I am a proponent of building high-quality well design MVPs that will serve you for years as a constructor for your future ideas. I describe a process of how I do it in this article: How to Build an MVP that Will Survive a Pivot – Kavun UA.
However, sometimes, we wanna go to market quickly. We are not yet sure if we have already spent dozens of thousands of dollars on developing MVP and we just wanna test how people would react to the product. In this case, I build a prototype. Something which is fast mostly copy-pasted, and covers most of the functionality required in MVP.
I believe that if your prototype is taking more than 24 active hours to develop, it is not a prototype anymore and in this article, I will describe which tools and websites I use to deliver prototypes as fast as possible.
Use clickable design
Most of the time prototype is not really needed to test an idea, a simple clickable design is enough. https://www.figma.com/ is doing an incredible job of handling that. You can create a design and make the button clickable as if it was a real app. You can even add animations, login, conditional operators, variables, and much more.
After finishing the design you can put its screenshots on the landing and insert a link to a dynamic demo. Limitations of this method are obvious, it is not a real app, with no real registration process and payments. However, if you wanna test if people would use your product, just launch a really good landing with screenshots that highlight the strength of your solution. At the end add a waiting list. Then launch some ADS and see what is the conversion rate. If the conversion rate is good – you can start building MVP and skip the whole prototype thing.
Such design if done correctly will also give you the ability to quickly transform it into code and most of the developers will say thanks for that. To develop such a solution you would need to hire a website dev and a designer which could take like $1000 and 2 weeks of a project.
Starting to develop something from scratch is usually a big thing and the only initial configuration of a project could take the whole 24 hours. I love websites like https://themeforest.net/ or https://codecanyon.net/ which are aggregating tons of ready-made solutions for startups. If your startup is a copy of something already existing for a new market or with a unique twist, you definitely will find a template there.
Be careful with low-quality code while using templates. Before buying anything make sure that the template has a lot of good reviews and development team still supports that. I had bad luck buying a couple of bad-quality templated there, platform refunded me 100% of the money after the refund request so you can feel safe in there.
Most of the template developers also provide software development services so you could directly ask them to modify a template for your need. Of course, it will cost more money but you can be sure that they know what they are doing. They can also handle deployment and support processes.
If you can find a template which suits your need it is a matter of a week and ~$1000 to launch your idea from 0 to market.
A lot of companies like The best way to build web apps without code | Bubble, Webflow: Create a custom website | No-code website builder and FlutterFlow – Build beautiful, modern apps incredibly fast! are trying to make software development accessible to non-technical founders. They are doing so a great job that there is a separate market of no-code developers who help nontechnical founders use no-code tools.
No-code platforms are having great templates which will cover a lot of startup ideas, if your idea is covered – you are lucky and you should proceed using no-code. If not, you would need to develop it from scratch and probably you would need to hire an expensive engineer for that.
While using no-code be careful with their pricing model and limitations. On some platforms like Bubble, you would need to pay pre-computing units which means the more website visit you have – the more you pay. In terms of limitations, some platforms are doing a poor job of building adaptive UIs and some may not support features you want. I strongly suggest consulting with some experienced no-code dev before starting to do something.
Development of a no-code prototype may be tricky, but if used right you can expect to finish the project in about 2 weeks and you would need to pay about $1000 to the developer.
All expensive enterprise software has its own decent open-source alternative. GitHub and Google is the best place to find them. Open source is widely used in the SaaS industry where you can just find some underestimated open source project and sell a hosted version of it.
While using open source be careful with licensing. Not all licenses will allow you to use the software for commercial purposes so spend some time reading the license agreement before starting to customize it for your need.
Most of the open-source software is having great tech and you don’t need to care about evaluating it. Sometimes tech is so great that the average software developer can’t understand it and support it, so you will need to hire someone with decent experience to set everything up.
If you could find an open-source software for your idea you can get and set it up for free and you would need to pay just for a developer who will execute the setup and customization process. You can expect about a $2000 budget and a monthly project if your software doesn’t need much customization.
Use API or SaaS
GPT3 itself made birth to thousand of startups using its API. There are tons of APIs that may be solving problems you gonna solve in a way so that you can use them under the hood and sell them as your own product. Usually, it is hard to find them, my main source of inspiration is Product Hunt – The best new products in tech. and Browse software deals for your business. | AppSumo. Those are curated libraries of mostly B2B software that you can utilize to build prototype fast.
While using API or SaaS to build a prototype be careful with the cost. Most of those are free to start but once you get some users you would need to pay a lot of money. Another complexity of APIs is that you still would need to build all code around of it.
You don’t really need an experienced developer to set up such a product, cause most of the functionality is outsourced to someone else. You can use simplistic technologies like Firebase, React, and Node.js to implement all of the software parts.
Such a product may take you about a month of time and $4000 in development.
If you can not find a template with a decent quality you can try to find a company that is already doing what you need and ask them to buy their software. I have a personal success story with that and buying a company should always be an option in your list. When you buy a company you instantly get a high-quality code base with a deployment process, an engineering team who can support you for some time, and even marketing materials.
The popular destination is Acquire.com, the #1 Startup Acquisition Marketplace, it is the biggest startup marketplace I know. Of course, you need to have a higher budget to buy a company. On average for a company that has a few users and a decent tech, you have to be ready to pay about $10k. It will take you about 2 weeks to finalize the deal and move everything under your control.
There is a huge advantage of buying a company over starting from scratch because you are eliminating all technical risks associated with the development of a product from scratch. A lot of nontechnical founders underestimate how much time and effort in takes to develop a product. I know dozen of startups who were developing products for months and then just threw it because the quality was bad. Even though $10k sounds like a ton of money, it could potentially save you much more.
The most important moment while buying a company is to make sure their users are real and their tech is high quality. You can’t evaluate it yourself, so please find some technical friends who can help you with that. Feel free to text me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are planning to buy a company and you need someone to do tech diligence. I can do it even for free, it is a really fun process haha.