User-centered design means working with your users all throughout the project. With a prototype, you get feedback in early design process to help you find your product issues before you spend any time in high fidelity or code. Who knows, you might discover that you have done it all wrong and start all over.
This is a very important step toward a well designed product, even if you don’t have time. You’d be surprised by the things you’ll discover that have to be changed. Take advantage of exploratory phase and you’ll get only feedback on the global structure. Richer feedback will come with a higher fidelity that contains readable and accurate copy.
Usability is about people and how they understand and use things, not about technology. At this stage, validating your idea is the focus, when you eliminate external factors, you get more valuable feedback.
Vision starts with a firm foundation and carries through with design principles. If you follow agile methodologies, prototyping is even more beneficial as you can kick start your requirements narrative at this early stage. Of course, your prototype has to be tested in high fidelity for final requirements.
Some designers start prototyping directly using Sketch. Many end up spending a lot of time in making it look good. It looks better right? By skipping stages, you also miss a lot of opportunities. Once you put time and effort in something, you get attached to it and you forget that you are still exploring options.
Adapting to increasingly digital markets and taking advantage of digital technologies to improve operations are important goals for nearly every business. Yet, few companies appear to be making the fundamental changes their leaders believe are necessary to achieve these goals.
Many firms try to create new digital services using user-centered design, relying on the learn-build-test-repeat methodology. This requires them to develop concepts until they’re mature enough for scaling. But companies trying to build digital processes for digital service design often underestimate the importance of building an isolated experimental testing environment to test and iterate digital offerings before scaling them.
As your organisation goes digital, it’s important to take into account certain technical and organisational requirements. Experience has shown there are several essential organisational elements to consider before building a technology work space.
The team testing and building a new digital service must be empowered to make decisions without having to wait for permissions or fill out piles of paperwork. This group needs, from the start, sufficient autonomy and freedom. This might mean that they’re allowed to procure new tools or technology without lengthy organisational processes.
Or if there’s a need to iterate quickly, you can modify their infrastructure to make it easy to experiment while maintaining strict standards. It’s also important to have a cross-functional team with representation from technical functions to guide the team as they work on building the work space.
Leadership participates in the project, visits the teams, learns about their progress in informal collaborative format than at structured periodic meetings. It’s also valuable to establish guardrails for decision-making. For instance, you might want to establish monetary limits before the team needs to get outside approval.
The point of a learn-build-test-repeat approach is to learn as you go, so that you’re able to course-correct earlier in the process when changes are much faster and cheaper, instead of at the end only to find you’ve veered far off course. Your ability to course-correct depends on how quickly you learn about choice of prototype.
A prototype is anything that represents your idea, in a tangible format, to actual customers for the purpose of gathering feedback. It is a testable concept about value or technical feasibility. A good prototype minimises the time and cost needed to get smart about a new offering.
Early on, when you’ve identified some key ideas and need to understand which ones are worth pursuing, storyboards or paper mock-ups are appropriate. As you continue, you’ll want to know how a selected idea is best translated into a design.
At this point high-fidelity mock-ups, or a non-production implementation of a key interaction are ideal. In order to observe users interacting with your design and assess real demand, a minimum viable product which customers can interact with in real-time, may be the right choice.
Question to ask can range from understanding the validity of a concept to specific functionality within a service. Do customers value the service? Will they want to use it? Is an app the right method for delivering the service? Will people want the information in multiple tabs or a single scroll down page?
Guided testing is an organised, coordinated version of testing, in which the work space as well as participants are carefully selected to mimic the real world. Guided testing is often the exclusive form of testing for early and mid-stage prototypes, and can continue to be valuable even in later stages. This dialog helps us to get a better understanding of how they do, or don’t, value the digital service construct.
In unguided testing often used with late-stage prototypes large number of participants are given access to the digital service, but no prompts are provided as participants interact with the service. The experience should be authentic, but the behind-the-scenes implementation providing that experience need not be real. For example, team members can operate customer service lines or manually process and fulfill product or service orders. Selected participants will get an opportunity to provide feedback.
