So you have a web or mobile app idea.
You have defined the problem you are trying to solve in theory, but, what you’re trying to figure out needs to be tested in a real world environment – is it actually a problem for your potential target audience?
As a founder, if you haven’t answered 'Three things you should ask yourself before making an app' then I would start there to give context as to why you need to validate your idea. Then you can move onto doing that with a pretotype.
A pretotype is a series of experiments that make sure you are building the right product before you actually build it.
It is the manual outworking of your business model at a small scale. It also serves as a means to validate an idea and collect data around the solution before raising funding or developing software.
It gives us a better understanding of a product’s validity and insights into how the solution would work in a real world environment on smaller scale.
It also helps us mitigate the risk of developing applications that won't be used by end users and define the features and functions of the web or mobile app in line with the user’s actual wants and needs.
There is no one way to create a pretotype as each business model will be different.
Essentially, you are trying to use the resources and tools at your disposal to create a manual or micro version of the functions of your business.
Below is a list of tools which are helpful, however, your success at pretotyping will come down to using the resources you have to execute your business model.
The best way to have an idea of how to execute the pretotype is to map your customer's user journeys to your business, and the user stories through which the customer's problem will be solved by your web or mobile application.
If you have defined these stories, you'll have a high level idea of the functions you want to manually action during your pretotype.
So, on a high level there are some things that are pretty generic to a lot of pretotype testing a product in the market. Sometimes if not functional, they may be helpful in people working with you.
However, as discussed, they may or may not be right for your business.
These are a good foundation for a lot of B2C (business-to-customer) products but may or may not be what is needed.
These tools are supplements for basic validation of an idea but won’t serve for the more complex business functions:
Into the chaos of execution the only way forward is to use the resources at your disposal.
Some examples are:
If you have a phone and phone book. Call.
If you have internet access…you have all the tools you probably need. It’s just going to take some work to find them.
Luckily I have compiled a list of tools which will help as you manually pull together your solution.
I’m going to cover in depth the holy trinity of pretotyping – WebFlow, Google Sheets and Zapier – after which I will compile a list of other tools and a short bio of their functions.
Webflow is great for setting up a basic landing page through to more advanced options for web page and CMS design.
On a basic level you can just pull down a template edit the text plug in a few tools and deploy easily to the web.
It's not going to be the best looking website in the world but something is always better than nothing.
Yep, this is actually one of the best places to start, yes I know, a spreadsheet. The benefit is that a Google spreadsheet is hosted online and you can structure data in a way which can be accessed online by other services (Zapier).
The other benefit of Google sheets is that they allow you to do SQL queries on the data you have in the sheet.
SQL Queries in Google Sheets (Blog by Tony Hirst):
This is pretty advanced though, but with this feature embedded into Google Sheets the flexibility of managing and manipulating data is pretty unlimited. You're basically building software without building software.
Zapier and its variants IFTTT/Do are a new Web App Automation Service. Basically it enables you to connect a number of different applications together. It basically makes pretotyping possible on a digital level.
You can easily set it up to get different tools to talk together. Similar to 'IF THIS, THEN THAT' action but easier.
IF (website newsletter signup) Mailchimp THEN (add user to row) with Google sheets.
IF (Time: 12:00pm) Zapier Built In Action THEN (email user through from) Google Sheets with Mailchimp.
IF (social media post) Facebook THEN (post to LinkedIn) LinkedIn.
You get the general gist.
There are more than 500+ apps on Zapier that you can integrate.
Advanced Zapier Tip
You can dynamically inject Google Sheets SQL queries into Google Sheets with Zapier.
Super easy to use forms for data acquisition.
List building and EDM (Electronic Distributed Mail).
An easy way to set up payment for products.
Data feedback and display.
Paper, wood and other materials
Can you build it with what you have around you?
Analysis of digital resources (websites etc.).
Heatmaps, recordings, form analysis and user testing.
Website analytics and tools.
Manually record data on a clipboard and enter it into a spreadsheet.
Aardvark or Vark sold to Google in 2011 for a reported $50m.
The origin story of Aardvark is straight from the Pretotyping Handbook. Pre-seed it started as a question-answer database run from a spreadsheet.
AirBnB (Started on Craig’s List)
In 2007 AirBnB founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia couldn't afford to pay rent, so the pair converted the loft at their apartment into a makeshift room with three beds and offered a cooked breakfast.
They set up a simple landing page for their idea (Air Bed & Breakfast) and got three renters in. They also posted free ads on Craig’s List to drive traffic to their site.
AirBnB closed a $1.5b funding round in December, 2015 with a valuation of $25.5b.
Pretotyping has become a method of inexpensively testing and laying the foundation for turning an idea into a business.
It is a bottom up approach to building a business and is particularly popular in the tech startup world.
There is no one way to do it, the methodology is more about the ability to utilise the tools that are available to you to build your concept in the best way you can, with the resources you have.
Want to find out more about pretotyping and idea validation? Get in touch with the great team at SEED to make an enquiry.