Top 5 Tips for Effective Prototyping in Product Design

Why Is Product Prototyping Important?

Once you’ve validated your idea and created some initial concept design, prototyping is the stage where you begin piecing together an item that replicates your end product. 

Before you can reach the stage of manufacture, prototyping enables you to test different materials, dimensions, aesthetics, and working mechanisms.

Essentially, you’re working towards creating a final prototype that will be used to guide the production of the finalized product.

Without product design prototyping, the chances of your product working and looking great are slim. 

So, what is the best way to conduct product design prototyping and testing? Read on, and we’ll tell you.

How to Design a Prototype Product: 5 Top Tips

Define Your Prototyping Goals

Before getting started, you need to know your short, medium, and long-term goals. 

For example, if the success of your product is heavily reliant on inner workings and user experience, you should forget about aesthetics for the time being. Instead, focus on making the product operate correctly.

Alternatively, if there’s minimal or no functionality, your product is purely aesthetic, then appearance should take priority. 

Essentially, you need to decide which is the most important element in the overall success of your product and create goals around these.

It’s impossible to do everything at once. If you try to, when it comes around to testing, it will be difficult to pinpoint issues relating to useability and causes of malfunctions.

Choose the Right Tools & Materials

If you’re making a product prototype of a physical item, you must assess which materials are best to use.

Particularly in the early prototyping stages, you don’t want to use the expensive materials you’ll use to craft your final product. 

This can be an incredibly costly mistake, especially if your product will be made from cost-heavy materials.

Rather, you could opt for cheaper items with similar properties to those you might use in the final product.

Start Small & Iterate Often

You’re not going to create the finished product with your first prototype – and that’s a good thing.

Before jumping in and making a full-scale version of your product with all the features and functionality working, start small.

Scale back and scale down your design. Your early steps and first product design prototype are supposed to loosely express what the final product could be. 

Just like the wireframe drawings for a website aren’t filled with SEO-optimized content, your initial prototype iterations don’t need to resemble the finished item. 

Making small changes and iterating regularly can save much time and money, as you’re not constantly trying to rectify multiple errors simultaneously. 

It allows for accuracy, rapid iterations, and the ability to be agile in adding features and scaling up the prototyping process.

Furthermore, rather than settling on one product design from the beginning – you can iterate multiple designs. This broadens your chance of creating something that operates as it should and looks appealing.

Test Early & Frequently

Testing is one of the most important steps – and you should do it as frequently as possible.

However, you have to be selective with the people you choose to test with. Remember, you’re creating a product for a specific target audience, so their opinions matter most.

It’s ok to test functionality within your team. It ensures the item works as you expect, but wherever possible, you should test with people from your target demographic. 

Their feedback can guide the next stage of prototyping and will inform you whether the direction you’ve taken is suitable and appealing to them. 

Testing frequently ensures you don’t get too far down the line that it becomes costly, expensive, or impossible to rectify problems.

Collaborate & Communicate

Do not work on product design prototyping alone. As a product design engineer, you know exactly how you envisage a product to operate and look – but your opinion doesn’t matter.

Other people need to be able to pick up the product, enjoy its aesthetic, and understand how it works.

By working in a team that encourages collaboration and communicating with important stakeholders, you reduce the risk of tunnel vision and have the chance to bring together multiple people’s ideas, opinions, and feedback to create a product you wouldn’t have otherwise come up with.

In Summary

Product design prototyping is the final step before manufacturing, so you must get it right. You need to keep in mind timelines, budgets, and most importantly, end-users.

To do this, you should set realistic goals, research the best materials to use, start with scaled prototypes, test frequently with users, and encourage your team to work as one.Get in touch today to discuss your product design and prototyping needs

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