Most great ideas don’t come fully formed or coherent until you take a step to transform them into a reality.
To determine if a thought is worth the time, effort, and resources that will be utilized, it is more cost-effective and efficient to test it with a prototype.
Developing a prototype is a creative process that allows you to breathe life into an idea you could only see in your head. It also helps you to gain new insights that will advance the completion of the product. For example, an app developer about to launch a new app can create a prototype to test it before it is launched into the market.
But that’s not all there is to product prototyping.
In this blog, we discuss all you need to know about product prototyping.
What is Product Prototyping?
Product prototyping is the process of designing or building a sample or preliminary model of a yet-to-be-released product to test it. This is done to check the feasibility of a product before it is produced and launched into the market.
There are different types of prototypes because prototyping delves into various facets of a desired design.
Some of these include:
Sketch prototyping as the name implies involves creating an image of the product which could either be a 2-D or 3-D drawing. The images can then be shared with all the concerned parties to get their feedback and consequently, a review will be carried out to ensure that the product will be viable.
Functional prototyping is an advanced process that gives a realistic view of the product, its features and performance. Once the flaws have been identified, the necessary corrections will be initiated. This helps to quicken the production process as potential problems have been discovered and eliminated even before they occur. A deeper look will also be given to the materials used to ascertain if they were the best for the production.
Visual prototyping mainly focuses on the physical appearance of the product, ensuring that it has the required brand elements and styles. A visual prototype embodies the size and aesthetics of the intended design while disregarding its functionality.
Why Should You Invest in Product Prototyping?
The most glaring answer is; to save time and money. However, a deeper look at the benefits of prototyping will help you gain a better understanding of why you need to invest in prototyping.
Firstly, the success of your product depends on the prototype as it allows you to validate your idea and ensure it is up to par with your customers’ expectations.
Now, let’s have an in-depth look into the benefits of prototyping.
Flushing Out Flaws
Have you ever purchased a product that you thought would be of great value only to realize it was a waste of money? If you were to review this product on the company’s website, would you recommend it to others?
What if the manufacturer had invested in prototyping and taken care of the problems before the product gets on a shelf, wouldn’t it have eradicated the problems you noticed when you got the product?
Apparently, prototyping allows companies, manufacturers, and engineers to identify potential problems ahead of time. This way, they can nip it in the bud, thereby ensuring that their customer is happy and satisfied with the product.
In a nutshell, prototyping addresses the issues of product functionality and performance before production.
Collecting User Feedback
Usually, companies have to wait for a product to be purchased before users can leave feedback. However, by deploying a simple tactic such as prototyping, they can receive user feedback that will enable them to create the best product based on their customer’s preferences.
Saving Cost and Time
This is another crucial benefit that can improve a company’s revenue. Prototyping allows you to know if a product is worth spending on or not. Likewise, being able to identify problems eliminates the chances of errors and having to redo a product from scratch, thereby saving time and resources.
Getting Funding from Investors
Going to a potential investor with a half-baked idea or a thought that is difficult to visualize may not elicit the desired reaction. However, you can stand out from competitors and exude confidence in your idea with a prototype.
It also means that you have taken the time to test your idea before approaching them. This will communicate to investors that you are professional and a realistic model of your idea will make it easy for others to believe in it and also invest their resources into it.
Testing the Durability of Materials
There are tons of materials, chemicals, and textiles in the world, but not all of them are the right fit for your product. You may decide to produce a particular product with plastics but during the process of prototyping, you may discover that metals or another material would be a better fit.
The same applies to all the ideas you want to launch into a product, irrespective of its target audience. Prototyping is no doubt the best way to determine the durability of a material or machinery.
Accurate Product Description
Rather than writing a product description based on textbook findings, or assumptions, companies can test their products first. That way, the description of the product will be accurate, precise, and based on facts.
Challenges of Prototyping
Evidently, prototyping offers numerous benefits. However, it presents some unique challenges that need to be addressed to ensure that the process is seamless.
The technology used in Prototyping is Costly
Therefore, there is a need to create a budget before initiating the process. Having a clear idea of the cost of the materials needed, and the type of prototyping to utilize will help strike a balance.
The process is Daunting and Repetitive
This is why automation will help to speed up things and save a lot of time and effort. There are a lot of refinements involved, so it requires one to be patient and flexible while communicating with all the stakeholders throughout the process.
Loss of Intellectual Property
External parties may steal the prototype and lay claim to it if proper measures are not put in place to protect intellectual property. Before the prototype is shared with anyone, they should sign a non-disclosure agreement that will help to protect the design.
