Do you consider it worthwhile to create a prototype?

What steps did you take before going into production, did you create a prototype first? if so, did you feel that it was worthwhile?

Top voted answer
Jef Lippiatt

Jef Lippiatt, Owner at Startup Chucktown


Great question. As a designer fully believe and promote building prototypes first. This is an ingrained part of my learning (aside from knowledge of the Lean Startup). Prototyping doesn't have to be a confusing process, so let me go into some of the benefits of prototyping.

Prototypes Help:

  • Early Exploration - They do this because depending on your end product, you can start with a doodle on a napkin with several notes. Prototypes can also be build from cardboard, clay, or other easy to work materials. By taking several passes (or iterating) on your concept you can easily create several variations instead of 1 final product.
  • Comparatively Low Cost - Prototypes being built from the materials mentioned above are inexpensive compared to materials that may be used for the final product. Using lower cost materials means that you can again make several variations without spending a lot of money up front (this process doesn't have a required "minimum purchase order").
  • Refine Your Understanding - When you first start out with the end goal of making a product, prototyping through multiple variations will help reveal any short comings or areas to improve the product further. Use this knowledge to your advantage.
  • Test and Test Again - Put these prototypes in front of potential customers multiple times over several of your prototype variations. This is a great time to get feedback before you end up spending too much of your overall budget.

There is obviously many more benefits of prototyping but these are some of the most beneficial. I highly recommend the process to everyone that has never tried it. I welcome more questions and discussion on this topic.

Phil Khor

Phil Khor, Founder at

Great insight Jef, thanks for sharing and reconfirming the merits for me. I think the one that stood out for me is to get a real sense from potential customers whether the solution is going to resonate with them, before doubling down on funds, and resources etc. What do you think about scoping of an initial prototype? We often struggle with finding the right balance; i.e. not making our MVP too big (too expensive), but on the other hand, not put in too little which expose us to scope creep, or worse still, not enough to validate our hypotheses.

Jef Lippiatt

Jef Lippiatt, Owner at Startup Chucktown

Great follow up question. I think it is better to err on the side of fewer features or details initially (it may be a struggle - but you have to really judiciously look at the value that feature 'could' have for the customer compared to other features). I also often go with fewer features first simply because our creative nature wants us to keep what we have created (even if customers say it is confusing or not useful). I would rather hear what they think is missing (that is the cue to add that to the next prototype). Also over the years I've had disturbing conversations with engineers. Don't get sucked into "low-hanging fruit". Yes, a feature may be easy to add and inexpensive to add, but if there is not evidence from the customer that it will add value, it could be a waste of time and effort. However, that is just my opinion and how I approach projects myself. My first greeting card prototype was regular paper, a terrible font, and the size was smaller than I thought. However, the humor resonated and I went to work working on the size and design for the next round.

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Wei Yew Teoh

Wei Yew Teoh

In short, I think in most cases creating a prototype is a great idea!

I believe the benefits to name a few are:

  • Develop a greater understanding of your product;
  • It provides you insight on where to go next, aspects to improve, features to highlight;
  • It provides you information on better time management;

Designs and ideas always tell a different story when its still on the back of a paper napkin, until you finally start to develop it.