The Power of the Prototype

Feb 12, 2019 | Blog

Costco samples are famous nationwide. People have structured dates, planned scavenger hunts, and even cobbled together entire meals out of the small, plastic cups that provide members with a taste of the products offered throughout the warehouse.

Costco samples are the perfect example of the power of the prototype. That small taste gives you a tangible, real understanding of what that particular product has to offer and serves as a launch point for future iterations. This is why all development shops should be more like Costco.

That one is a little spicy? Try this mild version. A little too sweet? Here, their raspberry is subtle. Lacking that pop of flavor? After I bake these, I always top them with a little honey mustard, that seems to do the trick.

Without the physical sample, you are forced to take a leap…one that may not pay off. I can walk up and down the aisles all day staring at the 90 various brands of frozen taquitos, but when I have no more information than what the front of the box provides, I am less likely to have the product within meet my needs. Sure, they are all “taquitos”, but which one will fit my definition or particular “feature list” of the “ideal taquito”?

Furthermore, if I make a bad purchase, I am less likely to attempt taquito purchases in the future.

Prototyping serves the exact same purpose in the technical world. When you collect the initial list of requirements from your customer, there are several different ways that they could be manifested into a digital product. Rather than selecting a permutation and heading straight for development, take the time to create a prototype and present it back to the key stakeholders. Providing them that taste, a tangible launch point, you can better facilitate the conversation to narrow in on the design that will deliver value from the very first iteration.

Observe the way they interact with the prototype, listen to the types of screens and dashboards they like or don’t like, add that honey mustard. Evolving the solution through a prototype allows the changes to be visualized quickly and efficiently, without costly development hours and resources being deployed. Hand the prototype over to your customer to distribute internally, or explore with trusted partners/customers that may benefit from this particular solution. Cultivate buy-in, encourage feedback.

Ultimately, a prototype not only benefits your customer, it empowers your delivery team by giving them a blueprint that is customer tested and customer approved. You know that as long as you execute on the prototype, your solution will provide value from its very first iteration.

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