What is a Digital Prototype?

Apr 26, 2021 | Idea Development, Innovation

What is a Digital Prototype?

Let’s say you have a great idea for a new product — whether it’s a physical product like a kitchen appliance, a digital product like a smartphone app, or one that is both like a high-tech garden tool. How do you show the world your idea? That’s where a digital prototype comes in. A digital prototype is a visual representation of your idea. 

Human beings are highly visual. In fact, more than 50% of the cortex — the surface of the brain — is devoted to processing visual information. So when you see a prototype, the most important thing about it is that you see it! When customers can view it and understand all of the product’s elements, that prototype comes to life.

Prototyping is one of the most pivotal steps in the idea development process, yet prototypes can be confusing for new entrepreneurs. It’s no wonder — a prototype can be almost anything from a series of drawings representing different screens to a perfect prelaunch interface. 

What is a prototype, exactly?

At Cobalt, we believe in making complex things simple so let’s break it down. 

The simplest definition of “prototype” is “A simulation or sample version of a final product, which is used for testing prior to launch.” A prototype aims to test products (and product ideas) before sinking lots of time and money into the final product. It’s a hack in the idea development process. 

So what is a prototype, really? Said simply, a prototype is a visual representation of an idea. It demonstrates what the product is doing at any given point, what the interactive elements are, and how the product would function in the real world. 

Prototyping is vital for resolving a variety of issues before launching. It can also help identify areas that need improvement. Once a preliminary version of your product idea is in your hands OR the hands of real users, you’ll be able to see how people will actually use the product as opposed to how you think they will. Then you can then go back and revisit your initial presumptions. Plus it’s amazing to see real people with your idea in the real world! 

Thanks to the wonders of technology, digital prototypes are the fastest, easiest, and most cost-effective way of prototyping. The variety of specialized software enables designers to create elaborate interactive prototypes with intricate animations. One of the biggest advantages is that they are realistic enough to accurately test most product elements within an environment comparable to the final product. Digital prototypes can be built with apps and software made specifically for prototyping. 

The best part? With Cobalt, you can find and hire an expert to build a digital prototype of your idea in less than 3 days. 

What is a digital prototype for digital products?

Prototyping for digital products has various key functionality and user interface (UI) characteristics that help create a unified experience across multiple devices. It’s the time when you need to think about each possible user interaction.

Digital prototyping involves many cycles of feedback and iteration. Having a basic coded prototype allows you to learn more about how a product will integrate with existing system requirements and how the product will work across different devices and customer touch points.

Without prototyping, you would have built an entire product/app, put it in customers’ hands only to realize it was not what they needed, and have to go back to square one. We all make mistakes – prototyping helps us realize them sooner rather than later.

What is a digital prototype for physical products?

Thanks to technology, if you’re building a physical product, you can create a digital prototype as well. Various types of software can help turn your idea into a digital prototype in less time and cost. Using digital software for prototyping makes your prototype mobile. You can share it with all the relevant stakeholders in a link or email.

Sharing your prototype enables you to gather feedback from users. Specifically, you’re able to:

  • Ask opinions and get feedback from relevant stakeholders
  • Connect with potential customers — their opinion is most crucial, as they are the ones who would be actually buying your product; the designed product should meet their expectations
  • Iterate the prototype and test again

A prototype helps you visualize your idea and see the parts of the product that still have room for improvement. And best of all, it allows you to implement all possible improvements before the product is mass-produced.

Why do you need a digital prototype?

Visualizing your idea is the most important part of the idea development process. Digital prototyping allows you to see your product and test and learn before you take it to market. It clarifies what you’re trying to do by ensuring you focus on delivering business value rather than features that contribute little towards your objectives.  

More than simply testing a product’s usability, prototyping enables you to test the actual demand for your product and its ability to address a genuine need or problem. It helps you:

  • Gain early feedback and buy-in from project stakeholders 
  • Generate support and investment for an initiative 
  • Bring a business plan to life, securing financing and buy-in for initiatives

Ultimately, the prototype will validate your assumptions. It shows how a proposed idea can solve a real problem while providing actionable insight to shape future iteration and product development.

The prototyping process allows you to design and test in increments, making it easier to design and build iteratively, from prototype to MVP, to product, and continuously improve your product. What could be more insightful than putting a working model or product into actual users’ hands, getting their feedback, and that feedback to learn and iterate – again and again?   

Where can you get a digital prototype?

Once you’ve developed your prototype, it’s time to consider the next steps. There are many paths you can take at this stage. You may wish to hire a professional prototype developer, or you could also do your research and consider new and emerging technologies. 

Cobalt is a superior option for your digital prototype. The software enables you to define your idea fully and then pairs you with experts who help you understand your idea’s feasibility before you waste time and money on the wrong prototype.

Why Cobalt is the best choice for your digital prototype

Hire an expert to take the idea out of your head and onto “paper.” Cobalt’s all-in-one idea development software is a perfect option for your digital prototype. The software enables you to define your idea fully and then pairs you with experts who help you understand your idea’s feasibility. 

Cobalt can help you transition your idea from a prototyped ‘one’ to manufactured ‘many.’ Sign up today to develop your idea into a business!