Pretotyping comes from the words “pretend” and “prototype.” It is a method to validate business ideas to improve the chances of building a product people want. Pretotyping helps to answer such questions (about the product or service to build) as: Would I use it? How, how often, and when would I use it? Would other people buy it? How much would they be willing to pay for it? How, how often, and when would they use it?
Pretotyping in a nutshell
In the FourWeekMBA interview to Alberto Savoia, author of the Right It and the person who coined the term “pretotype” he explained:
The key difference between pretotyping and prototyping is the following: typically you build a prototype to make sure that what you are planning to build can actually be built to see if it will work, how it will work, how long the battery will last, etc. etc.
So, prototypes are built to make sure that you can build something. Now, my research shows that 99% of the time you can build it. Most of the apps, say, in an app store do not fail because people cannot build them, they fail because people are not interested.
As Alberto Savoia explained, pretotype is really:
Designed to ask a very different question. It asks the question, “should we build it?”So, if we build it, will people buy it?
In the book, there are many examples of pretotypes.
Let’s look at an example of pretotyping to understand how you can use it to validate your business ideas.
YouTube Pretotype case study
One of the techniques I teach, one of the pretotyping techniques I write in the book, is called the “YouTubePretotype,” so instead of actually building the app with code, you can use PowerPoint or KeyNote or any other program to simulate what the app will do, right? So you can make a little video, a little movie, that will show the potential users what the app actually does.
And he continued:
So you can have one screen where you write your name and you write the books that you like and then you click a button and it asks for recommendations and you see the app giving you a recommendation. You can do all of this without writing a single line of code. Anybody can do it if you can use PowerPoint or Keynote you can do that.
Pretotyping (pretending to have a working prototype) is a fast way to prove an idea. Rather than focus time, effort and money on a prototype that the market doesn’t want.
With pretotyping you can flip the questions “if I build it will you buy it?” and approach the market with the following research question: “If you buy it, we will build it.”
Introduction to Pretotyping: Pretotyping is a method that combines “pretend” and “prototype” to validate business ideas before investing significant resources. It helps answer crucial questions about a potential product or service, such as whether people would use it, buy it, and how much they’d be willing to pay.
Key Difference from Prototyping: The main distinction between pretotyping and prototyping lies in their goals. Prototypes are built to ensure that a product can be developed and functions as intended. In contrast, pretotyping focuses on whether a product should be built in the first place, based on user interest and demand.
The Right Question to Ask: Pretotyping shifts the question from “Can we build it?” to “Should we build it?” It aims to determine whether people would actually buy and use the product if it were developed.
YouTube Pretotype Case Study: One example of pretotyping is the YouTube Pretotype. Instead of coding an app, a simulation is created using tools like PowerPoint or KeyNote. For instance, a video could demonstrate the app’s functionality and interactions without writing any code.
Benefits of Pretotyping: Pretotyping is a fast and cost-effective way to validate ideas before investing substantial resources in development. It enables businesses to gauge market interest and demand early on and align their efforts with customer preferences.
Flipping the Question: Pretotyping allows businesses to reverse the conventional approach of “If I build it, will you buy it?” to a more customer-centric stance of “If you buy it, we will build it.” This approach ensures that development efforts are driven by proven demand.
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