Prototyping is essential if you want to fast-track your product development and gain insights that will allow you to improve your designs before you head to market. Prototyping allows you to create a sample product that you can test under “real world” conditions, and hopefully use to correct any flaws before heading to the final stages of mass production.
If you’ve never done one before, however, you might be a bit confused on where to start and what steps you may encounter along the way. This article will help explain, delving into five key considerations for creating your first product prototype.
Step One: The Idea Phase
Regardless of what your end product winds up being, it’s going to start as an idea generated by you and your team. The idea phase is one of the most challenging parts of the prototyping process, as you must answer two central questions: what problem will your product solve and how is your product going to solve it. Absent these two factors, your product may not be viable.
Step Two: Research & Drafting
With your idea set, your next step will be to perform some research about the market, your competition, and your target audience/prospective customers.
By researching the market, you’ll get an idea of what ideas are popular, what people are clamoring for, and whether or not your idea may be able to fill a niche.
In researching your competitors, you’ll be able to see if anyone else has put the idea out there before, and if so, what you’ll need to do to improve upon it and break into the market.
Lastly, your audience research will inform you of the challenges your potential clients face, which will help you better design your product to fit their needs (and make sales).
Step Three: Your Initial Prototype
Now it’s time to build the first iteration of your product. Depending on what you’re making, you’ll probably have to team up with a manufacturer with experience at rapidly generating prototypes, like Fictiv or a similar company with experience in CNC machining, 3D printing, etc.
Speaking of which, you’ll also need to weigh the pros and cons of CNC machining and 3D printing for the creation of your prototype. The costs, quality and speed at which your prototype can be generated will vary, so be sure you compare your options carefully.
Step Four: Gather Feedback
With your prototypes in front of sample users, you can begin collecting feedback on what they like and what they think should be improved. With a large enough sampling of end users, you can field some insightful opinions about what you’re offering and where it may be lacking.
Step Five: Perfect Your Design
Now it’s time to take that feedback and run with it. You might go through several rounds of creating a prototype, releasing it for feedback, then altering the design and trying again until you come up with something that meets yours and your customers’ standards. Though it can be painful and time-consuming, this step is paramount to make sure that your product hits the market in a competitive state and doesn’t end up being a waste of time.