Why should you prototype?

I was directed to an interesting blog by Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert.  In addition to writing comics, Scott works with startups in Silicon Valley.  I’ve thought a lot about the fact that software and web development projects are subject to instant, global competition.  The tech and tools and infrastructure available to build web and mobile apps has advance so much in the past 5 years, that the barriers to creating software, deploying it in an affordable and highly scalable environment are almost gone.  Today I can write a node app for heroku, deploy it on the free tier and release it into the wild.  If it takes off, I can scale it with a single mouse click.

So what makes the difference between successful businesses and projects and unsuccessful ones?  Well – Scott Adams has some answers in this blog post.

I find two quotes really interesting in this article — first:

Building a product for the Internet is now the easy part. Getting people to understand the product and use it is the hard part. And the only way to make the hard part work is by testing one psychological hypothesis after another.

And second:

Psychology has evolved to be a function of speed plus measurement. We’re nearing the point at which the best psychologist in the world is any computer with access to Big Data, and any start-up that is rapidly testing one idea after another.

For me, this drives home the need to prototype and visualize early.  When we prototype, the driving idea is to make ideas concrete and testable as quickly as possible.  Internal testing of early prototypes, user testing of more refined prototypes, and continuous iteration and exploration of ideas bring flaws, missed functionality, and new ideas into the process quickly – much more quickly than even the fastest coder can iterate.  And the process opens up this ideation and exploration phase to less-technical users.

We’ve had customers tell us that ProtoShare helped them knock 3 months off of a 4 month project.  When I hear these stories, the critical ingredient is getting involvement and engagement early from a team, and making sure that the project meets the needs of all of the stakeholders and users.  You can make many of your mistakes, and gain an understanding of the user’s psychology in the prototyping phase of a project rather than in the more expensive and time-consuming production phase.  Let me know your thoughts on Scott’s post, and get experimenting with ProtoShare!

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