Rough vs Polished Prototype: What is Your Best Option?

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

5 Technologies to Prototype Your New Electronic Hardware Product

Do you have an idea for a new electronic hardware product and are wondering how to get started with producing it? The best way to get a product started is to create a prototype, sometimes more than one. There are various methods of creating a prototype. The first two technologies in this article work for the electronics part of your product and the other three technologies are methods for producing a prototype for the casing of your product.

Electronic Development Kits

One of the simplest ways to prototype your new electronic hardware product is to use electronic development kits (EDK). Electronic development kits are boards that you can use to create a program or application or to evaluate how your product will perform1. EDKs can range in price from under $50 to $150 or more, depending on the features of the kit’s board2.

Development kits can be used in many areas. Applications include automotive, imaging, communications, and audio. Other applications include wireless, RFID, and motor controls. On the lower price end, function may be limited. At the higher price range, however, features could include USB ports, video or ethernet connections and higher pin counts. Others on the pricier end, like the Adafruit Flora, can be used to add LEDs to clothing, such as shirts, hats, and jackets, or can be controlled by smartphone apps and Bluetooth2. With EDKs you can create your own proof-of-concept prototype to get an idea of how your product will perform and gather interest from potential investors.

Adafruit Flora Board
Adafruit Flora Board

Printed Circuit Boards (PCB)

Another way to prototype your new electronic hardware product is to use breadboards, perfboards, and/or printed circuit boards or PCBs. Breadboards can be used to quickly try out your electronic hardware idea and make sure it works. Perfboards are rigid sheets with holes to which you add components, such as resistors or integrated circuits, by soldering3.  PCBs take longer and require a bit more effort, but are more permanent and look better. You can use breadboards and perfboards to test your design and determine if any improvements are necessary. Depending on the design and function of your product, the more permanent PCB can be used as your final product in some cases4.

Breadboard, Perfboard, PCB
Breadboard, Perfboard, PCB

 

Stereolithography (SLA)

A third method of prototyping your new electronic hardware product is a type of 3D printing known as stereolithography. A stereolithography apparatus (SLA) is a machine that uses light to harden a liquid plastic into detailed, professional looking prototypes or products. The photopolymerization process produces strong, durable prototypes because of the chemical bonds created between the plastic layers5. SLA is a quick and relatively inexpensive method to create accurately shaped pieces, even when the pieces have an odd shape or intricate designs.

SLA machines are more expensive than the desktop type 3D printers and can cost in the thousands of dollars5. If you don’t have the budget to purchase an SLA you can hire one of several online companies to produce the prototype for you.

Stereolithography
Stereolithography

CNC Machining

A fourth approach to prototyping your product is CNC machining.  3D printing or SLA production are additive processes while CNC machining is a subtractive process. CNC machines start with a block of metal or plastic and then use tools controlled by a computer to precisely remove material to form the product6. Creating a prototype with this method can be done faster, cheaper and with more precision.

The advantages of CNC machining are a stronger product since the part is cut from a solid piece of material and the part can be created from metal or plastic. CNC prototypes can also be created from the same material used in the injection-molding process, allowing movement into high volume production without the need to produce another prototype6.

CNC Lathe-NASA
CNC Lathe-NASA

Injection Molding

A final method of prototyping your new electronic hardware product is injection molding. Injection molding consists of creating a mold of your product and injecting, at a high pressure, liquid plastic into the mold. The intricate detail of the part is created by the high pressure used to inject the plastic. Injection molding is the best method to produce a high quality, detailed, prototype that will be identical to the finished product7.

Starting with lower cost metal molds, like aluminum will save money on your prototype. Once your production volume rises, move to stronger steels to create your molds.

Injection molding
Injection molding

Learning about the above technologies can allow you to find the best method to create your prototypes. Creating good prototypes helps you to refine your product design, determine the best production methods, and find the right investors if needed. The 5 technologies for prototyping your new electronic hardware product listed here can help you do all those things and ensure you bring a well-crafted product to market.

