woman working on her company's first prototype

Creating Your Business’s First Prototype

Building your first prototype is a big step for any business. Your prototype will ultimately become the product you sell, in large part determining whether your business will be successful. It’s important to get the prototyping process right, as it will set you off on the right foot. If you don’t go about prototyping in a reliable way, you could end up wasting time or resources on a failed product. This could set your business back before it even starts.

However, many new business owners don’t know how to go about creating their first prototype. To help you avoid some beginner prototyping mistakes, we’ll outline the steps you should take to create a prototype for the first time.


Define Your Objectives

The first thing you’ll want to do is define some clear objectives for your prototype. Ask yourself questions such as, “What is the purpose of this prototype?” “What features should it have?” “What problem should this prototype solve?” and “Who is the target audience for this prototype?”

As you ask yourself these types of questions, make a list of objectives for your prototype. Establishing some objectives early can better steer your prototype design process in the right direction. You’ll want to keep checking back on these objectives as you go through the rest of the design process to ensure you’re staying on course.

Create a Design for Your First Prototype

Once you have a plan for what you want to accomplish, the next step is to create a simple sketch or design of your prototype. How you go about doing this will depend on your design skills and the tools you have available to you. A simple option is to draw your ideas on a piece of paper, creating new sketches until you have a design you like. There is also prototyping software that can help you digitally sketch your prototype. At this stage, your goal is to turn your ideas into something you can look at, so choose the best method for you.

Build a Low-Fidelity Prototype

After you have a sketch, you can then begin working on a low-fidelity prototype. A low-fidelity prototype is one that’s very basic. It might include a simple wireframe or mockup. This stage’s point is to turn your drawings into something tangible. You’re not trying to create your final product here; it’s only something that you can physically work with.

How you create your first prototype will depend on the nature of your product. Some people may be able to create a prototype from items they have around their house, while others will need to work with a prototyping company to assemble something. Explore your options and choose a method that works best for you.

Refine Your Prototype

Now that you have a very basic version of your prototype, it’s time to start refining and improving it. This is the stage where you try to find better ways to do things, add new features, and adjust the specifications of the project. You may find that while an idea you drew in your design seemed like a good idea, once you put it into practice, it’s not as effective.

During this stage, you’ll also want to start thinking about the costs of developing your product once it’s done. For example, let’s say your product requires a circuit board. According to ACDi, a PCB Manufacturer, “There are several factors that affect the cost of a circuit board, including size and shape, material, complexity, lead time, quantity, and surface finish.” During the refining phase, you’ll want to focus on reducing the costs of production while keeping the same features. You might even redesign the circuit board to be smaller.

Test Your Prototype with Audiences

After a few rounds of revisions, you should now have a working prototype. Before selling it to customers, you’ll want to test it with some sample audiences. Think about who you designed the product for. Then find some people who fit this description to test the product for you. Ask for their feedback, including what they like about the product. Also ask about what they dislike or what features they wish it included. By gathering feedback from sample audience members, you can better learn what they’re looking for from your product.

During this stage, seek feedback from a variety of sources. Even if you have an ideal customer profile, you don’t want to only get feedback from one person who meets the criteria. By getting feedback from a wider audience, you can ensure that your final product best meets what your audience wants.

You may need to go through this step a few times. You’ll show your prototype to your audience, gather feedback, implement it, and then show them the updated version. Your audience may like the changes or decide that your prototype still needs work. Continue getting feedback and implementing it until your audience is satisfied with your product overall.

Continue Improving Your Design

The last step is to make final improvements to your design. Using the feedback from your audience and any issues you discovered during your testing process, you can make adjustments to create the best version of your prototype. It’s much better to spend the time now to continue improving your design. Then you can release an awesome product rather than release something your customers won’t like.

However, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Too many people aim for perfection from their prototypes to the point where they never release a product. Once your product accomplishes the objectives you created, it’s time to start producing your prototype into a product and get it on the market.


Start Building Your Prototype

Building a prototype can be a long process, but it doesn’t need to be complicated. There are some clear steps you should follow that will help you keep things organized and ensure you don’t get too far ahead of yourself. While following the steps outlined above, remember that building a prototype for your business isn’t supposed to be a quick process. It’s likely going to take many iterations of your prototype before you have something you’re happy with. By remaining persistent through this process, you can develop a product that your customers love. This will create a great foundation for your business.

If you’re starting a business and planning for the launch of your first product, you’re going to need lots of support. So bookmark the Business Opportunities blog and keep it handy. Then use our site’s search bar to find quick answers to questions as they come up. We’re here for you!