Prototypes are known to be a crucial and indispensable part of the design process; they basically act as a green light when it comes to a product’s production and success. When briefly described, prototypes are all about demonstration, authentication, confirmation, and validation. You can count on them to turn a theoretical idea into a more feasible working system that can be easily tested or evaluated.
If you have a new product idea, whether it is a new hair styling tool, smartphone application, or simply an innovative kitchen appliance, no matter what it is, a prototype will help you demonstrate to investors and future buyers that your product is worth their time and interest.
In this article, we’ll be defining what exactly is a product prototype, what it entails, and what it doesn’t, including common mistakes made by new entrepreneurs when creating a prototype model of their products. Keep in mind that learning about product prototypes and the key factors to keep in mind when creating one is the first and perhaps most important step you can take before putting your product idea out there. This could without a doubt set you up for success or, not so desirable, failure.
Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place. We’re here to help you learn all about product prototypes so you know exactly where to start with your design. Stay until the end for a few prototyping tips and an offer you can’t deny.
What Is a Product Prototype?
A prototype is a preview or early sample of a product or idea you plan to invest in and eventually reproduce in large quantities. Whenever there is a new investment opportunity, before jumping to mass production and risking any capital, you’ll first need to find a way to communicate your idea to possible investors in an understandable, and many times, tangible way.
Prototypes form part of almost any industry you can think of, and they often set the ground for product testing and concept design validation. Architects, designers, engineers, filmmakers, app developers, and so many more, rely on prototypes to simulate their products and attract investors.
Ultimately, at its core, we can define it as a rapid replica of an original product or idea that can be used as a tool to gain financing investment, enhance your crowdfunding campaign, or simply set the start of the design process. Once created, they can be refined or modified to improve function or accommodate the audience’s demands.
The purpose of a prototype
As we define what a prototype model is, we can consider its main purpose to be providing a real, working sample that can be tested and evaluated for errors and efficacy, unlike a theoretical idea. A prototype model aids designers when it comes to the visualization and manufacturing of the real product.
What is typically included in a product prototype?
As a crucial part of the early investment process, prototype models oftentimes include the key aspects and features of the original idea. Given they’re often a precursor of the manufacturing process, they can oftentimes include the product’s specific color, packaging, online visuals, or navigational elements if it happens to be a website or application for example.
The key is to include anything that helps a business or potential investors make a decision. This is why it is important to devote the appropriate time and effort to make it a workable and reliable sample. If it fails to deliver, it will also testify of the original product’s abilities.
Prototypes can be quick and rough. A prototype is not usually intended to look like the final version. As long as it can be used in the early product evaluation and beginning of the design process, it doesn’t need to be perfect.
In fact, talking about prototypes being quick and rough, there is actually a term used to describe a specific type of prototype creation known as rapid prototyping. This field involves the process of rapidly creating a functioning version of a product or idea, one that can be tested and evaluated. Its main purpose is to speed up the prototype and product development process so it can be quickly launched and manufactured.
Rapid prototyping continues to emerge as a favorable concept in today’s business world, in which companies are constantly bombarded with new opportunities and market changes. This helps them stay in touch with the public’s demands and competition as they’re pushed to develop new products to remain relevant.
Although it comes with an array of advantages and appealing timing, rapid prototyping can impact accuracy and can many times result just as expensive or costly as regular prototyping.
Rapid prototyping tools
There are a few rapid prototyping tools or platforms out there often used by many to make the process easier. Among some of the most popular ones, we can find InVision, Framer, Origami Studio, and Adobe XD. Whether you’re a developer, business owner, coder, or merely someone with an idea, you can likely take advantage of one of these to make the process less challenging.
A regular or rapid prototype model can be digital, augmented reality, or even made from craft paper to bricks.
When planning your model, take into consideration how realistic it is to make a tangible or physical version, the cost of production, or even if all you need to show investors is the size and shape of the product. Moreover, prototypes can vary from a simple piece of wire or wood shaped like your product, to a 3D model explaining every future and product ability.
A prototype can be anything from:
- A sketch or diagram
- A 3D printing
- A Wireframe
- A Video
- A Virtual Simulation
In conclusion, even if all you have is a piece of paper, drawing your model can also be useful when it comes to prototyping. However, most entrepreneurs or professionals often seek modern alternatives like
How to decide the best prototype model for you
As we briefly discussed above, when it comes to choosing a prototype design, the designer should take into consideration the end goal or outcome. Consider whether or not the finished model will be displayed at an event or business meeting, in which case, you may want to hire a developer or rely on reliable prototyping software.
