Pretotype and forget about prototyping and MVP’s

  • Validate & Experiment

I often experienced how hard it is to get buy-in and real commitment for innovative ideas. It can be very hard to make people feel passionate about an idea YOU came up with. But if you make something very concrete and even tangible, people become very enthusiastic, give constructive feedback and build forward on your ideas. So, let them experience your idea, instead of just talking about it.  Let’s start with a ‘pretotype’: Fake it, before you make it!

Pretotyping makes your idea tangible

And this is where the pretotyping comes in. Pretotyping makes your idea tangible. It shows what your new product or service could look like, but in a minimalistic way. That way you don’t have to spend any time on nitty-gritty functionalities but really focus on the most important aspects. It is a well-known term in Silicon Valley and now making its way to the rest of the world. Alberto Savoia (Google) was one of the first people to use this term. A pretotype is different from a prototype or MVP (minimal viable product) as those types of testing include working features to be able to test the functionalities with early adopters or in a pilot form. So, forget about prototyping and MVP’s for now; fake it before you make it.

The digitalised paper app

One form of pretotyping which I especially like and use in my work as a Strategy Designer is the digitalized paper app. With a digitalized paper app you transform your innovative idea into an app. What does your idea look like when you must be very concrete and can only design 4 steps? It’s a real challenge to create something so minimal, yet with a great customer experience!

The best way to do this is to concretize your idea into a value proposition. This canvas helps you to think about the jobs-to-be-done of your customer, the pains / gains and the added value you are offering. With the job-to-be-done in mind, you think about what the app should do for your customer, what the key features are and the customer experience in the app. Then you create 6 to 8 screenshots for your app. Just by drawing, using printed buttons from other apps or creating it digitally and then printing it. When you do this with your team or a group of people, it becomes even more interesting and valuable, as you can build on each other’s ideas!

Collect constructive feedback

It is amazing what happens when you make thoughts, ideas and dreams tangible. A pretotype allows people to look into the future and get excited about all the new opportunities! One of the most valuable things of pretotyping is the constructive feedback of others. The discussions are no longer about opinions and thoughts: it’s about something that is actually there! Another way to use pretotyping is to do initial testing of your value proposition with your customers, so you already have first customer feedback before even having to spend time and resources on prototyping or an MVP. Collecting true customer feedback to test your idea, no business case can beat that!

Want to create a paper app yourself? Follow these 5 simple steps!

  1. Determine the customer’s job-to-be-done and benefits and think about the key features and customer promise of the app
  2. Decide on the 4 essential steps in the customer experience of the app
  3. Draw 6 to 8 screenshots on paper to illustrate this experience
  4. Download the ‘POP app’ on your smartphone (it’s free), capture the paper screenshots and make them interactive
  5. Go and share your enthusiasm with this clickable app on your smartphone

Pretotyping will help you to bring your idea to the next level. Share your passion and enthusiasm with others by making it tangible. Enjoy!


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