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Eight Tips For Building A Product Prototype (Without Spending A Fortune)

If you’re building a product for your new business, you’ll first need a solid prototype. This will help you better visualize your concept and start getting necessary feedback from customers or peers. But if you’re just starting out as an entrepreneur, you may not yet have the budget for multiple iterations or complex software or tools to build your prototype, so finding a way to save money will be key.

Every entrepreneur starts somewhere, and the members of Young Entrepreneur Council are familiar with working within the constraints of a small budget. Below, they offer up a few of their best tips for creating a prototype on a limited budget and why they’ll help you get started.

1. Go Back To Basics

My best tip for prototyping a project on a budget is to go back to basics: pencil and paper. Draw a few rough sketches to get a feel for how your website or product will function. This tip saved me money because we spend far less time tweaking our product while actively building it because we have old-school blueprints to use as reference points for the final version. – Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights

2. Keep It As Unfinished As Possible

Many entrepreneurs get excited about their prototype because it’s the first time they will see their idea come to life as a finished product. The idea behind a prototype, however, is to have the product come alive for the first time to allow for changes and edits before production. Keep it as raw and unfinished as possible to save on costs for a future prototype with the new edits installed. Then, you can perfect the idea for full production. – Mary Harcourt, CosmoGlo

3. Work Backward From The Customer’s Problem

They call it an MVP (minimum viable product) for a reason. What it means is that you should prove your product hypothesis with the least amount of effort possible. To do this, you need to understand the customer problem, then work backward from there to eliminate features that don’t get you to a solution quickly. Think “high value, low effort” when choosing features to focus on. – Andy Karuza, NachoNacho

4. Limit Iterations With Clear Objectives

One should first accept that they are building a prototype and that it is not meant to serve millions. In my experience, most budget overruns occur due to iterations. So, set clear objectives and metrics to define what success and failure mean for the prototype. When possible, use tools such as Figma to create screens and test them with users. Reuse open-source modules available on GitHub. Plug and play. – Vinay Indresh, Spacejoy

5. Get Community Experts Involved

You can easily build a product prototype on a limited budget by getting other industry experts involved. Odds are, other people in the community will contribute and help you create a working prototype with their time and resources if they can see the value in your product or service. – John Turner, SeedProd LLC

6. Leverage Digital Tools

The best way to create a prototype that you can change and manage at lower expenses is to create one digitally. You can use tools like Adobe Photoshop, InVision and Sketch to create prototypes that look and feel real. You can also use these tools to test different user flows and gather feedback from users. – Blair Williams, MemberPress

7. Do It Yourself

No one understands your product or business better than you, so try to do it yourself. Most people consider outsourcing, which can be really expensive. Creating a prototype yourself not only saves you a lot of money, but it also saves you from the hassle of unending back-and-forth while trying to get your ideas across. Start simple, don’t go overboard with it and use the tools you’re familiar with. – Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms

8. Determine If You Even Need A Prototype

Ask yourself if a prototype is even necessary for this project. More often than not, your initial product success will come down to marketing. Is it possible to design a landing page and a core message before making the actual product? You can see if people will pay for it first and then start building. This way, you’ll also have a list of customers ready to give you money once you’re done. – Karl Kangur, Above House

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