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When it Makes Sense to Build a Prototype First

Prototyping first may seem like a foreign concept, but in fact, you actually need to prototype before you sink money into an expensive, unclear project in certain instances. Prototyping can grant you important insight into the development project: clarity. When it’s clear what your goals are, how you’re going to reach them, and what it will cost to do so, you can not only plan better, but you’ll have a higher chance of reaching those goals and remaining within your budget. 

What Does a Prototype Do For Me?

A prototype is a working version of what you want to build, or it can be as simple as a mockup or wireframe. Essentially the idea behind a prototype is to bring the idea to life, to give prospective users, stakeholders, or even just the development team a clear image of what the product will look and feel like upon completion. 

This can be crucial to securing funding from investors or pitching an idea to your team. Prototypes come in all varieties, with high-fidelity prototypes reserved for the end of a project. High-fidelity prototypes are your working prototypes that look and function like the real thing; whereas low-fidelity prototypes can be as simple as a hand-drawn blueprint or mock-up. 

When You Need Investment Capital 

Investors are often fickle when it comes to giving away their money, especially if they don’t have some sort of representation of what they’re giving it away for. That’s where prototyping first comes in handy; you’ll have a physical representation of what the project will be upon completion, providing your investors with an idea of how their money will be spent. 

Would you spend money on a product that you hadn’t seen, touched, or experienced? If you answered no, then you’ll understand why investors prefer to have a prototype before they choose to invest their money. Clarity is something money can’t buy, and a good prototype will grant just that to everyone involved in the project. 

When You’re Unsure of the Market 

Markets can be incredibly fickle things; changing on a daily basis in terms of demand, and on a monthly or yearly basis in terms of what consumers actually want. A prototype can help you gauge the interest of the market you’re planning to get involved in, gathering customer feedback and learning whether or not the project is truly worth taking on. 

Understanding the market you’re working in is crucial to being successful with your business’s ideas. If there is no interest in what you’re developing, you’ll end up spending hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on what’s essentially a lost cause. 

Your prototypes will be the best way to connect with potential customers. Investing in a good prototype can save you time, money, and effort, and let you know whether or not you need to come up with a new idea or invest in your current one. 

When the Competition Already Has a Similar Product 

While rising above the competition and attracting their customers is a goal for most businesses, developing products that are too close in likeness and functionality to the competition can mean legal troubles or customer disengagement. 

If your competition has already developed something you think is too much like what you’re developing, start with a prototype to gather feedback from your team, potential users, and the stakeholders. You might find that a more original idea is the better play, and will help to separate you from the competition in a positive way rather than seeming like you took their idea and made it your own. 

When the Project Concept Needs Attention 

Let’s say you’ve started with a concept, but you are having trouble working out the details. This can be the perfect time to prototype first, so you can gain a better understanding of how your concept should look and function once it’s been developed in its entirety. 

Experimenting with new ideas that developed from your prototype can lead to some interesting opportunities, as well as encourage creativity among yourself and your team members. Taking a concept from its infant stages to prototype is easy when you use a prototyping software. Many of these tools even have wireframe tools for improved design workflows and mockups. 

Prototyping early on also helps you identify bugs or errors in your concept before the project is hardcoded for the final prototype and production. This is crucial to customer satisfaction, as buggy software or websites are often frustrating for customers and can cause them to disengage fairly quickly. 

When You’re On a Budget 

Development can be a costly process, so if you’re on a fixed budget, a prototype can actually help save you money in the long run and keep you within that budget. The average development project can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to well in the thousands of dollars; so if you’re working with a concept that is not well-planned, you’ll end up overspending. 


Building a prototype first can save you time, money, and effort; all of which are vital to the success of a development team. A working prototype will help you secure investment capital and give everyone involved in your project a clearer idea of what the finalized rendition should look and function like. Don’t mistake prototyping as a post-development tool only. It can be used at any time during the development project as a milestone and progress marker for your team. 

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