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Why Prototypes (NFPs) Are A Great Way to Launch Your Startup


Mason Carter wrote this article


Not every business can afford the initial investment it takes to get an app out to the market.

Make no mistake, building an app from scratch is a huge investment — in both your time and cost. This only gets riskier with an unproven concept.

While there are steps that you can take to ensure your app’s viability in the real-world, there is always going to be some risk involved.

That’s where the non-functioning prototype (NFP) comes in. An NFP can demonstrate your idea’s potential to investors, customers, and crowdfunders alike.

Think of it as your future app without a brain

Since the funding may not be there yet for your business, the NFP allows you to create the right conditions for your future success.

Just because you can’t afford to invest in a full app yet, doesn’t mean that you can’t get started on the right path forward.

When it comes to funding, investors are much more likely to be persuaded when you can show them something visual behind your idea. The same thing goes when generating interest for your concept with future users or customers.

Persuasion is highly visual, and ideas can be highly persuasive when presented in the form of a working app.

The NFP is something that we offer to every app development client. It is a necessary part of the process of building an app. When we build an app for you, the entirety of its design is complete before anything is programmed. For an app to be programmed well, it also needs to be designed well. The logic and flow between screens needs to make perfect sense before we head into development.

Designing an app to be programmable is a process in and of itself, of course.

UI/UX design isn’t just the visual aspects of your app, it also maps out the entire logic.

While planning out the layout, aesthetic, and branding behind your app’s screens is very important, the most critical part of design is planning the logic between all of those screens.

With every screen of your application designed to be pixel-perfect, that’s when we start forming the logic connecting them. We do this by determining where each screen will appear once programmed, and mapping out each possible scenario based on in-app user actions.

Think of this like creating the blueprints to a building that’s under construction — we need to define everything that’s required. These will be the final schematics that our designers provide your development team here at Chop Dawg, so they can complete the programming side of your app from A-to-Z.

With the NFP, you can test out the entire visual logic of your app, and have something readily in your hands to demonstrate.

It’s completely interactive.

It will look and feel like you are using an actual app (we do this using Invision software). But, since it doesn’t have the programmed brain behind it, it won’t be able to support any users or handle real data just yet.

But by investing in your app’s full design, and overall logic first, you can much more effectively build up the necessary interest for your idea to get started.

You can get critical feedback from potential investors.

You can show it to your team.

Better yet, you can show it off to anyone out there who would want to use it, and get them to sign on. That’s how you build up a fanbase, fast.

The right prototype can illuminate the best path forward

Since you can test out how your app functions for yourself before we move into development, you’ll also be able to make smarter decisions when it does come time for programming.

With an NFP, you can get a head start on discovering real-world app viability too, with feedback from demonstrations and future users.

You don’t want to go all the way down the rabbit hole of development and suddenly find users are looking for x,y,z and you’ve prepared for a,b,c. Pivoting your app’s design is much easier (and cheaper, frankly) than making changes to hard code.

Remember, the NFP is a ready-to-go design, so when you do have the funds ready for programming, our team (or another app developer) can just pick up right where we left off.

You are truly creating a win-win scenario for yourself.

There is a tremendous amount of time that is put into creating designs that look beautiful, are functional, and (most importantly) are set up for success during programming.

I cannot emphasize enough that designs need to be built with a logic that is compatible with what the eventual programmer will need to accomplish.

A typical non-functioning prototype (NFP) with Chop Dawg typically runs between $15K to $20K depending on the scale of your app.

It’s important to remember that not all prototypes out there are created equal. They can vary widely in cost, quality, and how much of the app’s future functions they can readily demonstrate.

At Chop Dawg, we focus on defining the design and logic for the entire day one vision of your app with our prototypes. This means, you won’t encounter any additional steps before heading into programming (unless your vision has somehow changed), as every screen of your app has already been accounted for during design.

Since the initial investment required for a prototype is much, much less, this opens up the possibility of getting started even amidst the Covid19 pandemic.

Securing funding for your future prototype (NFP)

One service that we love is Kiva, an international nonprofit founded in 2005 with a mission to expand financial access to help underserved communities thrive. They do this by crowdfunding loans, and so Kiva can offer loans for up to $15,000 at 0% interest!

Chop Dawg is also partnered with Fundera, who specializes in connecting small businesses with the loans they need.

While any businesses who apply need to be generating at least $100K in revenue per year, they can get a boost from a source like Fundera to build a prototype that can make investing in an app less risky.

When all other funding resources fail, we highly recommend funding your NFP with a credit card that has a 15 to 18 month zero percent interest APR. As long as you have a plan in place for app rollout and future app monetization, you can pay it off incrementally over those first 18 months. It becomes more similar to a zero-interest loan.

You just have to plan well ahead and be sure that you have it all paid off by the time the non-promotional APR hits, of course.

There are a lot of other creative ways you can fundraise. We even have a client who was able to raise funds for their prototype via funding from their family and friends.

If you have the will, there is surely a way

Building an app doesn’t have to be an all-in process.

It can truly be something that is incremental. We highly encourage you to build an app at your own pace, and the NFP route can be a great stopgap option for you to plan for.

Curious how these prototypes look and feel? Check out some of our favorite prototypes we’ve created with our partnered clients over the years here at Chop Dawg!

FunDraft Mobile App – prototype for a popular fantasy football podcaster

Sports D’App – prototype for a popular sports arena

A lot of the scope and function behind your app can be ironed out during app discovery and design, so that less mistakes happen later.

You can really get to know what you want and what your future users want, too, by having this interactive design in your hands first.

And best of all, you open yourself and your business up to new possibilities when you have visuals that consumers (or investors) can experience for themselves.

About Since 2009, we have helped create 350+ next-generation apps for startups, Fortune 500s, growing businesses, and non-profits from around the globe. Think Partner, Not Agency.


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