Every great product came through a long and intricate prototype process. Whether it’s the iPhone, your GoPro, or a simple toothbrush, it all goes through rigorous rounds of testing. If you or your business is thinking about launching a product, you need to do the same. A prototype is essentially a mock product that you’ll use to test. You’ll test its materials, functionality, and usability, and then get feedback on the product. This all helps you craft the perfect design and functionality before launching. So, how do you create one of your own. And importantly, how do you do it while remaining financially stable?
1. Research – Before you even think about building the product or its prototype, you need to engage with the research. The first step in creating any successful product is understanding the market and your audience. An extensive period of market research will help you identify the gaps in the industry. What features can your product use to capitalise on market niches? More importantly, look towards customer research. Who will use this product, and what are they looking for in design and functionality.
2. Design – With your research in hand, it’s time to get creative. You can now start sketching and drawing your ideas, and honing that initial design. Start with a simple sketchpad, and let your imagination run wild. Slowly, you can begin to see your product taking shape. You’ll choose the best parts of your creative designs, and pull them all together. When you’re happy, use computer design software to mock up the final blueprints.
3. First prototype – The first prototype can be put together fairly simply. Most entrepreneurs just use materials lying around the house. At this stage, you’re just looking to get a sense of size, shape, and weight. How does the product feel to hold? How easy is it to fit in your pocket, or store in certain places. For this, you don’t need a fully functional prototype (yet.) You just need a sense of how the product will look and feel to the customer.
4. Second prototype – Here’s where things get serious. Take all of your research, design, and initial thoughts, and create one final design. At this point, you might have to start spending some money. You’ll need real components from the likes of CCTY Bearing, and expert manufacture to put it together. At this stage, you’re looking for a fully functional, working prototype. Now, you can test the materials, the usability, and the true functionality of the product.
5. Feedback – At this point, you can finally introduce key people to your product. Get together focus groups made up of your target audience. Let them use your product, and monitor every step of the way. What are their initial reactions? Do they struggle to use it? These are the sorts of questions you should be asking. Get as much detailed feedback as you can.
Unfortunately, your hard work isn’t over yet. With these last elements of feedback, it’s time to make some final changes to your product. From there, it’s straight into the production phase. Congratulations, you’ve created a successful prototype!
An early Apple prototype (image credit)