From Idea to Prototype: How to Turn your Idea into a Successful Digital Product

So you’ve had a brilliant idea for a digital product. The only question now is how do you bring your idea to life? With no less than nine in ten product launches failing (1) here’s our guide to how to give your product the best chance of success.  


What is a digital product?

Do you bank online using an app? Have you ever used a SatNav dashboard in your car? Do you ask Alexa to put on the Spice Girls Greatest Hits whilst making Sunday lunch? These are all examples of digital products. 

  • They’re software-enabled products or services
  • They’re designed to help you achieve something

One other thing these examples have in common is they all began life as a fledgling idea with one goal: to solve a problem. For example, back in 2008, Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick, two entrepreneurs from San Francisco, had trouble finding a ride to a conference. This led to them coming up with an idea for a taxi app. Today, that idea – Uber – is worth $89.46 billion. (2)   

Research and plan 

Once you’ve had your idea, you need to put in the work to validate it. As Thomas Edison once said genius is “1% inspiration and 99% perspiration” (3) and with 1,093 patents for inventions to his name – including the light bulb – Edison knows a thing or two about, ahem, bright ideas.   

Identify your users

The first step is to clearly define your market. Ask yourself: 

  • Who is your idea for? 
  • What are their wants, needs, and pain points? 

This is where UX research in the form of user testing is invaluable. It allows you to see if your idea is viable by removing the guesswork in favour of real-world data. As a result, you can refine your idea to ensure it meets your target audience’s specific requirements. It also gives you the data to create a user persona. This is where you meld together all of your user information to create a portrait of a typical user so it’s easier to see things from their perspective. 

Review the competition

Imagine spending months – if not years – working on an idea only to discover it already exists. Having a strong understanding of the marketplace lets you identify potential gaps, see where your product fits, and define your product USPs. Reviewing the competition lets you define if your idea is uncovering a niche in the market, or offering users an improved version of a product that’s already available.

Time to design

Conceptualise your idea

Before creating initial designs for your idea, it’s vital you take the time to conceptualise everything you want it (and your users need it) to do. The goal is to come up with what is known as a minimum viable product (MVP). This is essentially what an early version of the final product would look like. It should have just enough features to allow initial users to test drive your product and provide invaluable feedback.

Create user interface designs

Of course, giving early users a list of features doesn’t quite cut the mustard. Creating user interface designs (or visual designs) helps bring your idea to life. User interface (UI) design focuses on the look and style of the graphical user interface and should be:

  • Easy to use: so users can quickly do what they need to do
  • Intuitive: the user journey to complete tasks should be seamless
  • Enjoyable: frustration-free and fun to use (with gamification elements)

Create a prototype

Want to know how to make your idea work? That’s the goal of a prototype. From the Greek words ‘photos’ and ‘typos’, prototype means ‘first impression’. It’s literally the first version of your product, designed to give proof of concept before too much time and money is spent on creating the final product.

So it’s not about being perfect at this stage. In fact, entrepreneur, investor and strategist Reid Hoffman says, “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” (4)

There are two main categories of prototypes. Known as hi-fidelity and low-fidelity, depending on the level of sophistication. Check out high-fidelity vs low-fidelity prototypes for an in-depth comparison.

How prototypes improve the user experience

There are many benefits to creating a prototype. Internally, it allows everyone involved in the project to ensure they’re on the same page about the purpose and specification of your idea. It also highlights potential design flaws, which are much cheaper to rectify at this stage.

One of the biggest advantages from a UX point of view is that prototypes allow actual users to test the product and provide feedback on what they like, don’t like, or feel that is missing. Their feedback helps ensure the final product is designed to meet their needs.

Different types of prototype

Depending on your particular project, there are many types of prototype to help bring your idea to life. Let’s take a look. 

Paper prototype

In our digital age, there’s something quite quaint about paper but in the early stages of design, drawing screen mock-ups on paper is a great way to test product ideas. Different sketches are drawn to mimic each step of the user journey, which makes it easy to switch the order of screens based on feedback. Other advantages of the paper approach to prototyping are it’s quick to produce, cheap to do, and great fun as part of a team-building UX workshop. 

Digital prototyping

For all the benefits of paper prototypes, nothing beats the realism of going digital. That’s why this is the most common type of prototype. Built using apps or prototyping software, they allow you to create a user-friendly version of the final product with elements that users can interact with. They’re also flexible in that you can start with a lo-fi version and add layers based on user feedback. 

HTML prototyping

As the name suggests, this is a prototype built using HTML. As it involves coding, HTML prototypes have the flexibility to be tested on multiple platforms and devices which allows users the freedom to test your product using their favoured method. The time spent coding at this stage can also save time later on as it provides a solid foundation on which to build the final product.

Your idea, our expertise

If you’d like to turn your idea into a successful digital product, Code23 is the answer. We can help set up and run a UX workshop, create custom software development, and advise on the best prototype for your project.

You can tell us all about your idea here.   



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