Have you ever poured your heart and soul and blood, sweat and tears to help test and perfect a product that, after launch, flopped miserably? Not because it was not working right (you tested the snot out of it), but because it was not the right product.
Are you currently wasting your time testing a new product or feature that, in the end, nobody will use?
Testing typically revolves around making sure that we have built something right. Testing activities can be roughly described as “verifying that something works as intended, or as specified.” This is critical. However, before we take steps and invest time and effort to make sure that something built right, we should make sure that the thing we are testing, whether its a new feature or a whole new product, is the right thing to build in the first place.
Spending time, money and effort to test something that nobody ends up using is a waste of time.
For the past couple of years, I’ve been thinking about, and working on, a concept called pretotyping.
What is pretotyping? Here’s a somewhat formal definition – the dry and boring kind you’d find in a dictionary:
Pretotyping [pree-tuh-tahy-ping], verb: Testing the initial appeal and actual usage of a potential new product by simulating its core experience with the smallest possible investment of time and money.
Here’s a less formal definition:
Pretotyping is a way to test an idea quickly and inexpensively by creating extremely simplified, mocked or virtual versions of that product to help validate the premise that "If we build it, they will use it."
My favorite definition of pretotyping, however, is this:
Make sure – as quickly and as cheaply as you can – that you are building the right it before you build it right.
My thinking on pretotyping evolved from my positive experiences with Agile and Test Driven Development. Pretotyping applies some of the core ideas from these two models and applies them further upstream in the development cycle.
I’ve just finished writing the first draft of a booklet on pretotyping called “Pretotype It”.
You can download a PDF of the booklet from Google Docs or Scribd.
The "Pretotype It" booklet is itself a pretotype and test. I wrote this first-draft to test my (possibly optimistic) assumption that people would be interested in it, so please let me know what you think of it.
You can follow my pretotyping work on my pretotyping blog.