There’s an ever growing demand for better products. Regardless of the industry, people want the best. Globally, businesses are constantly making improvements to their product development strategies to ensure they’re on top of the latest trends and changes in their markets. These teams spend time researching businesses and product names, existing patents, and domain names to ensure their ideas are newer and better than what’s currently being offered.
Staying on top of trends and similar product ideas helps ensure the products you’re looking to launch stand out amongst the crowd. For example, if you have an idea for a tech product of your own, it’s a good idea to start with these steps previously listed. Once you’ve established an exciting business name (you can work with a domain brokerage service if you want a domain that’s taken) and are sure of your niche amongst your products competitors, it’s time to move into the prototype development phase.
What is a Prototype?
Merriam Webster defines a prototype as an “original model on which something is patterned.” Prototypes are not the final version of the product your business will sell. They are used for testing, to show off to investors before your launch, and as a useful tool to collect feedback from the public.
A prototype doesn’t need to be finished or fully formed, but it should be functional enough to give you and others insight into the product’s potential. For example, some prototypes are made of wireframes, 3-D printed models, clay, or something as simple as a word document. It all depends on the type of product you’re interested in making.
Why is Creating a Prototype a Good Idea?
Prototypes help determine whether the design you and your team envisioned works. Without a prototype, you run the risk of launching an idea that isn’t fully thought out. You could miss simple design flaws or necessary adjustments, resulting in you spending the rest of your budget fixing your product.
If you’re looking for investors for your product, there’s a strong chance they won’t consider meeting with you without a prototype. Investors want to see and understand as much as they can about a product before investing their money into its future
Think about the series Shark Tank on ABC. Any entrepreneur who hasn’t launched their product has a prototype, and those who come empty-handed are nearly always laughed off the stage. A prototype is also a symbol to investors that you’re invested in making this product work. You went out of your way to create it, so they know you’re willing to put work into launching your ideas.
Prototypes also help you understand your product. Even though you created it, and formed the product from an idea of your own when you see it in its physical form it gives you an entirely different outlook on the product. You may notice some things do sit as well as you thought during the design process. You might want to start from scratch or maybe you love it more than you ever thought, but without a prototype, there’s no way to test these theories.
Considerations To Make Before Your Prototype Production
Who is your prototype catering to?
Before creating your prototype, it’s important to understand who you’re making it for. If you’re making it for investors there’s a strong chance you’re going to want to have more of the imperfections ironed out of your design than if you’re just making one show your family and friends. Know the audience you’re catering to before spending too much or too little time on your prototype development.
How far into your design process are you?
The last thing you want to do is to create and produce your prototype just to throw it away in a month for a better one. If the design for your product is not finished, don’t rush toward the prototype stage. You want to iron out nearly all the problems with your product before producing its prototype. Wait until your final round of feedback on your design before you begin prototyping it.
How to Make a Prototype
Create Your Budget
A budget is necessary when creating a prototype. Product development is expensive and product launching can cost even more, so ensuring you stay within the designated monetary guidelines of your prototype development is pivotal to the overall success of your product. This is the time you’ll need to determine your potential earnings versus product development costs.
Set aside an extra budget for emergency use. You never know when disaster may strike and accidents happen, having a side budget for emergency spending can help soften the blow. If you’re working independently, you can reach out to product design specialists who can help you understand
Identify Your Product and Team’s Requirements
Each product development team will have different needs. It’s important to identify what those are. Take into account the timing of your product launch or whenever you’ll need your prototype and fortify your schedule around that date. Make sure you have team members working on the appropriate tasks and they know who to ask questions. For your product, you’ll want to outline the items you’ll need for development, the timeline, the number of people needed to execute the prototype’s design, and the materials needed to create it.
Develop a Concept Sketch
After you’ve established your budget and any other requirements your team may have, it’s time to develop your concept sketch. Concept sketches are sketches, diagrams, or prints of your product idea. They help you envision the size, scale, and overall dimensions of your product. You can edit, annotate, and add descriptions to your concept sketch to help your prototype manufacturers better understand what they are being expected to make.
The concept sketch will be used to deliver your prototype to you, and if all goes well your concept sketch will be used for the development of your products as well. If you’ve never done a concept sketch, you can reach out to professionals within your network and industry who have experience doing so for help, or you can refer to online services such as GloberDesign. For a small price, these online services can walk you through creating your concept sketch.
Use Prototyping Design Tools For Digital Products
Prototyping design tools such as Figma are incredibly helpful when creating product prototypes. These online collaboration tools allow product designers to build digital products. Prototypes in the digital space are just as important as physical prototypes. Figma and tools similar to it allow investors and yourself to see how your website would function, what the layout would be, and give you insight into how well your product will do after launch. Figma is easy to learn and completely free to use.
Create a Physical Prototype
It’s finally time to create your prototype. At this stage, you’ll know what materials you’re interested in making your prototype with. Entrepreneurs who are confident in their handiness sometimes choose to create their physical prototypes at home.
If you find that you aren’t the handy type or you’re interested in making a more professional-looking prototype there are plenty of 3D printing shops, machine shops, and other businesses that can help you create your prototype. Roughly 65% of industrial companies are currently using 3D printing to create their prototypes, up from 24% in 2016.
You can use Google to search for local businesses, compare their pricing, and see what works best for you. Lastly, you can always invest in a 3D printing machine of your own for prototype development, however, this can prove to be rather expensive.
Refine Your Prototype
Once you have your physical prototype, it’s time to refine your design. You may be one of the lucky ones whose prototype comes out nearly perfect, or maybe you’re dealing with minimal design changes, but there’s always a chance you hate your prototype altogether and need to start from scratch. It’s important to do your research, put a team together you trust, and go over all the ins and outs before producing your physical prototype to avoid disastrous results.
There’s no indication that product development is slowing down. In 2021 the average consumer interest in new products on the market grew by nearly 50%. Prototypes are a necessary step in your product development journey. Not only does it help you look more legitimate to investors, but it can also help you see flaws within your design that don’t jump off the page of your concept sketch.
Quality assurance is essential when diving into the product development space and without a proper prototype your team will fail. Creating a prototype doesn’t need to be intimidating or costly, with the right amount of research and effort your product can come to life effortless.