Ideas are a dime a dozen. But prototypes are worth a little more. A prototype can help you test your business assumptions and get some interest from potential co-founders and investors. Now, more often than not, you will end up discarding your prototype after you have launched and received some traction. So, its imperative that you don’t spend too much time and money on a prototype. Here are a few quick tricks that will help you get out your version 1 in no time.
Use Design Templates: These are front end templates with rendered HTML/CSS files. One can take these files and plug any backend to them. Such pre-rendered design templates are available for as low as $5 on marketplaces such as Themeforest. You can easily find one that matches the needs of your business or customize one with little effort. In addition to saving you weeks that you would have otherwise spent on an expensive designer, you also get SEO and speed issues already taken care of. Moreover, you don’t need to worry about precision in design as these template are carefully crafted by front end experts.
Price: $5 – $100
Use a CMS like WordPress: A content management system allows you to build applications without writing any code. Imagine a drag and drop for actual features. A CMS like WordPress and Joomla have thousands of plugins that can provide out of the box feature sets. You need a recommendation system? There is a plugin for that! You need to integrate payments? There is a plugin for that! You even have end to end templates available with a collection of plugins that mimic entire web apps.
Leverage Open Source: Before building any functionality, check websites like Sourceforge and Github to see if there is an open source library available that does what you need done. The quality of open source projects is often better than its commercial competitors as thousands of fanatic developers contribute to such projects. They are well documented and the community support is unparalleled. That said, make sure to check the licenses before integrating open source tools with your products.
Find Clones Scripts: If the product that you are building mimics a popular product like Uber or Ebay, there is a very good chance that there exists a clone that you can buy off the shelf and customize. For example, if you are building an on demand service for massage therapists, you can take an Uber clone and change the icons and the pricing to fit your needs. While you may have to make some compromises, the time to market is reduced by months, which allows you to test ideas and fail faster.
Never Forget SaaS: Far too many people make the mistake of building basic business tools like CRMs and blogs etc from scratch. For such use cases that transcend markets, that are required by most businesses, there is an extremely high probability that there exists a SaaS tool that can do the job at hand. These days, there exists a SaaS solution for literally every business need. I recently came across a company that provides a SaaS solution to enable automobile retailers manage their inventory, customers and after sales service – all from one platform. It would have easily taken over 6 months and hundreds and thousands of dollars for one retailer to build one all by himself.
All that said, it may be that what you need to build your products is not available off the shelf or by mixing and matching two or more tools. In that case, you need to make sure that you have a developer or a team you can trust and one who understands your business and domain.
Here’s how we suggest you find and vet developers.