If you are trying to start a business with a new, proprietary product — or develop new products for your existing business — one of the most important steps is to develop a product prototype. Prototypes enable you to test your product idea, get feedback from prospective customers and investors, evaluate the potential market for your product, coordinate details with suppliers and manufacturers and make changes to the product design as needed.
Prototyping tools are often used by startups, inventors, and app developers to test simple versions of a product idea before investing in a larger, more expensive product launch — or before going on Shark Tank! Developing a product prototype can also be part of the process of creating a MVP (minimum viable product), where a scaled-down version of a product is developed and tested with fewer features than the planned final version to get feedback from potential customers, investors, or manufacturers.
Designing a product prototype doesn’t have to be expensive. Today there are a variety of easy-to-use prototyping tools to help you work on your product design and develop a product prototype you can feel confident about.
Here are a few prototyping tools and services to help bring your next new product from concept to reality.
Prototyping Tools and Services for App Developers and Digital Products
If you are running a tech startup that needs to build a website, app or platform, it helps to use prototyping tools to test your digital product’s user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) so you can brainstorm, collaborate, make changes and fix problems along the way before launching your product.
Invision: This digital product design platform is described as “the most popular prototyping tool in the world.” Invision’s features include:
Project management page to create a status workflow
Easy-to-use columns to drag-and-drop design components into various stages of the workflow, such as To-Do, In Progress and Approved
Simple integrations with collaboration tools like Box, Dropbox, Slack, Trello and more
Price: Invision lets users do a single project for free. Paid subscriptions start at $15 per month for up to 3 projects, with Unlimited Projects for $25 per month.
Adobe XD: This prototyping tool integrates with other Adobe design tools, enabling developers and designers to switch easily from design to prototype within the same app. With Adobe XD, you can create interactive prototypes, screen layouts, wireframes, and more. It also includes easy collaboration features for multiple people to view designs and comment on the prototypes in real time.
Price: Adobe XD is free!
Balsamiq Mockups: If you are not a professional designer, Balsamiq Mockups is one of the prototyping tools good for beginners and people who are new to the world of UX design. Balsamiq has great features that are ideal for ideation and brainstorming, like being able to easily create rough sketches just like you'd draft mockups on paper.
Price: Balsamiq Mockups offers a 30-day free trial and subscriptions starting at $12 per month, with license fees varying by the number of users.
Just in mind: This prototyping tool is good for beginners, because it’s loaded with tutorials and video guides. Just in mind enables users to easily export their prototypes to HTML and has a wide selection of items from UI libraries and downloadable add-ons.
Price: Just in mind costs $19 per month.
Capterra Prototyping Software Search:Capterra’s software selection site offers a searchable list of prototyping tools, where you can sort according to what kind of tools you need for your business, as well as pricing and popular features.
Prototyping Tools and Services for Inventors and Manufacturers
If you are an inventor, maker or manufacturer who needs to make a physical product or prepare a prototype to be manufactured, there are additional prototyping tools that are a good fit for these goals.
Autodesk® TinkercadTM: Tinkercad is one of the most popular computer-aided design (CAD) tools. It makes it easier than ever for inventors and small business owners to design and create product prototypes and finished products. This tool is easy to use, but it also has sophisticated features for advanced design and 3D printing.
Mako: Mako is an end-to-end service that helps startups, inventors and small businesses develop prototypes, design products, coordinate manufacturing and distribution and more. They have a team of product developers, industrial designers, engineering managers and other experts who help inventors take their ideas from concept to reality.
Rabbit Product Design: This is an end-to-end prototype development company that helps develop product prototypes in consumer products, soft goods, robotics and other verticals. Rabbit Product Design is based in Palo Alto, California and has helped create more than 1,000 prototypes.
Thomas: Thomas is a data, platform and technology company that helps B2B buyers in the industrial marketplace find information about suppliers. The Thomas Supplier Discovery site offers a searchable, sortable list of rapid prototyping services where you can find local companies in your area to produce prototypes in a variety of industries, materials and applications.
Many business owners, startup founders and inventors have wonderful ideas for new products, but they need some help to refine the product idea and make it ready to launch. This is where prototyping tools and services can help your business. It’s easier than ever before for people with a great idea to connect with the right tools and resources to make that idea a reality.
This article is intended to provide information based on industry research, and is not intended to be an endorsement by Incfile of any specific products or services. Incfile has not received any payment or promotional consideration for including these companies in our article. Conduct your own research and consult with professionals before making any final decisions or purchases.
Are you ready tostart a business, form an LLC, or reorganize your business structure to enjoy the protections and benefits of operating as a legal business entity?Talk to Incfile today! Our incorporation experts can help you evaluate your options and get on the right track for a bright future with an expertly-managed company.
Ben Gran is a freelance writer from Des Moines, Iowa. Ben has written for Fortune 500 companies, the Governor of Iowa (who now serves as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture), the U.S. Secretary of the Navy, and many corporate clients. He writes about entrepreneurship, technology, food and other areas of great personal interest.