Prototyping during product development is a critical step that should never be skipped or glossed over.
A prototype is a tangible representation of your idea and it is a necessary step in the product development process. It can be viewed as an experimental model of your idea that is then used to test or validate design and usability aspects of it. Prototypes can be fast and rough during the start of the product development process or more formal with a functional prototype as you progress through the development stages.
“If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a prototype is worth a thousand meetings.” – Saying at IDEO
Prototyping to Explore Ideas
Having an idea for a product is exciting, but holding a tangible version of that idea makes it all feel real. When you create a rough prototype early-on or a functional one later, you are working through your ideas, product functionality, and gaining a true understanding of where your product is and where you want it to go.
“Prototyping products, services, and experiences will quickly highlight possibilities, opportunities, as well as problems and mistaken assumptions that must be fixed sooner rather than later.” (Press Books, Design Thinking)
Interaction is Key
Prototypes make your idea tangible and are the most successful when people (yourself, your team, potential customers) can experience and interact with them. What you learn from these interactions will help shape the success of your product.
It is important to remember that just like your idea, prototypes are fluid and will change during product development. Whether it is the design or functionality, there is almost a guarantee that your original product idea with fluctuate before you land on a final design.
As explained on the IDEO website, “because prototypes are meant only to convey an idea—not to be perfect—you can quickly move through a variety of iterations, building on what you’ve learned from the people you’re designing for.”
Prototyping is Problem Solving
While the prototype you develop of your product is solving a problem for your customers, it is also providing you valuable insight into later stages of product development, more specifically, manufacturing. Prototypes will also lend themselves to provide critical information about designing for manufacturability. You don’t want to build a product that looks great but is going to be wildly expensive to manufacture—thus, making it that much harder to launch your startup.
It is best to view the prototyping phase of product development as a way to push your idea forward. Taking your idea off the paper and putting it into your hands, and those of potential customers, will provide valuable insight early-on and ultimately help speed up the rest of the product development process.
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.