What Is A Prototype? A Quick Guide To Startup Founders

Most of us at a certain point in our lives get fascinated by a startup idea that we think we can change the world. Each idea is worth it if bought to life with the right frame of mind and right practices.

If you are confused about whether you should go forward with or idea or not. Go and work on prototypes. A prototype can help you in giving life to your idea with some practical changes and desired results. If you are confused about what are prototypes and how to apply them. Read this guide to know more about prototypes and how they can help your startup.

What Are Prototypes?

Going by the dictionary, a prototype is a foundational design of a product, which can be tested and improved upon. These improvements can lead to a final product that is ready to be used by customers.

Almost all types of manufacturing industries build prototypes, such as vehicles, gadgets, weapons, and more. Prototypes are also made by User Interface/User Experience designers to make sure their applications run properly in everyday conditions of the real world.

What Is The Importance Of Prototypes In A Startup?

Prototypes are necessary for startups, as they help you with validation from stakeholders and future customers. They also help you make smart investments for your final product.
A prototype can do the following for your startup-

1. It can help you truly understand what you want your product to do. Even if you start with a simple sketch, you will be able to augment more ideas about functionality and design.

Prototyping also helps your development team find loopholes and faults in the design without suffering huge losses as a consequence of using expensive materials and spending a lot of time.

2. Pitching your ideas to investors is a crucial part of startups. But we know actions speak louder than words; people will show more interest if you have a working model to show, as opposed to giving hazy ideas. It will also make room for better discussions about the future of the product, helping you make better decisions about the overall design of the product.

3. Building a prototype and getting it patented is the best way to protect your ideas from being stolen by competitors who may try to introduce your product as their own.

4. Creating functional prototypes and marketing them as early-access products will help you find customers, which will help your team realize a target group, as well as develop a relationship with customers, where your product gets better and better based on feedback.

What Are The Different Types Of Prototypes?

There are several types of prototypes, like the various industries that make prototypes.

Feasibility prototype: These are developed to find out if a new concept works as it’s intended to do, check performance and understand how to reduce risks.

Horizontal/Display prototype: These are built with the purpose of representing the final appearance of the complete product.

Functionality is not a concern in these prototypes. For example, a sample interface of a mobile application that doesn’t function but shows what a user will see when using the final product.

Vertical/Functional prototype: These are built with the purpose of representing the functioning of features of the final product.
Looks are not a concern in these prototypes as these are more technical than aesthetic. For example, a website that looks shabby but proves its functionality.

Rapid prototype: Also known as throwaway prototypes, these are aptly named as they’re built quickly just for the purpose of visual and functional evaluation.

After that, they’re replaced by an upgraded version of the previous prototype, which is further studied to find out improvements, until the final product is ready.

Evolutionary prototype: Here, the first prototype based on the initial idea is refined by adding more parts/functions as suggested by stakeholders and users until it evolves into the final product itself.

Developers need to make sure changes at different stages don’t conflict with each other.

What Are Some Examples of Prototypes?

Prototypes are developed in different forms, depending on the resources available, time, and aim of the prototype. For example,

Paper prototype: When device screens are represented on paper, showing the positions of buttons, menus, and basic functionality by switching hand-drawn sketches of interfaces, it is an example of paper prototypes.

They’re simple to make and very inexpensive and are recommended only in the earlier stages of design.

Digital prototype: They are virtual models built by computer software that simulate the appearance and working of individual components without having to actually create a physical prototype, saving resources and time.

Once the software is understood, it is easy to make and flexible enough to modify. If the right software is used, you can even print three-dimensional working models

Scale model: These are miniature replicas of large products, such as houses, malls, windmills, vehicles, and more. They generally represent the aesthetics of the final product in detail and take time and effort to build.

How To Develop A Prototype?

Developing a prototype can seem like a tough job, especially when you’re new to the world of startups. Here are a few pointers:

1. Depending on the type of product you’re designing, whether it be a website, mobile application, a ship, or anything really, there is an abundance of applications you can use to develop your prototype in the way you want.

You should be clear about what you want to use to avoid confusion later on. It also helps if you decide which materials will be used for your final product.

2. Don’t move forward with just one idea; make several prototypes of an idea with slight modifications. It will help you select the best features from all of them and compile them into one great product.

Do not try to make the prototype perfect; put in as much work as is required to make it ready for testing. Use inexpensive materials in the early stages.

3. If you’re trying to improve something that already exists, it’d be beneficial for you if you understand your competitors’ products. Find out how they’re built and how they work, and develop a strategy to make sure your product is better.

4. Physical product ideas would need to be taken to industry experts to see how they would be mass-produced in reality. Choose a professional service after doing a background check and going through reviews. Ensure that there’s a written agreement that protects your idea from being stolen.

For software, it’s recommended that you don’t outsource the work and learn to design your idea yourself. There are many tools that you can use in order to bring your idea to life exactly the way you want.

5. Like we’ve mentioned before, involving a few potential customers in the design process could help make a practically sound product that people would actually use.

Introduce your product to people and listen to their ideas on how to make a product that the consumers will like.


Building prototypes as startup founders is one of the best things you can do, as your prototypes will help you with everything- from raising funds, coming up with more ideas, receiving feedback on your work to making business deals, and everything in between. It will also help you save time and resources and still bring your ideas to life.

Reader’s Insight

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