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Why Pretotyping Should Always Be The First Step In Product Development

Most people have heard of prototypes and Minimal Viable Products (MVPs), but how many have heard of pretotypes? If you’re not creating pretotypes to validate your ideas, perhaps you should be. It could save you time and money, and give you a greater chance of success.

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What is pretotyping?

The term pretotype was coined by ex-Google engineer, Alberto Savoia, in 2009. It’s about testing your ideas before developing them: ‘building the right It before you build It right’. As a result, it should be the first step for any entrepreneur when developing a new product. Many new products fail in the market, not because they aren’t well designed, but because there’s no demand for them. So, it’s crucial for any company to create a pretotype, before investing time and money in one idea.

How to go about pretotyping

Pretotyping is about pretending to develop and use a product before actually developing it. In fact, Savoia initially considered the term ‘pretendotyping’ before settling on pretotyping.

An early example of pretotyping is IBM’s testing of speech-to-text technology in the 1980’s. Before spending time and money developing the technology, they wanted to learn whether people would use it. So, they set up a test, inviting users to try it out first. When these users spoke into the microphone, it wasn’t software that translated the audio to text, it was a professional typist in the next room.

Whilst the users were impressed with the speed and accuracy of the ‘technology’, after using it, they said they wouldn’t buy it. Talking for long periods of time gave them a dry throat and was more uncomfortable than typing. Knowing this, IBM decided not to invest in developing the technology.

A more basic example of a pretotype could be a landing page showcasing the idea – perhaps where people can register interest – with a Google Ad campaign to drive traffic to it. By measuring the volume of traffic, or the number of sign-ups, you can quickly gauge interest in the idea.

You don’t need to create a product to start marketing it. Through this, you can work out whether it’s worth developing further.

What are the benefits of pretotyping?

In addition to being able to determine the success of your idea, there are three key benefits.

1. You’ll save time. By creating a streamlined version of your idea, you can get direct feedback from the market more quickly. If it doesn’t work, move onto the next idea.

2. You’ll save money. If the pretotype shows the idea will likely fail, you won’t have invested too much in a bad idea. If it’s a good idea, you’ll have more money to invest in creating the best functioning product possible.

3. You can test multiple ideas simultaneously. If you throw enough ideas out to the world, at least one should stick. With pretotyping, speed and agility means you can try all these ideas at once, to find which works best.

So, if you’ve had a great idea for a new product or service, before you build it, create a pretotype first, to make sure it’s really worth investing in.

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