Pen & Paper to Prototype

Even when effy was but a notion in our minds, we were very much of the opinion that talking to people was the best way to make a notion into a business. Not only would it mean that we would be able to validate that it was the right solution to a real problem, but externalising our notions put a certain amount of pressure on us to follow through. Yet after a while of talking about a vague concept of an idea, we came to the conclusion that we needed something more concrete, more tangible to show potential customers.

We were recommended a number of different tools to gain this tangibility. Some recommended the classic pen and paper to draw out our vision, so we tried that out. It was great as it made much more real, as it gave us a more structured view of what effy was, in a real sense, as opposed to a conceptual sense. It meant that, instead of thinking of effy in the sense of a broad idea of benefits, we had grown to see it as a set of features that could be used to realise these benefits.

From the pen and paper, we grew to get effy mocked up, using a freelance designer, which we found on Freelancer. This was a very easy thing to do when we have the basics down on pen and paper. We just got a couple of screens designed for a cost effective price. This was useful to make effy a bit more legitimate in the eyes of those we spoke to, to create that positive perception of it as a real product, as opposed to scribbles on a piece of paper. That being said, if we had foregone this step, I do not think it would have affected our progression. We realised very quickly that this was not exactly what we were seeking in the next stage of effy’s progression. We were looking for something more tangible than pen and paper to guide the talks we were having with customers to result in more tangible results.

effy - The Mockup version
effy – The Mockup version

Others recommended online tools, like Balsamiq, to enable us to flexibility of pen and paper, yet digitised to be able to click through. This is great as this ‘digitised pen and paper’ gives a bit more realism to the concept. We checked out Wix, which allowed us to create a live website. This was great for the design element, which gave it more depth than the pen and paper view of balsamiq, yet did not allow us create the functionality of effy.

We played around with pen and paper, played around with Balsamiq, played around with Wix, yet none of these were quite right. They either didn’t give us the visual impact we wanted to properly showcase our vision. So we went another way…

effy - The PowerPoint version
effy – The PowerPoint version

Our first prototype of effy was a PowerPoint presentation that we went showed to potential customers. We figured out that you can hyperlink ‘buttons’ to particular slides, which meant we would set up the whole presentation as a click through, which went to the visual which would occur after clicking on a particular button. This gave us the visual impact we wanted (although very basic, it felt more real to us), while being able to illustrate the functionality. It also meant that we could be able give the potential customer control over the click through (as opposed to a video demo) as they could go where they wanted, when they wanted.

For us, this worked! It was something we were comfortable with, which resulted in more tangible feedback from people we spoke to.

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