Prototyping Lean — Having a beautiful, yet simple minimum viable product.

This year, I set out to change how I may try to “start a startup”. My entrepreneurial drive is high, and I love working with technology. However, my biggest obstacle as of yet has been learning how to put together a MVP (minimum viable product) that I can use to pitch my concept to potential customers.

I come from a systems administrator background, so I’m quite proficient with technology. I’m also confident in my abilities to market, pitch, and sell a product. However, coding and design (half of the work required for a “pre-startup”) has been a major weakness for me. I thought that I would be able to focus on business development and marketing, while finding a good co-founder who was strong on the programming side.

Everything is not as easy as we make it sound. Even with my superior confidence, planning, and work ethic, we could not execute on our strategy. We even were in talks with an angel investor to raise our late-stage seed round. The hype died when our team failed to execute.

Surviving a life-changing summer, reading Atlas Shrugged, and increased frustrations with my “team” forced me to pull the plug on the current project structure. I decided to go it alone.

Enter 2016 and my objective — to launch a startup.

To do so, I needed to learn how to build my own MVP. Not just some crappy pdf made in Balsamic Mockups (nothing bad with the software, except it’s too “low-fidelity” for a real pitch.)

First, if you have any ambition to build a technical MVP — hit up Codecademy and learn the basics of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. You will thank me later! (www.codecademy.com)

A second requirement, is that you will need to be somewhat familiar with a graphics-editing program like Gimp, Adobe Photoshop, or Sketch. (If you don’t know what those are, Google them! :) )

I have learned about four software tools that can help with early-stage prototyping for validating or killing a startup concept.

I hate to be biased towards a certain software platform, but in these cases having access to a Macintosh computer is going to be very helpful. (If not, look up “hackintosh” or e-mail me for more information. (jesseianhayward@gmail.com) )

You can still do some of this stuff on Windows or Linux, but your going to be limited in your tools.

For making an interactive prototype in Windows, you can install Framer.js onto your machine, and use some simple CoffeeScript (simpler JavaScript code) to build animations and transitions for your high-res mockups, so they can breathe life as a prototype.

http://www.prototypingwithframer.com/framer-on-windows-with-atom/ is a simple tutorial that will walk you through a basic Framer prototype project on Windows using the Atom text editor, writing CoffeeScript (basically JavaScript but written differently) and the Framer.js framework. (All off the software used is free.)

InVision (http://www.invisionapp.com) is a web app that allows you to build simple prototypes for web apps and mobile apps. It’s free for basic use, with an enterprise plan. Their website has many tutorials. I found it was quite easy to dive in to their tutorials and start building. This was the easiest tool to learn.

For those who will be motivated to learn & write code, Xcode is great for prototyping for iOS, as it’s Interface Builder is easy to learn and get into. (The only downside is that you need to have a Macintosh computer to have Xcode.) The Interface Builder also provides you with a fair bit of written code, so you can write less and do more, faster. (The provided code is written in Swift or Objective-C. I’d prefer learning Swift over Objective-C if your not familiar with programming.) Apple’s Developer website has some nice Xcode tutorials using the Swift programming language. (https://developer.apple.com/library/ios/referencelibrary/GettingStarted/DevelopiOSAppsSwift/)

Last, but not least, is Facebook’s Origami tool, which was recently released. Origami is a Mac exclusive tool that is built on top of Apple’s Quartz Composer software. It allows code-less prototyping, with many different features. Facebook has many tutorials for Origami, and it’s quite easy to get into. (https://facebook.github.io/origami/ is the link.)

With such easy ways to build and develop high-fidelity MVP’s, it is now easier for non-technical startup founders & employees to test, iterate, and pivot on concepts.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this post, and have gotten some value out of it.

Thanks for reading!

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