Creating a prototype for your product or service is an excellent idea. It allows you to do some research before you commit to a specific solution. You can test various layouts, various interactions, and you also have something to show to your investors or your target audience to check with them if this is something they would spend money to buy. And the cheaper the prototyping, the more tests you can do, and the more information you will have when you want to build the real product or service.
A prototype has only very basic functionality, and it is used to get an idea of what the user interaction will be like and what possible challenges may show up in future development. Because it is so simplistic, you can choose any technology you want to create your prototype. It does not have to be the same tech you will use for the real product. And this is important because you can choose something free, or something that you know how to operate.
In this article, we will focus on WordPress. Why? Because it is free, it is a common platform, it has a rich plugin environment, and the new block editor makes it ideal for quickly creating complex layouts.
All you need to do to get a free WordPress site is to head to WordPress.com, create an account, and start a new website using their free plan, and now you are ready to begin prototyping.
Go to your website’s dashboard and create new pages using the block editor. It is almost like using lego pieces to build something.
You can create multiple layouts for the same test page; you can create links between pages, simulating a user interaction, you can test how it will look like on a mobile screen, play around with various font faces and sizes and so on.
As a bonus, you can activate the comments feature and use that to document feedback on the pages you are putting together.
Using the Free plan on WordPress has some significant drawbacks:
- you cannot use custom CSS to finetune your design
- you cannot install plugins
Depending on the complexity of the prototype, you may not need either one of them, but if those are important to you, then you can install WordPress on a shared hosting plan and unlock the full power of the platform.
I know that WordPress is not a prototyping tool. For more advanced use-cases, you will find it limiting. In those situations, you are better off investing in some dedicated tools like WebFlow, or Sketch, or Figma.
But as a playground, when you want to get a feel for how your idea will look like, and you want to have something to show to your investors or your audience, give WordPress a try.
Finally, all prototypes should be discarded when you go build the real thing. There is a big temptation to use the prototype for the live product, but please don’t. When you need to make something that is production-ready, start from scratch and do it right.