1. Why It’s Your Best Move to Always Prototype Your Product
So you’re on your way to creating a product. You have a great product and you are working your way through the design process and identified the target user and market, spent a lot of time brainstorming concepts and checked out your competition. You believe you know what the user wants and what this product needs to be successful. This means it’s time to start prototyping.
Sure, we’ve all heard of prototyping before, and most engineers understood that it is the process of making a pre-production proof of concept model. But what does it really mean to prototype? When should prototyping start in the design process? What are the best ways to manufacture a prototype for your product? And why should you, as an engineer practice rapid prototyping?
2. What Is A Product Prototype Anyway?
As we jump into the world of product prototyping, it’s important to understand how “prototyping” and “a prototype” relate to each other. Prototyping refers to the process of developing and iterating prototypes. It is a design methodology, practice and/or process.
On the other hand, a prototype refers to the actual physical or digital objects generated during the prototyping process. “A prototype is a rudimentary working sample, model, mock-up or just a simulation of the actual product based on which the other forms are developed,” Sometimes, creating a prototype is called materialisation as it is the first step of transforming the virtual or conceptualised design into the real physical form.”
3. Motive behind prototyping
Prototyping validates the design of the actual product, there’s actually more to the product development process. “A prototype isn’t just a part of the product design. It is one of the most integral parts without which future steps of the startup process are nothing but useless.
Beyond determining desirability, prototyping also helps determine feasibility and viability. “Your product or solution should not only satisfy the needs of a user but be easy to implement and have a commercial model as well.
“You are also concerned with testing your ideas and validating your hypotheses about your users. Towards the end of your project, bring the focus to feasibility and viability as well so that your solution can be sustainable.”
While it may seem we are talking about complex products or those with big budgets from well-known brands, that’s actually not the case. Even the simplest of products should be prototyped with low-volume manufacturing before committing to full-scale production runs.
4. Prototyping Methodology
So, what does the “how to make a prototype” process look like? Think of the prototyping steps like a feedback loop: Make a prototype, Test your product, get feedback from users and Refine the design.
“Soliciting feedback on your ideas and prototypes is a core element of the Ideation Phase, and it helps keep the people you’re designing for at the center of your project,” Its also a direct path to designing something that those same people will adopt. If the point of a prototype is to test an idea, then collecting feedback from potential users is what pushes things forward.”
Here’s the problem: What is usually found through the prototyping process is that the first idea isn’t all that great. . Some times you have to failing your way to success. It’s the same for designers/engineers, regardless of product and how the product will be used by the customer. Based on feedback received from product testing, designs and ideas should continue to be iterated until the end result—something the user both wants and needs—is achieved. And this is where the true value of prototyping is found.
5. Prototyping Tools
So you’re convinced of the merits of prototyping. Now what? Where do you start? Before getting down to the actual business of prototyping, it’s important to understand the available tools so engineers can get started on the prototyping process.
For example, one available to can convert a 3D model into a array of layers in your chosen material’s thickness, allowing you to laser cut each layer of the greater whole and easily create a 3D object
6. How To Make A Product Prototype
When starting out, early prototypes should be “low fidelity” and gradually become “high fidelity” as you iterate. Fidelity speaks to how true the prototype represents final product.
The lowest-fidelity prototype might be a paper drawing or rough paper model, which can then turn into something like a cardboard prototype. The key here is that the materials and manufacturing of the early, low-fidelity prototype are inexpensive and quick, keeping the cost down,
Once the low-fidelity model is accurate from a design standpoint and you’ve incorporated feedback from each iteration, then you can move to higher-quality materials with confidence in your design files.
High-fidelity prototypes more accurately represent the final look and feel of the product, which is critical so users can really experience what the product will feel like. The upside: You’ll get more value in terms of feedback from testing. The downside: Upgraded materials and functionality have higher costs..
