The Fake Door

This prototyping strategy allows you to gather quite accurate data about your product idea. The underlying principle is that you set up a “fake door” and measure how many potential customers/users enter through this door. Let’s assume that you are trying to gauge the interest for a pick-up-and-return laundry service in your city. You have already done a first back-of-the-napkin financial calculation and have identified the key assumptions behind this product and business model. Now, there are several fake doors you could set up to gauge the interest for your service in general and specific feature sets in particular.

The first fake e-door that you might set up is a paid Google ad with a distinct title and a succinct description of your value proposition. If someone clicks on the ad, they will be redirected to a landing page for your laundry service. You can use the basic Google Ads dashboard to validate several key assumptions of your business model, such as:

  • Out of 1000 people who viewed my ad X % showed interest by clicking on it.
  • It will cost me roughly Z € to direct someone in my target geographical area to my website.

You can use the landing page to set up a second fake door by presenting three different service offerings with the respective price points from your napkin calculation. For example:

  • Offering #1 – Subscription – “The Heavy User”: We do all the laundry for you. Up to four pick-up-and-returns of up to 15 kg each per month. 
  • Offering #2 – Subscription – “The Gap Filler”: We do the items for you that you don’t want to do. Up to two pick-up—and-returns of up to 7.5 kg per month.
  • Offering #3 – One-Off-Service – “The Sometimes”: A one-off pick-up-and-return laundry service. Pay per amount plus a handling fee.

Homepage builder like Squarespace or Wix have basic website analytics built-in to their services. You can use these features to e.g. see what percentage of the website visitors clicked on one of the options to learn more and which option was clicked on the most.

A third fake door could be set up after a visitor has clicked on one of these options. For example, you can ask them to enter a valid e-mail address and payment option and sign-up for the chosen offering to test their ultimate buying intention. In case they sign up, you can redirect them to a nicely worded page explaining that your service is not yet live, but you would love to notify them once the service is available if they opt-in with their e-mail. As a courtesy, reward your involuntary test users e.g. by offering a digital gift card.

The fake door prototyping strategy is not just applicable to web service or e-commerce concepts. For example, if you are trying to partner with laundry operators for this idea who would take over the actual washing, drying, and ironing of the clothes, you could create a fake door in the form of a sales kit/brochure and pitch. This kit should highlight the expectations as well as the potential rewards of being a laundry partner for your service. With your sales kit at hand, you would start to contact potential facilities and try to sign them on to your service. After talking to a few laundry operators, you should have a much better grasp of how you can bring the necessary partners on board and which assumptions of your financial napkin calculation need to be adjusted.

A word of caution: Be aware of the ethical and legal implications of this approach and critically evaluate, if such a prototype would cross an unacceptable line for the idea you are trying to prototype.