5 Key Steps To Creating A Product Prototype

Steps To Creating A Product Prototype

Creating a product prototype is exciting. Here, you get the chance to bring your original idea to life, allowing you to share it with other people. However, it can also feel overwhelming when you think about everything you need to do before approaching investors and marketing it to buyers.

The end goal of a prototype isn’t just to have a physical model of something you imagined. It’s about creating something that shows how your idea works, how it may add value to people’s lives, and why someone may want to invest in or buy that product.

A truly presentable prototype should be well-planned and well-executed from the beginning. And this post will describe exactly how you can do that in five steps.

1. Research And Planning

Generally, products are conceptualized and produced aiming to solve a problem or somehow bring value to consumers. Before they get offered to the market, they go through multiple evolutions based on user feedback and problems that arise over time. In the same way, your prototyping process should start with a bit of research and thought into how you can make the product do its job in the best way.

An effective way to do this is with use cases and user stories. These are documented ‘dialogues’ describing what users want to do and how they can do so using your product. You can brainstorm and conceptualize with other developers and send out a survey to gather information. Essentially, the primary purpose is to create a concrete list of requirements and ‘rules’ you’ll follow throughout the prototyping process.

This would also be the appropriate time to determine your project management system and assign roles to team members. For example, you may have one person primarily working on product sketches while another focuses on documenting the process—it's up to you to decide how to manage the team.

2. Start Sketching And 3D Modeling Your Design

After you’ve sorted out your management structure and gathered a list of requirements in step one, it’s time to start working out the product design. You likely already have a rough idea of what you’re trying to make. Any initial sketches you’ve made prior will be helpful now.

Here you should be creating a visual representation of your product idea. You can start by sketching on pen and paper as you brainstorm—try to have all team members present.

Next, it’s time to start creating a 3D model of your prototype. You may have someone on your team who can do this, or you may need to hire external help. pop over here for a list containing some of the most reliable 3D modeling agencies that may help you.

The benefit of a virtual, 3D rendered prototype is that you can see it from multiple angles before investing in a physical prototype. It’s much easier to make changes to a three-dimension model than to a physical one, so this can also save you time and other resources as you fine-tune your concept.

3. Create A Physical Prototype

It’s finally time to make the physical prototype of your product, the part everyone looks forward to. You can do this yourself if you already possess the resources and the skill. However, if your product is particularly complex, it may be worth hiring a professional prototype designer to help with this step.

These days you can develop most prototypes with 3D printing. If you have access to a 3D printer, you can likely build a physical prototype directly from your 3D models in the previous step. This method is relatively low cost and great if you intend to make multiple throwaway prototypes. You may even use 3D printing to try various physical designs as you develop a final prototype.

Your other options are to have the prototype manufactured by hand or through CNC machining. CNC machined prototypes are of high quality and close to what a final product would be. You’re more likely to use this method if your budget allows it and the nature of your product requires it.

Lastly, if your product is digital, you can probably build it yourself or as a team. For things like software, your planning step would’ve included defining architectural structure and creating an abstract design. This is the step where you’d program a vertical or horizontal prototype of the software.

4. Test

It’s essential to test that a prototype can do what it’s designed to do. And in this phase, it’s time to refer back to your initial requirements and use cases for the product. Test and see if it performs its functions as initially expected.

An essential thing to note is to not forget to document your testing process. With each test, you should be recording the test case, the expected findings, the testing method, the actual findings, and any other relevant information. These records will be helpful as you refine your prototype into a final product.

You may also have prototypes tested by individuals uninvolved in the development of your product. However, this is typically more applicable in the later stages of prototyping—when your prototypes are very close to a final product.

5. Reflect Back

Not every prototype is successful on the first try. Sometimes it takes multiple attempts before you come up with the final, marketable implementation of your initial idea and secure investments.

Fortunately, prototyping can be an iterative process. This means that you can go through these steps several times, with each iteration more informed than the last, allowing you to have more favorable outcomes for your product prototyping.


There’s technically no defined path to creating a product prototype. But starting without a plan can lead to confusion and delays in the outcome. With that, you can consider the five steps listed in this article to guide you and your team as you take the first steps to develop and put your product on the market. 

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