7. When To Start Prototyping
A common piece of advice for prototyping is “prototype early, prototype often.” This is where the “rapid” in “rapid prototyping” comes from. Most literature on product prototyping advises to prototype your invention as early as possible. The idea here is to avoid being in a vacuum during the design process by incorporating the needs of the user into the overall design right from the start.
8. Cost Of Prototyping
At the end of the day, you want to sell a product that excels in the field, and making prototypes can prevent you from wasting time and money on the wrong thing. “By realising additional requirements and constraints early, as well as receiving user feedback early, you can make better complexity and time estimates. And this results in better cost and time estimates.
So what does it cost to get a prototype made? Don’t be surprised by the answer. It depends. Digital prototyping allows you to generate zero-cost prototypes for the first few iterations of prototype development.
The simple back and forth of making a digital design tested through renderings costs you nothing more than time. Once you understand how much different design ideas will cost both as prototypes and in a full scale production run, you can move on to the physical prototypes.
A great way to keep cost down on physical prototype manufacturing is to start with low-fidelity prototypes to really nail down the design with affordable materials and mitigate the risk of producing an expensive but sub-optimally designed product, and it’s better for the work space by keeping failed products out of the trash.
As you iterate through low-fidelity prototypes, you’ll eventually get to a stage where higher-fidelity products are warranted. And here’s where costs can really vary. Depending on the custom parts and electronics required, this fully functioning the prototype could be very costly.
So if pays to review the types of prototypes and risk identification at each stage so that you can better determine what your prototype costs may be.
9. Best Practices For Making A Product Prototype
What you prototype and what you need to look for during testing will depend on what you are developing and what you hope to learn. One option is Instead of approaching prototyping like a designer soliciting feedback, approach it like a scientist testing cause and effect. Before you put pen to paper and design a prototype, write down exactly what you want to test.
When iterating prototypes, you will execute many variations on a single design theme. Prototypes should be low investment, i.e. inexpensive in materials and low in personal attachment.
If you are too attached to a prototype because you love the idea or because you spent a lot of money on it, you may not only be less willing to hear the honest feedback from users but also make the necessary changes.
A good prototype is a representation of what the product will be, not an actual example of the product itself. “Sure, you could take a longer time to build a more perfect prototype but doing so would only slow down the learning process.
So you want to make prototypes just robust enough to convey the idea to the user, but basic enough to maintain low investment. Additionally, prototypes should go just as far as projecting virtual constructs of the real product so that users can interact with them in real-time and offer valuable feedback.
The whole point of prototyping is to iterate the design over and over again until you have a successful, user-friendly product. Prototyping is nothing without iteration, so make sure you can not only easily iterate and adjust your prototype based on the feedback but also quickly produce the next prototype to continue the process,.
10. The Many Benefits Of Rapid Prototyping
There are many clear cut benefits of rapid prototyping. One of the most important? It frees up your creative potential. Having the ability to try out many different solutions, materials and tools, you are allowed to explore without pressure or commitment.
When you set out to make a great product there is pressure on you to make something great usually resulting in creative block and builds up stress, ultimately making it much more difficult to be bold with designs.
The truth is, most great products are the result of iteration. So your best bet in making something awesome is to get busy prototyping. Additionally, rapid prototyping also mitigates risk by allowing you to see the product from multiple perspectives.
Prototyping helps build a product that is agreeable to you and your customer. User feedback informs whether or not this product will be successful in the real world by testing the viability of your idea over and over again, so you can confidently bring your idea to market.
Ultimately, prototyping takes out all guess work from the design process. It minimises cost and increases profit. While it may seem like extra hours and money upfront, prototyping will save you big time in the long run by not only avoiding large production runs with the wrong design but also by ensuring the viability of your product to the user.
The bottom line: Prototyping sets you up for success.