 

Sources

  1. Future Electronics- http://www.futureelectronics.com/en/development-tools/dev-tool-hardware.aspx
  2. Hackaday- https://hackaday.com/2011/02/01/what-development-board-to-use/
  3. Quora– https://www.quora.com/Whats-the-difference-between-PCBs-and-breadboards
  4. Medium- https://medium.com/@rxseger/notes-on-prototyping-circuit-boards-c5906e637123
  5. LiveScience- https://www.livescience.com/38190-stereolithography.html
  6. Product Development Solutions- http://www.1pds.com/implementing-rapid-prototyping-using-cnc-machining/
  7. Revpart- https://revpart.com/services/molding-services/silicone-rubber-molding/

How to Develop a Prototype for Your Website or Application

Developing a prototype, an example or model, is part of every software development today. But what are the advantages of a prototype, compared to the simple concept development? And how do you make the step from prototype to finished product?

The development of a prototype

A prototype can have different shapes and can be very little developed or very accurate. Wikipedia defines a prototype as follows:

A prototype is an early sample, model, or release of a product built to test a concept or process or act as a thing to be replicated or learned from. It is a term used in a variety of contexts, including semantics, design, electronics, and software programming.

The advantage of a prototype is that it can be changed faster and changes cost less money and time. The development of a prototype should therefore be at the beginning of a product development.

Prototype Developments
Prototype Developments

A prototype can also be used to inform investors about a product or to gain initial user experience. A prototype should answer a concrete and not an abstract problem.

Prototype + User testing = Better products?

Developing prototypes can help you to develop a great product.

It’s a relatively inexpensive way to test an idea and get the first user feedback. If a prototype fails, this is far less serious than if a finished product failed, as the investment was far lower.

In addition, a prototype has the ability to completely rethink and redesign it, which is rather difficult for a finished product.

Prototypes are a great opportunity to collect and respond to user feedback. As bad as shown here, it should not be better 😉

High fidelity and low fidelity prototypes

When you look at prototypes in software development, you find the terms “high fidelity” and “low fidelity”, which can also be equated with “high tech” and “low tech”.

A low-fidelity prototype can e.g. B. the conception by means of paper and pen or post-its. Often, the low fidelity prototype is also the starting point for the high fidelity prototype.

Sketch Low-fi High-fi Website Mockups
Sketch Low-fi High-fidelity Website Mockups

By contrast, the high-fidelity prototype presents the future product at a high-tech level. Designs are created here and often the high-fidelity prototype is fully functional. However, this also means significantly higher costs and time, which flow into a high-fidelity prototype. Of course, one can understand low and high fidelity prototypes as two instances, but rather as two ends of a spectrum in which there are many intermediate possibilities.

What should your prototype look like?

Before you start to develop a prototype, you should answer the following questions:

  • How far should my prototype be developed?
  • How much budget and resources do I want to spend on developing the prototype?
  • Who is involved in the development?
  • What will the workflow and internal communication look like?
  • How do I get first user feedback?
  • Which tools are available to me

The right tools

Especially if you are developing a high fidelity prototype, you need the right tools for your project.

Depending on whether you are developing a mobile app or a browser application, the tools you need can vary greatly. Also, depending on where you are in development, you need different tools.

Workflow Site Mockups Prototypes Tools
Workflow Site Mockups Prototypes Tools

I can therefore recommend this article, which gives you a good overview of tools such as Briefs, Atomic.io or Axure. Here you can see how different tools perform in terms of speed, high fidelity, user testing and customer support.

User feedback

User testing used to be the last step in software development. As a result, user feedback could only be incorporated at the very end and sometimes costly changes. Fortunately, that has since changed and user feedback is now part of every design process.

When developing an application, it may make sense to ask users for a prototype for feedback. Everything you learn in this step will save you a lot of effort afterward.

Conclusion

The advantages of a prototype are obvious: you can show an example or model very quickly, you save costs, resources and time. It is therefore worthwhile to plan the development of the prototype exactly, from the tools to the team to communication channels.

Hope you enjoyed this post.