Rough vs Polished Prototype: What is Your Best Option?

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You have an idea for a new or improved product and you want to get an idea of how it will be received by the public. You’re ready to create a prototype, get feedback and move forward with your project. But, should you go with a rough prototype or a more polished prototype? The answer to this question depends on your plans for your product.

What is the Purpose of Your Prototype?

Is your product a component of another piece? Is what it looks like as important as what it does? If you are trying to prove that your product functions as it should, then a rough prototype will be the best option. A rough prototype can be reworked and redesigned if there are mechanical or design flaws1. Aesthetics, on the other hand, may be as important as function if the product will be purchased based on looks as well as function. In this case, a polished prototype may be the way to go.

What is the Purpose of Your Prototype

Who is Your Audience/Customer?

Are you talking to potential customers or end users? Or are you pitching your product to potential investors? Customers may be more interested in whether your product works as it should and less interested in what it will look like as a finished product, so a rough prototype is appropriate. For end users, knowing that you have a viable idea is more important than seeing a pretty object1. Potential investors may want both, seeing that a product works and what the final aesthetics will be. Investors want to know that their money is going to help create a workable product that will be popular with customers and end users, so a polished prototype would be the best option2. Customers want a product that works, and aesthetics can come later. Therefore, your audience will help determine whether to use a rough vs a polished prototype.

Who is Your Audience/Customer?

What Type of Feedback Are You Looking For?

Do you want to know if the product functions as you want it to? Are there design flaws or mechanical problems that need to be addressed before full production? If this type of feedback is what you’re looking for, a rough prototype is the place to start. With a rough prototype you can test function and design features before putting the product through full production. If there are issues with the rough prototype, you can start over and make changes to the design or function, saving time and money in future production delays and waste3.

Do you want to know if your product will be popular with the public? Does your product make potential customers say “Yeah, I want one of those!”? If this is the type of feedback you’re looking for, a polished prototype may be what you need. With a polished prototype you can find out if potential customers would want the product as is or whether the customer would prefer some changes be made. When a potential customer sees a functioning, aesthetically pleasing prototype, they will be more likely to provide feedback that lets you know if your product is desirable enough to purchase. Choosing a rough vs polished prototype is important in gaining the correct feedback for your product2.

What Type of Feedback Are You Looking For? Do you want to know if the product functions as you want it to? Are there design flaws or mechanical problems that need to be addressed before full production? If this type of feedback is what you’re looking for, a rough prototype is the place to start. With a rough prototype you can test function and design features before putting the product through full production. If there are issues with the rough prototype, you can start over and make changes to the design or function, saving time and money in future production delays and waste3. Do you want to know if your product will be popular with the public? Does your product make potential customers say “Yeah, I want one of those!”? If this is the type of feedback you’re looking for, a polished prototype may be what you need. With a polished prototype you can find out if potential customers would want the product as is or whether the customer would prefer some changes be made. When a potential customer sees a functioning, aesthetically pleasing prototype, they will be more likely to provide feedback that lets you know if your product is desirable enough to purchase. Choosing a rough vs polished prototype is important in gaining the correct feedback for your product2.

When using a rough prototype, you will most likely get more open feedback. A rough prototype also allows you to determine if the product is working as expected or if you need to make structural or design changes. Each type of prototype will garner different feedback depending on your audience. A polished prototype may confuse your audience into thinking the prototype is the finished product. Be sure to emphasize the difference between the two types of prototype with your audience to ensure you get the correct type of feedback3. Prototypes are very advantageous for production of a well-functioning product that will satisfy both investors and end users. Determining rough vs polished prototype is an important decision, so know what outcome you are looking for when making that decision.

 

Sources

  1. Clarity- https://clarity.fm/questions/247/answers/275
  2. Quora- https://www.quora.com/Is-a-rough-prototype-better-than-a-polished-prototype
  3. Wellesley- http://cs.wellesley.edu/~cs215/Lectures/L13-SpecsStoryboard/CS215-prototyping.pdf

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