Gathering User Feedback
This is another daunting process that requires patience. Secondly, it will take a lot of work and meticulous planning to successfully incorporate the feedback into the prototype.
The process puts a lot of pressure on the people involved and because of this, the prototype may be poorly developed. Starting the process all over again or receiving negative feedback from users may discourage the stakeholders and the product will never see the light of day.
Despite these seemingly daunting challenges, product prototyping remains highly recommended for businesses to ascertain the viability of their products before launching them.
Next, we’ll discuss the steps.
Steps Involved in Product Prototyping
Define the ‘Why’
Start by defining the objective or goal of your product. Why do you need to launch this product? What values does it have? What benefit would it give users?
Once you figure out your why, you are well on your way to prototyping.
Develop the Concept
If your ‘why’ has been fleshed out, the next thing you have to do is to develop the concept of your idea by collaborating with teammates, designers, and all the individuals that will be involved in the process.
Exchange ideas and brainstorm.
What type of design do you want for the product?
What are its features and functions?
Don’t be afraid to explore different possibilities as this will help you sketch and flesh out the concept. This is a crucial phase because if something goes wrong at this point, it automatically affects all the other processes.
Conduct Feasibility Research
This is where the real work begins. You have to carry out market research and analysis to discover what users’ preferences and purchasing behaviors are. This will help you know who your customers are and what their needs are. In addition, you should also find out the products that are similar to yours, and what users are saying about these products. You’ll need to know their strengths and weaknesses and the opportunities that competitors are not tapping into.
Create a Plan
This serves as a road map that will guide you throughout the entire process. It is a detailed plan that showcases the prototype’s scope, the amount of time it will take to get it done, the resources and materials needed, and the audience it will be targeted at. Your plan will help you determine which level of fidelity, to begin with; Low-Fidelity, Medium-fidelity, or High-Fidelity.
Start Building Your Prototype
Begin with the basic low-fidelity level. This is a visual form of the product and it can be done with a sketch or wireframes.
Evaluate the Feedback
What do users have to say about the product?
Is the visual appealing?
Are there areas that need to be improved on or did users encounters any difficulties while using the product?
These are the feedbacks that you will evaluate and work on.
- Develop a slightly higher version of the product: It’s still isn’t time to fund the project. Based on the feedback, you should build a prototype with a medium-fidelity level.
This will be a slight upgrade from the previous version but it will be more detailed, putting into consideration interactions and user interface elements. However, this version will have a similar outlook to the finished product.
- Observe usability and pain points: Users’ pain points will help you ascertain the difficulties encountered and how to solve them.
- Make the necessary improvements based on feedback: The necessary improvements will be made at this point to ensure that the challenges faced by users are addressed.
- Create a high-fidelity prototype: This advanced prototype will have the features and functions of the actual product such as the interactions and visual elements. Animations and realistic graphics can be used to enhance the process.
- Functional Testing: This is a verification and evaluation process that ensures that all the functions of the product are working and that users will get the expected outcome.
- Documentation: Lastly, document your process methodically to aid further research, references, and product description writing. This means that every detail and process utilized will be included in the document.
What Does The Future Hold For Prototyping?
Emerging trends and technology are expected to advance and have a great influence on prototyping.
Here are some of the technologies that will revolutionize prototyping:
Accelerating Advancements in 3D Printing
This technology has had a huge impact on the success of prototyping. It is fast and cost-effective. As technology continues to become advanced, there will be an advent of faster and more accurate 3D Printers that can seamlessly create electronics and other complex prototypes.
Augmented Reality (AR)
Virtual prototyping and AR technologies will alter the process of prototype creation. This means that products that could only be tested physically would now be done virtually and at a faster speed. Designers will be able to create a sense of realism and receive feedback remotely.
The Internet of Things (IoT) technology is a game changer that will unlock the full potential of prototyping. It features sensors that can transmit information remotely and collect real-time data about production performance and users’ experience.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Artificial Intelligence enables automation and optimizes processes, therefore, leading to productivity and efficiency. Automating the prototyping processes will simplify it and speed up the production time.
Product prototyping is a vital aspect of product development. This process enables engineers, designers, and individuals to test their ideas and improve them before they create an actual product. Organizations that leverage this technology can save costs, eliminate the risk of product failure and continue to increase their customer satisfaction.
As new trends are invented, the potential of product prototyping will be elevated and the process will be simplified, and automated with improved efficiency.
At Hidden Brains, we have a pool of expert developers who can transform your ideas into a tangible reality with prototyping.
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