By Cassandra Balentine
Founded in 2014, Prototype1 is a Cleveland, OH-based custom development shop that focuses on building better software with high-fidelity prototypes. A privately held company employs a small—but growing—staff of five, with approximate revenue of $200,000 in its first year.
At its company launch, Prototype1 announced its mission to help clients build better software by reinventing the existing software development process.
“We work with clients to understand their end-user needs and behaviors, then we build and test prototypes and deliver development ready user experience (UX)/user interface platforms and fully developed products that are evidence, not assumption based,” says Dave Hurt, co-founder, Prototype1.
The company was founded by Hurt and Oleg Fridman while working together at ONOSYS. After ONOSYS was sold to LivingSocial in 2012, the co-founders decided to take their new development process to the new level and started Prototype1. The company’s founders believe that traditional software development norms are broken and outdated, and want to offer a different approach.
The company prides itself in its process, which Hurt says is rooted in the belief that software development starts well before a single line of code is written. “It begins with identifying and validating the ideal user experience. And then, with a high-fidelity prototype, you’re able to test drive the product and solicit feedback from users and project stakeholders,” he explains.
According to the company, most of its competitors build software and then iterate on that software. Alternatively, Prototype1 builds and iterates on prototypes then develop the software efficiently, eliminating heavy code changes that waste time in a traditional development process.
“Our experience with this approach differentiates Prototype1 from competitors. We honed the process we use with clients at our previous company, ONOSYS, where we worked with Fortune 500 companies on complex software systems. Our experience with these large companies influences our approach with current clients almost every day,” says Hurt.
The process of building and testing a high-fidelity prototype is an integral piece of the process. To build one, the company researches, wireframes, and designs the UX while constantly soliciting feedback. Once the prototype is complete, the company performs usability tests of the real UX and modifies the prototype quickly based on feedback.
Its clients are able to navigate and use the product as if it were fully functioning, but without spending the time or money on back-end development. This provides the opportunity to provide feedback and make changes faster and at a lower cost.
The company develops and prototypes software for companies nationwide, in all industries, with a focus on systems with complex workflows and user interactions.
Solving Development Challenges
With its approach to software development, Prototype1 is able to solve a variety of common challenges.
With its ability to frequently accept design feedback, interruptions are kept to a minimum, enabling it to keep accurate and accountable timelines. In addition, they can serve as well-defined specifications, enabling accurate development time estimates.
This approach also helps a project maintain its budget effectively. “High-fidelity prototypes enable the gathering of actionable feedback, prior to costly development efforts. In turn, the prototypes can be used to build accurate budgetary estimates,” says Hurt.
In addition, since the back-end code isn’t written until the prototype is tested and validated, big decisions and direction are made up front, avoiding the need to redo development.
As Prototype1 continues to evolve, its goal is to offer high-fidelity prototyping to any organization that builds and utilizes software platforms.
However, they currently focus on partnering with two primary channels. The first is funded startups that need help expanding their product offering, but may not have the capacity to do so—or those that need outside perspective from an experienced product development team.
The second target are established companies that don’t have the development resources or experience to design and develop their software project or idea.
“Our goal is to expand our client roster and hire a few more full-time employees. We want to build a close-knit team that works together on developing badass software,” concludes Hurt. SW