Advantages of prototyping in the design cycle
A prototype is the working model of the product or solution that is created before manufacturing the actual product. Prototyping is not only used in Engineering but also in marketing, education and the military. Prototyping is one of the essential processes during the design cycle.
The diagram below shows the design process including the prototyping part.
Figure 1. Engineering Design cycle
The following are the advantages of prototyping in the design cycle:
- Prototyping gives an idea of the final product. It is difficult to visualize the look of the final product in the early stages of designing but when there is a prototype, we can get a basic look of the product to refine it based on the customer needs.
- Helps to streamline the design process. The design process without prototyping is difficult because testing and analysis will only depend on the actual product and thus limits the designer to do this flexibly.
Figure 2. Early prototype version of Hand washing station
- Helps to avoid global changes in the finished product. As the saying “fail fast and fail often” is widely used during the first phases of prototyping it means that the mistakes we make during the first stages are essential for us to understand the product’s constraints before finishing the final product.
- Also helps to identify unnecessary components that can be avoided during the final product. As a user and designer’s perspectives differ in many ways, the designed product may also differ from the user’s perspectives so prototyping helps us to see these things in the early stages of designing and then deal with them before the final manufacturing of the product.
Figure 3. First prototype showing unnecessary components of the product
- Helps us to estimate the final cost of the product. When a designer has a prototype it means that he/she has completed the fundamental stages of designing which includes material estimate cost, so the cost of the product can be easily estimated.
- Evaluates feasibility. Prototyping helps to identify which part of an idea is difficult or impossible to implement. This is not only physical but also technical and financial aspects of the project.
- Prototyping enhances the quality of the product. Quality enhancement is due to the number of tests conducted and the amount of feedback designers get from a stakeholder (including users). The more interactive the feedback, the better the product.
Therefore prototyping is a very essential step considering the points above and also when included in design phases it helps to smoothen and make the design cycle much faster.
by Lawrence Judica Mbise