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Why Prototype Testing is Essential in Your Product Design

Why Prototype Testing is Essential in Your Product Design
31/10/2017

Producing and testing a prototype is a fulfilling, informative, valuable and affirming process. Prototype testing allows your design to come alive; highlighting the beauty and functionality of it but also shining a light on any flaws which can then be rectified before full-scale manufacturing begins. It is very difficult to practically test a design without a prototype but the truth is that it can be an expensive and time-consuming task. Sadly this is why so many designers try to cut it out of the process but doing so is a big risk. In this post, we will share with you 5 reasons why the testing phase is so important in your product design and should be an integral part of your products journey.

  1. Testing keeps everyone on the same page Communication is absolutely vital to any design project but despite best practices being put in place, it can still be very easy for messages to be misunderstood, especially when collaboration relies on documentation. How can we ever be sure we’ve been understood?

The reality is that the experience of demonstrating something physically is easier to understand than telling someone what you want. Testing a prototype allows you to smash through potential communication barriers because the language of experience is universal.

When everyone involved has the opportunity to explore and test a real prototype then there is an opportunity for imaginative and dynamic collaboration. Everyone can see, touch, feel and test the same physical product, sharing the same experience. This makes the entire process thereon in flow better as everyone is ‘on the same page.’

  1. Testing keeps you practical Usability tests are practical and extremely informative. They allow you to keep a practical eye on your design which can be difficult if caught up in the abstract.

To make the most out of usability tests you need to recruit around 20 people (although for qualitative tests a minimum of 5 targeted individuals would be OK). These people should fit the avatar of your potential ideal clients.

You can record how they respond to your design and their unique physical experiences. You can also provide them with instructions to test particular parts of the design that you feel need attention. Make sure you fully analyse the results from all the tests you conduct. This data is vital for moving forward.

  1. Allow Your Design to Fail You may have produced a comprehensive wire frame and developed a mock-up for a more textured exploration but neither of these gives you the opportunity to really test your design in the real world. These alternatives can still play a valuable role in the process but you want to bring your design to life so it has an opportunity to fail.

Failure is an essential part of success because it gives us an opportunity to learn. Testing your design with a working prototype allows you to see its failures and fix them cheaply. If these problems were to be detected further down the line then they become far more expensive botches and any money saved in the testing process would be spent anyway, if not more.

  1. Attract Investors If you need to access further investment, having a product which has been physically tested in the real world is an attractive feature. Investors don’t want to spend their money on a design that might not be feasible once produced and so having a well-tested design makes your project easier to sell.

It is also a very satisfying to allow your potential investor to experience your design for themselves. You don’t have to spend hours explaining a concept you are passionate about or handing them reams of notes. Instead, you can watch them test it for themselves and see the benefits in the real world.

  1. Stay grounded Having a prototype and physically comparing it to the product design brief is a powerful process. You can test your working prototype against the intentions that you set when you first began the journey. This can be very revealing and will allow you to stay grounded and remain clear about your design priorities.

Any design decisions that are made here-on-in are informed. The ergonomics, production, function and shape can be finalised during the testing phase, without any dangerous guesswork.

Make or Break

The testing period is a potential make or break factor for your design. In some businesses there are restrictions put in place around the prototype creation and testing process mainly because of the costs involved. However, the improved collaboration of the team and the opportunity to fix problems at an early stage creates a greater chance of success for your designs future and should be seen as an investment as opposed to an expense.

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