A prototype is typically needed in various stages of product development, depending on the goals and requirements of the project.
An unnecessary prototype would be a waste of time and money.
Still, if you lack a prototype when you really need one, that also will cost you time and money, to say nothing of the frustration of a false start.
The extra investment and planning you put into a prototype will frequently pay off. You can even outsource your prototyping to prototype-focused companies to streamline the process and get precise-to-order prototypes on your doorstep quickly.
5 Scenarios When A Prototype Is Beneficial
A prototype is beneficial when there is a need to validate concepts, gather feedback, facilitate communication, test technical feasibility, or reduce risks before moving into full-scale development.
1. More Accurate Requirements
Prototypes help validate and test initial ideas to determine their feasibility and potential.
Focus groups, interviews, surveys, and other requirement-gathering methods often fall short. However, having to do a lot of rework because of unclear requirements can easily double the cost of a project.
One way to minimize such costs is to use a prototype to visualize and test the product early on and gain the direction you need to make the necessary improvements. It’s always cheaper to “fail” early than late.
2. Safety Demands Perfect Performance
In some industries, such as with products that regulate and manage traffic flow or the design of essential auto parts, performance has to be perfect from the first moment your product is used.
This high bar for safety demands that you work out all the bugs, even minute ones, before your product launch date. Prototyping lets you test different materials, designs, and manufacturing processes to reach the elusive “perfection.”
3. To Explore New Uses
Creating a prototype allows for gathering user feedback before investing heavily in development.
In some situations, you are dealing with two or more seemingly viable possibilities for your product, but it’s unclear which path is best (and you can’t afford to do both.) There may even be disagreements on the design team over these issues.
Ordering multiple prototypes can allow you to A/B test your options, gather measurements and hard facts, and decide that all team members will agree is best.
4. Approval From Higher-ups or From a Buyer
Prototypes serve as a tangible representation of ideas, making it easier to communicate concepts to stakeholders, investors, and team members.
A prototype demonstrates what your business can deliver. Customers are more likely to purchase when they know what to expect from the product. Plus, your management is more likely to invest in further development when they can see the value the product will provide to the business.
You may need “proof of concept,” or you may need to show the product to a retail buyer. Or the product may need to be reviewed by a focus group first. All of these situations call for a prototype.
Finally, your patent attorney will want to see a prototype if you file a patent. While it’s not required anymore to have a prototype to legally file a patent, it helps because it proves you have a “working idea” instead of “just an idea.”
5. Engage in Marketing Even Before the Product Is Finalized
Prototypes can be used for pre-sales efforts, allowing potential customers to see and interact with the product before it is fully developed.
If you want to start a marketing campaign leading up to the actual release of your product, it helps immensely to have a prototype you can put in pictures and videos.
People want to catch a glimpse of what your product will be like and see it in action ahead of time – that requires a prototype.
More Work Needed
You’ll likely experience additional reasons for creating prototypes, including regulatory approval, funding and investment, technical feasibility, and design variations.
Remember, the specific timing and type of prototype created will depend on the project’s goals and the nature of the product or system being developed.
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