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Valentina Gomez
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Prototyping in Product Design

13
May
2024

Imagine you've got the secret recipe for the next big thing—a product that could change the game. How to turn that into something people can actually use? That's where prototyping comes in! Prototyping helps you walk from your idea to something you can deliver within the Product Development process. That's why today we'll be checking the intricacies of prototyping in Product Design while we dive into its types and role. Let's get started to see how prototyping can lead design decisions!

The Product Design Process

Creating a new product starts with a good idea. Yet, the idea is carefully improved with a step-by-step procedure that starts with lots of research to ensure users will find your product useful and enjoyable. In this context, Design teams turn the idea into detailed workflows and wireframes, building visual prototypes and adding details to each iteration. Based on user feedback, this stage also provides a reliable source to acknowledge how to build improved experiences. In the end, what one was just an idea is now a real product that users can enjoy! 

Of course, development processes are key within Product Design procedures, and that's why designers and developers or engineers work together since the ideation phase to future-proof the idea. While designers recast those ideas into visual models, developers ensure they have the most suitable stack to answer the technical challenges each product may present. With feedback, users test and use the products and let teams know how they'd like the product to be in terms of friendliness and functionality. With the preliminary prototype as the starting point, teams dive into refinement stages to fine-tune the product.

There are several approaches to take when it comes to the Product Design process. For instance, rapid prototyping involves creating quick versions of a product by leveraging, for instance, digital wireframing. This procedure speeds up the feedback cycle, allowing teams to identify flaws and make needed improvements faster so teams waste less time on designs that do no meet expectations. Yet, another fantastic scope to take is high-fidelity prototyping, as it resembles the final product in functionality and appearance and allows teams to analyze User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI). High-fidelity prototypes allow everyone involved to get a clear picture of what the final product will look like and how it will work.

Types of Prototype in Product Design

Prototypes can vary depending on its purpose and stage within the design process. Here, we highlight three main types: Concept, Function, and Experience prototypes. Let's explore each of them!

Concept Prototyping

When developing a new product, creating a concept prototype in the beginning can be quite helpful! These early-version of products help teams get a sense of how will it work and what its main features will be. concept prototypes are often simple, without any fancy details, they guide teams in navigating issues they may encounter later on, and ensure solutions for each issue. Let's say there's a fashion designer sketching the concept for a jacket with integrated sensors to track fitness activities: they should have at least a drawing of it! While not a working prototype, having a scketch helps visually portraying the concept of wearable tech integrated into clothing to take more advanced decisions.

Functional Prototyping

Besides having a solid concept, it's key to ensure your product works properly before releasing it into the public, and that's where functional prototyping comes in handy! These more-advanced versions are designed to closely resemble the final product, and helps test its functionality and performance. Further, functional prototyping allows teams to guarantee al technical details are addressed, including its interactive elements and chosen tech stack. As a result, they take longer time than concept prototypes since they have more things to consider. For example, a Virtual Reality (VR) headset functional prototype might focus on core functionalities like head tracking and motion sensor. Users can test its immersion while identyfing potential nausea-related feelings and provide feedback for the team to refine it before adding more advanced features.

User Experience Prototyping

Lastly, User Experience prototypes focus on simulating the end-user interactions and test the overall UX, harnessing Usability Testing, User Flows, and UI Design. All these elements are key for teams to gather feedback in the early stages of the design process! For example, a user interacting with an AI-based voice assistant can help teams to test dialogue capabilities and user intent understanding before developing the final Voice User Interface (VUI) system.

Conclusion

Prototyping is key within the Product Design creative process! From simple sketches to advanced functionalities, prototypes allow designers and teams to test and validate products before launching. Do you have a great idea? Prototyping can be the brigde from idea to thriving business outcomes!