype must feel like the real product. It’s actually a version of your product, but with no backend. This is the only way to get real feedback and improve your idea.
4 Digital Tools to Prototype
Finding the right tool is the first step to creating a good digital prototype. There are plenty of options online, from beginner tips to advanced tools.
You’ll feel relieved to know that you don’t need to code to create your own digital prototype. You will even find numerous free tools, or at least those with a free trial period. Here are some of our favorite options:
Adobe XD is a vector-based tool developed and published by Adobe Inc for designing and prototyping user experience for web and mobile apps. It’s an all-in-one solution for UX/UI Designers suitable for beginners and professional users. (XD Starter Plan | Free)
Learn how to create your first digital prototype with AdobeXD:
Google Material Design is an adaptable system of guidelines, components, and tools that supports the best practices of user interface design. Backed by open-source code, it streamlines collaboration between designers and developers and helps teams quickly build beautiful products. (Free)
Check out this video about Google Materials:
An all-in-one platform to create digital products. Wireframe, design, and prototype your idea, from low-to-high fidelity, with this intuitive tool. (Starter Version | Free – Pro Version from 12$/month)
Proto.io is a prototyping platform that enhances the design process by creating realistic, interactive, shareable prototypes without code that can be viewed on a mobile device. (15-day free trial)
Learn more about Proto.io by watching this video.
Before choosing which tool to use, check tutorials and examples. This is the best way to decide which one better suits the product you’re planning to turn into a prototype.
How Digital Prototyping Helps Develop Startup Ideas
Creating a digital prototype will help you to understand the next steps to launching your startup. The digital prototype is important throughout the entire process, from the basic marketing plan all the way to launching your crowdfunding campaigns. It’s also an essential stage during which to get customer validation and learn more about your product or service.
During the European Innovation Academy Summer Program in 2018, Henrique Carvalho and his team founded Clynx. The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) highlights that by creating the digital prototype, an idea becomes tangible: “Building a digital prototype was absolutely necessary for the project to have a place in the market. Showing it and asking the market for feedback about the digital prototype was absolutely necessary to acquire customers.”
Henrique also had this to say: “During the design of a startup, validation is the most important step. Because no matter what the startup is trying to achieve, it should always aim to solve a problem or matter, that people relate to and feel life would be better with that solution.”
This is the moment when a startup idea can be proven successful or not.
The digital prototype process has a powerful impact on several verticals of any startup design process.
AltCare is another great example that started during the EIA Summer Program. José Salvado, a member of the AltCare team, explained how they’ve used the digital prototype to acquire customers: “It was the foundation of the marketing plan. After having the digital prototype developed, we included it on the landing page of our project and started using it to introduce our customers to our business model. The reaction of the customers always enhances when you have the right tools to explain your concept and ideas.”
After creating your digital prototype, testing with real users, and adjusting according to feedback, your startup idea is no longer an idea. It’s real, and this validation by real customers is the key to success. By creating in a digital platform, you’ll always have the opportunity to optimize your prototype and bring new innovations to your product. Step by step, your product or service gets better. Soon, you’ll be ready to launch it on the market.
Do you want to learn more about the startup universe? Check out our EIA blog and get updated!