Using electronics as a design material: User centered design in hardware prototyping
How does one move from concept to early prototype to in-context testing to a successful on-market product?
As a hardware meets design thinking lab, we help our customers to move through an 8-step design process which we’ve custom built based on our experience in transforming ideas for smart products to market-ready devices. In this article, we are telling you about our process - so read closely, there’s many tips below.
Exploring a product conceptIn our 8-step process, the first three steps are about exploration. Here, we map out where things stand - what ideas have you already had, what are the new ideas, what are the ideas of people from different levels in your organization? Why do we think this is a good product idea, what is it based on?
We then do a deep-dive into a state-of-the-art investigation of technology, reviewing and reflecting upon existing technologies, products and services to gain insight and information which help to develop themes and relevant areas of interest and to differentiate from existing products or services.
Then we begin to form our concepts into physical creations. Through discussion and debate via the creation of physical objects using paper, cardboard, and other readily available materials, we mock up 10-15 possible concepts and narrow it down to 5 unfinished representations of opportunity in a particular area with a given technology and application.
Evaluating who will use it and howThe next stage in our process is about evaluation. We decide on two of the five mock-ups we created and bring these into context with actual users. We learn their daily routines and habits, focusing mostly on what they don’t say - the small actions or behaviours they exhibit when interacting with the mock-ups.
We begin to think about regulatory and reliability concerns. Is this an implantable medical product? Should it be submerged in water, or sent to space? Should children play with it? Each of these and many more scenarios dictate the types of regulatory and reliability approvals this product will need, so it’s important to define the use-cases early and design for the required approvals.
Finally, we bring our concept to a Design Panel. This is a group of experts who will help to identify the most important attributes of the concept through critical design exercises and performative methods to articulate opinions and discourses. They debate amongst each other, and we listen and learn.
Asking the tough questions before investingOur next two steps are to first take the knowledge we have gained from the user explorations and the design panel and then create what we call a final mock-up. This is a higher fidelity, functional model of your device which can be used to present to investors, whether it’s the CEO of your company or an external venture capital, angel or other investor.
Secondly, we prepare you for the next stages in product development, namely getting ready to go to market. You now have a great concept and a working model which has been proven with users and experts alike. Our goal in this stage is to begin asking questions about how you will approach manufacturing, production, and CE Marking of your product.
Finally, we’ll explore with you some of the potential technology-based business models you might consider. Throughout our process thus far, we’ll have asked some important questions about your business model, is it a rental or an owned device, how do you maintain it, etc. Now is the time to dive deep and begin to prepare for market launch, pricing, marketing, and sales.
Creating a successful productHopefully, our explanation of our process has helped you to consider some of the steps you have already taken or might need to take in your own product development process. We are happy to sit down and discuss your product with you, and if you are interested, engage in some or all of the above stages with you.
ResourcesRead about how to create your first PCBA: This handbook contains a brief introduction to some of the things you should consider when doing PCBA for the first time. It covers from schematic and PCB-layout to documentation and manufacturing selection. The handbook is crafted from the research and experiences done at IdemoLab.
Read about the trials and tribulations of First Bond Wearables as they navigated the start-up landscape to create a new device. The focus of the collaboration, which was supported by IdemoLab’s design thinking based “8-Step” innovation method, has been to help find and engage other partner-companies in this development as well as to utilize the modelling and in-context testing capabilities of IdemoLab.