Always opt for a solid, testable, and functioning choice, unless the prototype is merely for design purposes. Last, but not least, don’t make the mistake of putting safety aside. In many cases, when creating a physical model, perhaps due to the production speed that comes with prototyping, designers may bypass things like pointy edges, broken glass, or even use old technology that is prone to flaming.
Common Prototyping Mistakes to Avoid
Now that you have an understanding of what a product prototype is, you may be asking yourself: what can go wrong when it comes to prototyping?
Although a prototype design can be anything you want, you might come across a few common mistakes that can oftentimes distract you from your goal or discourage your audience.
To help you put out the best early replica of your product, here is a quick list of common mistakes to avoid:
Don’t Get Ahead of Yourself. Many new entrepreneurs make the common mistake of prototyping too early in the game. They let the urge and excitement get the best of them and create a model that ends up lacking most of the final product’s key features and characteristics. Take the time to analyze your idea, think through everything that makes it appealing and innovative. Don’t forget prototyping is never the first step of the design process, you must first come up with a product idea and become familiar with it.
Don’t Spend Too Much Time. Although you want to think through your product idea before you begin your template, you don’t want to invest too much time in the prototyping process. Remember a prototype design is never the final product and rearrangements can always be made. Ideally, it should only take you about a month to two at most to have a finished prototype of your original idea.
Don’t Prototype Without a Plan. Without a plan in place, it is easy to get distracted from the main goal or key features of your product. You’ll want to have a detailed plan that tells you exactly where to go from point A to point B. You want to make sure your model is cohesive and easy to understand. Avoid complex and unfinished features.
Don’t Forget About Your Interaction Guide. Once your idea is ready, you want to make sure it is easy for your audience to try and test itt. Yes, you’ll know everything about your model, how it works, where to click to get a specific reaction, etc.
However, your audience has no clue about what makes your product special, or how it works, and perhaps pressing the wrong thing could result in unwanted product outcomes. Keep user experience in mind when creating your prototype and provide a simple, solid guide on how to interact with your model.
The list can go and on when it comes to common prototyping mistakes. The main takeaway remains to think through your idea and focus on what your audience is expecting to receive.
When Is a Product Prototype Ready?
Before a prototype is ready, it’ll need to go through a set of different phases and production stages. This is with each stage offering its unique set of critical elements necessary for the success of the finished product.
The process usually starts with the foundation and basis of the original product idea, as a plan is elaborated to to take it from a theoretical idea to a more feasible one. Developers then proceed to identify weaknesses and where improvement might be necessary. Once the model is tested and fully equipped, then it can be considered ready.
Notice we didn’t state once the model looks exactly like the finished product. The key is to come up with a fully optimized and functioning product that resembles the necessary materials and design aspects of the original one.
Tips for Prototyping Your Product
As we get close to the end of this quick product prototype review, why don’t we take the last few minutes of your attention to fortify what we’ve learned today and go over some quick prototyping tips?
Here we go!
- Research and more research. Get to know your market audience, competition and how your product can be an industry
- Understand your budget and manufacturing cost. Before you invest time on a specific idea, make sure you have enough funds and resources to get the prototype ready. Don’t forget about future manufacturing costs.
- Choose something you enjoy and make it the best you can. As you decide what your product idea is, go with something you feel represents you and your interests. And once you’ve made your choice, make sure to respect each stage of the process and give it the best you can.
Having a Product Prototype Is Being One Step Closer
Ultimately, having a prototype model will bring you closer to the end goal which is to officially launch your product idea on the market. Once your product idea is approved and deemed successful via your finished prototype, you can get ready to begin the next phase and create your ecommerce site for customers to purchase and learn more about your finished product.
You can check out our ultimate guide for creating an online website and sign up with Ecwid to create one for free. You’ll have access to a library of readily available themes and features designed to help you throughout the whole process.
Don’t forget your prototype doesn’t need to be perfect but simply good enough to provide your audience with the necessary information to learn about your original product and get you to the next and final step which is launching your own business. The good news is that coming up with a product idea and design is the most challenging part of this whole process . We encourage you to measure, design, refine, start all over again if necessary, but most importantly have fun!
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