Why Prototyping is Essential in Modern Product Development

Woman working with a prototype
Damian Headshot
Damian Rees
July 1, 2024
2 min read
Iterative Prototyping
Experience Design
UX Design

Product designers often feel tempted to skip prototypes and dive straight into final designs using tools like Figma. While it's possible to bypass prototyping, there's a reason why industries have relied on prototypes for decades. In a recent training session we delivered, we explored why prototypes are an essential tool for the product development process. Check out our slides here, or read on for a summary:

What is a Prototype?

As our slide deck explains, the word "prototype" comes from the Greek "prototypon", meaning "first or early form". In the context of product development, a prototype is the first example of a product from which all later forms are developed. It's not limited to physical products either - prototypes can be used in service design and user experience (UX) to explore ideas and solutions by simulating interactions.

The Power of Prototyping

Prototyping isn't just a phase in design—it's a powerful problem-solving tool. Our presentation highlights three core reasons for prototyping: to explore and experiment, to learn and test iteratively, and to communicate and inspire. By creating rough versions of your product, you can identify potential issues early, saving time and resources in the long run.

User-Centred Design and Feedback

Prototypes put your ideas in front of real users. This hands-on feedback is invaluable for creating products that truly meet user needs and expectations. As the slide deck points out, "If a picture is worth 1000 words, a prototype is worth 1000 meetings". This hands-on approach allows you to watch end-users interacting with your solution and constantly refine it until you're confident it works.

The Cost-Benefit of Prototyping

One of the key benefits of prototyping, as highlighted in our presentation, is the reduced cost of fixing issues. The cost of changes increases dramatically from the prototype phase to the development phase, and even more so once the product or service is live. As architect Frank Lloyd Wright famously said, "You can use an eraser on the drafting table or a sledge hammer on the construction site".

Types of Prototypes

The slide deck illustrates a range of prototyping methods, from low-fidelity to high-fidelity. Early sketches and paper prototypes are perfect for testing logic and flow, while more advanced digital prototypes can test specific interactions. The choice of prototype depends on what you're trying to achieve - whether it's exploring layouts with Lego, using the "Wizard of Oz" technique for conversational interfaces, or creating detailed digital mockups.

Integrating Prototyping into Your Workflow

Our presentation outlines key steps in the prototyping process. Start by identifying your user and their goals. Determine the key question you want to answer with your prototype. Sketch out the flow of interactions, then prototype the key stages. Finally, test and refine your prototype based on user feedback.

The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and Prototyping

The concept of MVP is crucial in product development. As our slide deck notes, an MVP is not just about creating the bare minimum, but about maximising learning with minimal effort. Prototyping can help you define and refine your MVP by allowing you to test which features are truly essential.


Prototyping isn't just a phase in the design process—it's a mindset that encourages exploration, learning, and user-centred design. By incorporating prototyping into your workflow, you can create better products, reduce risks, and ultimately deliver more value to your users. Remember, as our presentation emphasises, the goal of prototyping isn't perfection; it's learning and iteration. Embrace the process, and watch how it transforms your product development journey.

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