Electronic Product Development Process

In this article, we will be taking a deep dive into the electronic product development process, the steps involved in converting your innovative ideas into reality and what you can expect at each stage of the journey! 

Electronic Product Development Process

Electronic Product Development Process

To be relevant in the rapidly evolving market we live in today, companies have to work hard to remain relevant through the development of new, innovative products through a well-executed development process. Out of the millions of lightning bolt ideas people have each day in the shower, few ever see the light of day as a commercially viable product. 

Now, we can develop a list of a thousand and one reasons as to why this is the case, such as lack of capital, time, resources, expertise etc. But the most significant barrier to entry is the age-old problem of “I simply don’t know what I don’t know”.

Without a fundamental understanding of each step in the electronic product development process and the efforts required for each, ideas will forever remain just that. Ideas. 

In this article, we will be guiding you through the exciting world of electronic product design and development – what each step in the process is, what to expect and most importantly, how to start.

What you will get from this article

  1. Where to start
  2. Proof of concept
  3. Iteration
  4. PCB design & development
  5. Industrial design
  6. Manufacture

Where to start

With the assumption that you have thoroughly researched your idea, the competitive landscape and price points for your solution, the first step in your electronic product design and development process is concept testing and validation.

Concept Testing & Validation

This is a simple yet crucially important component of the overall process that cannot be overstated. This initial step will establish the basic foundations your product will be built upon moving forward. 

In this phase of development, you will be identifying critical consumers within your target market that are not only experiencing the problem you are setting out to solve but are actively looking for solutions. Once identified, you will need to quiz them on what an ideal solution to this problem looks like – what is essential, what would be the minimum number of features they would need to satisfy their needs? 

Be careful not to ask leading questions that direct consumers to your solution – this step should be as free from bias as possible. You are looking for honest, open feedback that you can mould your initial concept around.

What is the goal here?

This phase aims to have an open-ended discussion with your target market to identify discrepancies between what you think is important and what is actually important to the end-user.

What is the outcome from this phase?

By the end of this phase, you should have a concise list of the most valuable core features your target market needs to solve their problem. It is essential when developing this list that you cluster and separate the “would be nice to haves” from the “must-haves”. This list should only contain the critical features your target market cannot live without. This is your starting point.

Proof of concept

With your list of must-haves defined, you are now ready to convert this list into a tangible proof of concept to demo to your target market. 

What is the goal here?

In this phase, you are not looking for a polished product, merely a functional prototype using off-the-shelf hardware to validate the results of your concept testing. For example, the image below is an initial proof-of-concept our team developed for an agricultural client to validate the feedback they received from consumers. 

Rather than investing in expensive, custom hardware development upfront, our client leveraged our skills to integrate off-the-shelf technology to rapidly develop a tangible prototype that they used to validate their product idea for a fraction of the cost. Our client was able to leverage this proof of concept to secure investment and advance through the process to commercialisation.

Electronic Product Development Process

The over-arching goal of this phase of the electronic product development process is to see if reality matches the initial hype from the consumer.

What do I mean by this?

Remember the adage “actions speak louder than words”? Well, when it comes to electronic product design & development, this has never been truer. Though your target market may shout to the hills that they would snap up your product in a heartbeat, when push comes to shove and the opportunity to secure a unit arrives, their actions often tell a different story. 

This rarely comes from a place of malicious intent, rather from the perspective that perhaps the solution doesn’t exactly solve the problem the way they imagined. This is why it is crucial to get a functional prototype up and into the hands of consumers to analyse their actions before investing further resources into the project.

What are the outcomes from this phase?

At a high level, you are looking to convert the list of must-haves into a working prototype that you can use for further testing, which segways nicely into the next phase.

Iteration

With a proof of concept in hand and an understanding that negative feedback is the best kind of feedback, you are ready to iterate. In this phase, you will be beta testing with users to obtain as much feedback as possible regarding the current state of the product. 

What is the goal here?

You will be looking for consistencies in the feedback provided by your early adopters. The goal is to develop a tangible set of features and/or tweaks to existing features that align the product to the ideal solution your consumers are dreaming of. 

What is the outcome from this phase?

The outcome from this phase is to circulate these features and tweaks back to your development team to use to refine the prototype. 

PCB Design & Development

Once you have completed beta testing and have a validated proof of concept in hand, you are ready to dive into the exciting and complex world of custom PCB design & development. In this phase of the electronic product development process, you will be preparing your concept for mass manufacture. This step reduces the form factor of your prototype, significantly reduces the cost per unit and improves performance efficiency.

What is the goal here?

The goal is to convert the stack of off-the-shelf electronics used for your prototype into a singular, streamlined board that prepares your product for mass production.

What is the outcome from this phase?

The outcome from this phase of the electronic product design and development process is to produce a custom printed circuit board design that manufacturers can use to develop your electronics in mass quantities.

Industrial Design

Now you are on the home straight. In this phase, you will see the fruits of your labour come together in a sleek, professional design that makes your product look like the finest quality piece of equipment out there on the market. When it comes to selling products, the look and feel signals to prospective consumers what the quality of the product is like. The better the product looks, the higher the perceived quality – the higher the perceived quality, the more you can charge.

What is the goal here?

The goal here is to define your product’s end look and feel, converting your vision into reality, ready for final testing on your target market.

What is the outcome from this phase?

The outcomes from this phase are to produce high-fidelity prototypes of your product and to prepare the design for mass manufacture.

Manufacture

You made it! At this point in the process, everything looks amazing, performs as designed and is ready to hit the market running (provided you have secured all of your patents!). Here, you will have secured a partnership with a reliable manufacturing company specialising in electronic manufacture and settled on a minimum order quantity to produce your first batch.

What is the goal here?

The goal here is to solidify your relationship with your manufacturer and define the minimum order quantity for your first order.

What is the outcome from this phase?

The first generation of your polished, fully functioning products!

Thank you for reading!

Thank you for reading this article. We hope it gave you some valuable insights into the electronic product development process.

Need support?

To find out more about the electronic product development process, reach out to our experienced engineers at contact@saphi.com.au for a quick chat. 

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