It all started with a prototype (image credit)
Welcome, inventors and entrepreneurs! Today, we’re looking at the tricky process of creating a prototype for your product or business. If you run a business, chances are, you have a product in mind, and you’re hoping to break into the global market. Perhaps you’re a tech business looking to create the next iPhone. Perhaps it’s a children’s toy or a new gadget. Whatever your product, the first step is creating a prototype. As a startup on a tight budget, you’ll want to do most of this yourself, but you’re not sure where to start. Luckily for you, we’re here to outline the process. Let’s take a look.
- Research – We know you’re eager to dive in and get started. But, a slow, methodical approach is always the best way to start. Before you spend time and money creating a prototype or product, conduct some thorough market research. Does a similar product already exist? If it doesn’t, is there a demand for it? Look for gaps in the market, and sharpen the product on paper first. The longer you spend getting this stage right, the better your prototype.
- Sketches – Every great product on the planet today started out as nothing more than a sketch. The iPad, the telephone, the lightbulb. They were all sketched and tweaked and honed before they were built. Keep a sketchbook full of ideas, and keep drawing until it’s perfect. Every time you pick up a pencil, new ideas will come out. Bring all the best ideas together, and make the perfect sketch. Now, turn these rough sketches into detailed blueprints with size and scale measurements.
Computer design and blueprints (image credit)
- First prototype – Finally, you’re ready to start building an initial design. The first stage is all about getting the size and shape right. Most entrepreneurs start this process with anything they can find around the house! Tape together cardboard, and anything else you find lying around. Remember, you’re just looking to get a sense of the size, shape, and practicality of the product. Imagine if the iPhone was made too small or if the iPad didn’t fit in your bag. This stage will help you iron out any obvious problems.
- Functioning prototype – Once you’re happy with the size, shape, and practicality, you can build the real, working prototype! This is the fun part, but it’s also the expensive part. Which is why there’s such a long process before it. Depending on your product, there are various different ways to create this prototype. Some companies use scientific injection molding, while others use 3D printing or traditional manufacture. You can either learn these skills yourself or outsource them to the experts.
- Feedback – The final stage is all about getting feedback. With your working prototype in hand, conduct a series of focus groups and demonstrations. Let your target audience get their hands on your prototype and assess its functionality. Give it to your friends and family, and get their honest thoughts.
Congratulations! You’ve created your first prototype. You can now take things to the next stage, and create a real working product. Good luck!