Building a Winning Prototype

In this article, you will learn the fundamentals of building a prototype.

Published on
January 3, 2023

Microsoft for Startups is a digital platform that provides founders with free digital resources to build successful startups. 

They believe in helping founders innovate and grow regardless of background, location, or progress. 

In this article, we’ll look at Microsoft’s Zero to One prototyping process and explore each of its 6 steps.

1. Intro to UX & Design Thinking

UX stands for user experience. Why does this matter? Your end user should be at the center of your entire digital design process. 

This point is all about how a product feels and solving complex problems with an action-solution approach. 

There are 5 key phases to design thinking: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test. 

As you move through the prototyping process, UX and design should inform your decisions as you move through the definition and ideation stages of thinking. 

2. Product Lifecycle

This point is all about user-centered design. This simply means putting the user at the center of every decision you make in the product’s lifecycle, from the beginning stages of brainstorming to making final tweaks before production.

3. Empathize & Design

As I’ve said already, your end user is essential! But who is your user?

The empathize and design step is all about understanding who your customer is and what problems they face. 

How do you learn more about them? There are a variety of methods you can use but often they include interviews, surveys, and other forms of research. 

This stage is where prototyping starts because you can really begin to form the best solutions for your customers. 

4. The Art of Ideation

This is all about defining your who, what, and why

At this point, you want to begin to define your Unique Value Proposition (UVP). 

A UVP is a statement that follows a similar format and communicates who you are, what you offer, and how you manage to deliver. For example, a common format is: We do _____(service you provide) for _____(client) by doing _____(how you provide). 

5. Rapid Prototyping

Now it’s time to discuss how you can begin the prototyping process. 

What does that mean for you? Understanding the difference between wireframing and prototyping, and low-fidelity and high-fidelity prototypes can accelerate your production process. 

First, let’s look at what wireframing, prototyping, low-fidelity, and high-fidelity mean. 

Low-fidelity vs. high-fidelity

Low-fidelity mockups are essentially just a sketch or a blueprint of what your product will eventually look like. These will typically be colorless, lack graphic design and visuals, and won’t function. 

So when is a good time to use low-fidelity wireframes? 

Low-fidelity prototypes are great early on in the creation process. They let you brainstorm ideas while also giving you a more tangible mockup you can deliver to investors or stakeholders. 

High-fidelity prototypes are much closer to what the end user will see at the end of the production process. These are often full of color, visuals, and functions similar to how the end product will.

6. From Prototype to MVP

You may ask, “What’s an MVP?” It’s not the most valuable player. An MVP is your minimum viable product. 

How is this different from a prototype? Think of your MVP as a step between your prototype and the final product. It’s a bit more developed and gives users or testers even more to interact with before you move on to full production. 

Just like a prototype, MVPs can help you save time and money in the production process. 

And that wraps up the 6 stages of Microsoft’s Zero to One program. 

If you’d like to learn more about information prototypes, visit the Zero to One site! There, you’ll be able to learn more about the Zero to One program, the steps, and all of our available resources. We’ll see you there!

Obi Akpuda

Obi is a program manager at Microsoft for Startups. He leads prototyping efforts on the build team at Microsoft for Startups and is the founder/director of #ZeroToOne, a program for underrepresented founders as they look to validate their early-stage ideas and launch a winning MVP. Prior to joining Microsoft for Startups in 2022, Obi held roles at Slalom, TIAA, and Wells Fargo.

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