Turning an idea into a sellable product is often a daunting and complex process. When designing for volume manufacturing, engineers are faced with trade offs between tooling costs, minimum order quantities, and per-unit COGS (cost of goods sold.) Before spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on tooling charges to achieve acceptable product margin, it makes sense to build product prototypes. While prototype units are often more expensive per-unit than production units, they act as an absolutely crucial tool in the commercialization process. At a minimum, you should prototype the product subsystems that have the highest business or technical risk. Ask yourself these questions to see if you should consider building a product prototype:
Have you identified the market requirements for your product?
Defining the feature set of a product requires intricate understanding of the competition you’ll face in the marketplace. Building prototypes enables an iterative, cost-efficient way of defining and validating your understanding of the market requirements. With prototypes in-hand, you can have face to face conversations with investors, buyers, and users. One of the best outcomes from building a product prototype is pivoting and changing the definition of your product concept based on iterative learning of the market.
Do you understand the your customer, buyer, and user personas?
Designing and manufacturing a product at scale is an incredibly risky activity if you haven’t performed user studies. User studies shouldn’t just include the end user of the product, but also others that participate in the value chain. It’s important to actively get input and implement feedback from potential customers, buyers, and/or users. Building a prototype provides a tool for you to experiment with selling the product concept to investors, customers/buyers, or users. In addition to validating the business case around your product concept, prototype units can be used for user studies to understand the key customer use cases and usability requirements.
What is the level of technical risk in the product concept?
If you’re designing a simple product, building prototypes may be an unnecessary activity. However, if your product concept includes intricate electromechanical integration, custom firmware, mobile device apps, or cloud services, prototyping and iterating on subsystems of the product from day one is critical. If you’re orchestrating services from multiple vendors, obtaining early physical product prototypes can reduce technical integration risk and unblock teams from working in parallel.
About Prototyping Services
At mv|designlabs, we have experience working with our clients to develop an idea into a product. Often times, this process involves building prototypes and having our clients use those tools to iterate on market research and user studies. If you’re interested in having us help you with your challenges, contact us. We’re excited to work together and bring your new ideas to life.