There is a plethora of reasons to create a prototype. The act of prototyping can help you explore your design, evaluate an idea, and compel conversation. It takes a product from dream, to drawing board, to tangible, functional existence — helping inventors exemplify exactly what their products are doing and how they do it. Here are some things to know about prototypes that exemplify just how important they are:

Prototypes improve design

Although sketches are great during the idea generation process, the only surefire way to test those ideas in the real world is to create a prototype that can be physically manipulated by a human. Awesome ideas do not erupt fully-formed out of the brains of great inventors. It takes a spark of imagination followed by tireless revamping, along with a willingness to scribble out plans, crumple them up, and start fresh.

In essence, failing is encouraged

Failure shines light on the flaws and stimulates improvement. Prototypes, in essence, help inevitable failures happen soon and faster, allowing them to be ameliorated. Sometimes just watching a bad idea bang into the sharp edges of reality can provide a new perspective on a problem and uncover some great ideas in the process.

Prototypes facilitate communication

Design is about much more than just having a good idea. It’s about expressing a vision, working with people to chart a clear path, and ultimately building and delivering on that vision. One of the most challenging things about prototyping is that while designers are quite skilled at inferring the outcomes and behaviors of a virtual prototype or a flat, virtual interface, most other people are not.

The benefits and implications of your carefully crafted design may be lost on engineers, product managers, marketers, and execs unless you are compelling, persuasive, and crystal clear in your explanations. Prototypes can help you stress the benefits to others concerning your idea, but a bulleted list with different areas to cover would help those thinking of using this idea to show the benefits, better (it would provide a starting point).

Prototypes prompt user participation and utility assessment

Informal user feedback sessions and more formal usability tests are great ways to discern whether a potentially mass-produced global manufactured product has major usability problems.

User feedback is most useful when people are responding to something that looks and acts like a finished product.

It’s important to realize that this kind of user feedback should not be scheduled at the end of the design phase. It’s absolutely necessary to schedule sufficient and frequent sessions of user feedback to give yourself time to adjust your design and accommodate and integrate what these precision sessions are trying to teach you.