When designing a new product, you'll want to create a prototype to test your ideas first.
Developing a prototype is an integral part of the product development process and can help you refine your product before it hits the market.
Creating a successful prototype product requires a significant amount of planning, design, and testing.
This guide helps you make the prototype product design process more efficient by walking you through the essential steps. With the right strategies in place, you can streamline your process and ensure the successful development of your prototype product.
Table of Contents
- What Is a Prototype in Product Design?
- What Are the Different Types of Prototypes in Product Design?
- Prototype vs. Beta
- 4 Advantages of Product Development Prototyping
- How to Make a Product Prototype
- 7 Tips to Make Your Prototyping Process More Efficient
- Prototype Product Design Development: Final Thoughts
What Is a Prototype in Product Design?
A prototype in product design is a sample of your final product.
It lets you test and evaluate your product quickly so that you can make any necessary changes before final production.
It's a necessary part of the product design development process as it’s the first step to making a quality product you can be proud of and sell to your clients.
What Are the Different Types of Prototypes in Product Design?
Prototypes come in all shapes and sizes and serve different purposes in product design.
Here are some of the most common types of product design prototypes:
- Functional/Proof of Concept Prototypes: Used to test a product's functionality and how it works in real-life scenarios. These also help designers identify any potential problems in the design and can be used to make changes before manufacturing.
- Visual Prototypes: Models that are created to look like the final product. These prototypes show a sense of how the product will look, feel, and function in the real world.
- Digital Prototypes: Created on a computer or electronic device. These prototypes are used to test out the interactivity of a product and are often used in conjunction with physical prototypes.
- Presentation Prototypes: Designed to be used in presentations and marketing materials. These are usually more polished than functional prototypes and are used to demonstrate a product’s design and usability.
The right type of prototype will help you refine your product design, test out functionality, and gain valuable feedback from potential customers, all of which contribute to increased client satisfaction.
According to Gartner, 81% of businesses consider client satisfaction to be the most important competitive factor.
Prototype vs. Beta
The main difference between a prototype and a beta version is that a prototype is a rough approximation of the product’s design and intended functionality.
A prototype can be created quickly and cheaply with limited resources, whereas a beta requires more time, money, and resources to develop.
Product design companies usually create prototypes to test an idea or concept before investing in further development. It allows designers and developers to get feedback from users, make adjustments and improvements, and prepare for the eventual launch of the product.
A beta is a fully-functional version of the product.
Beta versions are released after extensive testing and feedback have been collected on the prototype.
It is a fully functional version of the product, allowing users to try out the actual product, with all its features and functions, before it goes live.
Beta versions allow the development team to identify bugs or issues and improve the user experience before the official launch.
4 Advantages of Product Development Prototyping
There are numerous advantages to incorporating prototyping into the product development process, including the ability to:
- Communicate Ideas Effectively: Prototypes allow you to easily share your design ideas with stakeholders and get their feedback quickly. This can be critical for getting buy-in on your product and avoiding costly mistakes down the road. It also allows designers to see how their ideas will work and verify that the product meets the consumer's needs.
- Incorporate Necessary Changes: The prototyping phase is critical for any product design process as it ensures the product meets safety and quality standards. By developing a prototype, you can determine areas of improvement early on and make necessary changes before the final product is completed.
- Save Time and Cost: By prototyping your product design, you can quickly identify any potential issues or problems that need to be solved before the final version is released. This allows you to address them early on and save time and cost in the long run.
- Build Hype Around the Product Before Launch: Prototyping can help create excitement around your product's launch by showing off your design ideas and concepts to potential investors. This can be a great way to generate interest in your product before its release.
How to Make a Product Prototype
Here is an overview of the prototype product design creation as well as tips for success.
1. Creating a Prototype
The first step on how to make a product prototype is to create a blueprint for your product.
Prototypes can be created in various forms. You can sketch out your design ideas or use computer-aided design (CAD) software.
Alternatively, you can also 3D print your product prototype, which lets you create a physical representation of your product almost immediately. 3D printing has been an essential part of product design and is expected to be worth $24.9 billion by 2024.
Creating your prototype as soon as you come up with your initial product idea is ideal so that you can test it as early as possible.
2. Testing the Prototype
The prototype product design process involves testing and evaluating your product to make necessary changes.
Testing your prototype in a lab allows you to:
- Check your prototype's functionality to ensure all the desired features work as intended
- Compare different materials and test their durability and quality control to ensure that your product is safe and long-lasting
- Test your marketing strategy and product naming conventions, so you can make informed decisions moving forward.
Evaluating the Prototype
Once you create your prototype, you'll want to test it to see if it meets your standards.
Evaluate the aesthetics of your prototype, including the look, feel, and design. Check your product's functionality and ensure all the desired features work as intended.
Your prototype will help you estimate your production costs, so you can ensure you're ready to go ahead with the real deal.
Manufacturing and Packaging Considerations
When creating your prototype, remember to consider the materials you’ll use:
These materials will be the same ones used for production, so they should be resistant to wear and tear.
They should also be durable enough to withstand transportation and storage without being too heavy.
They should be easy to clean and maintain and have a long lifespan to make the most of your investment.
Your materials should also meet your design specifications, including color, texture, and any other aesthetic choices you want to include in your product.
Regarding packaging, consider how your product will be shipped and delivered to clients.
You want to ensure your packaging is strong enough to protect your product during transportation while being easy to open.
You also want your packaging to be aesthetically pleasing while accurately reflecting the brand behind your product.
7 Tips to Make Your Prototyping Process More Efficient
The prototype product design process can be complex, but there are several steps you can take to make it more efficient.
- Create a Project Plan: Before developing your prototype, create a detailed plan outlining each step of the process. This will help you keep track of progress and give you an overall roadmap for completion.
- Choose the Right Tools: Many different tools are available to assist with prototype development. Select the ones that best suit your project and ensure they are compatible with your existing technology.
- Establish Clear Milestones: Establishing clear milestones throughout the prototype development process will help you measure your progress. Set realistic goals and deadlines, and communicate them to everyone involved.
- Minimize Errors and Re-Work: One of the most important ways to make your prototype development process more efficient is to minimize errors and re-work. Test your prototypes at various stages to ensure they are functioning correctly. Also, use feedback from others in the project team to identify potential problems before they become costly mistakes.
- Utilize Automation: Automating specific tasks associated with prototyping can drastically reduce the time and effort required for the development. Automation also helps ensure accuracy and consistency across all process elements.
- Keep It Simple: While you want to create a prototype that accurately represents your product, you don’t want it to be too complicated. Your prototype should reflect the final product as accurately as possible, but it also shouldn’t be too cluttered or difficult to understand.
- Get Feedback: Before producing the final product, getting feedback from your team members and potential clients will help you identify any design issues and make necessary changes before it's too late. Unimproved customer-client experience poses moderate to severe threats to the revenue and market share of 83% of executives. Gartner also says 81% of businesses consider client satisfaction the most important competitive factor.
Prototype Product Design Development: Final Thoughts
Product development prototyping is a vital step in the product design process. It is essential to ensure that your product meets the requirements and standards of your target market.
Understanding the importance of prototype development and following the steps outlined in this blog post can make your prototype product development process more efficient and successful.
Knowing the prototypes available can help you decide which prototyping approach best fits your product's needs.
With these tips, you can create an effective prototype that meets your product's needs and can be used as the basis for further product development.