Research done during the early stages of designing a product or service does not really tell you all you need to find out if you have an optimal solution in your hands. No matter how much research you’ve done or large body of information gathered, product testing is still critical for success. In fact, your design team can easily become fixated on the research, resulting in a bias towards their idea.
Through prototyping, you can easily uncover any biases and assumptions you might have towards your design idea. You can also use prototyping as some form of research before diving further into the product design stage as you spot areas for innovation or improvement. Below are the five major reasons why prototypes are necessary in order to achieve a good, effective product design.
Improve Collaboration and Communication
Concisely, it is always better to show your product rather than explaining how it works! When people can interact with your idea, they are in a better position to understand how it works and how it helps. This not only works when pitching stakeholders and clients, it also helps improve collaboration within your team so they support the new idea.
A prototype helps your developer and design teams create a connection that helps them work towards one common goal. In fact, the prototype will help break departmental barriers like jargon and lingo.
Furthermore, prototypes are also design toys that allow people to explore crazy ideas that may just work! The more interactive a prototype is, the less you will have to describe to your stakeholders and investors.
Help Sell Your Idea
A prototype will help the stakeholders concentrate more on the experience rather than focusing on the visual elements of the product. Plus, bringing in a prototype of your design helps add some flair to your presentation. People in the meeting will experience the magic of your design – a big difference between viewing blueprints and exploring a model house, for instance.
Having a prototype is a really powerful weapon that should be present at any presentation. According to “Boyle’s Law”, you should never ever attend a meeting without having a prototype of your product! When it comes to persuasive and communicative abilities in a roomful of investors, this simple presentation aid often makes all the difference between getting a yes or a no.
Bring Balance to Your Design
Prototyping is all about turning a concept into a real object, a process that requires creativity, practicality, rationale and intuition. A prototype actually enables you make critical decisions without relying on the described parameters, especially in terms of ergonomics, production, shape and function. Instead of simply guessing what the final product is like, a prototype brings you a reality of what the product can actually do.
Designing does not have to happen in a sequential manner. Getting feedback, brainstorming new ideas and setting new requirements can all occur during the prototyping phase. Once done, all the steps complement each other.
In short, a prototype allows the merging of your conceptual goal into a practical reality. At the end, a prototype allows the visual design and interaction design to strike a balance.
Make Usability Testing Easier
Breaking tasks into wireframes, mockups and prototypes is important because every phase serves a different purpose. Structuring in wireframing through technologies like rapid tooling brings you a structure without the distraction of mockup visuals and prototype functionality. Wireframing and mockups lean towards the abstract and creating, while prototyping is all about bringing everything together and an idea to life, which requires usability testing.
What your sketch is to mockups and wireframes, prototypes are to the final product. Prototyping is a way of creating a sketch with interactions for a rough model that features usability that you then refine and perfect. Due to this, prototyping is a critical phase for just about any new product for the market.
Help File Patents More Easily
Before the year 1880, inventors were required to present working prototypes or models of inventions to patent offices as part of applying for a patent. Nowadays, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) adopts a first to invent rule that grants patents to first inventors. If your product is unique or new enough, you should consider getting it patented.
After all, there’s no use to designing a great product that will be produced by another company. When you have a working prototype, it’s much easier for a patent attorney to see patentable design aspects. On the other hand, a prototype allows you to see what parts of your product violate existing patents and you can change them before production or a lawsuit begins.
Frequent prototyping is the best way to test assumptions, learn your users and improve on your product. It also helps create a bias towards action and creative serendipity.