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I was recently invited by Manchester University to give a presentation to a group of entrepreneurs visiting from Thailand, on the topic of how business is done here in the UK. I decided that it would be good to give an overview of some common mistakes made during product development that we’ve seen from start-ups and established businesses alike.

No prototype.

A prototype gives you the opportunity to test your product before committing to expensive production engineering.

This stage is often seen as a hindrance as businesses try to rush into production to achieve sales. 

A simple prototype will save expensive errors later down the development process and increase the final part quality.

If you haven’t made a prototype then do so now and put it in the hands of your end users. 

Test it to destruction, learn from it and improve the design before going into production.

Try to make it from the same materials as the final product to make it more realistic.

Repeat this process until you are happy. 

The end user isn’t considered.

The best products delight their user and provide a positive experience when in use. This in turn encourages the user to keep using the product and to tell their peers about it. This cycle leads to more sales and increased brand awareness.

Almost every product is touched by human hands at some stage in its useful life. Sadly most products are developed in isolation and the end user is rarely consulted, which is one of the worst product development mistakes.

Who is your end user?

Have they been involved in the design process?

Is the product fit for purpose?

If the answer to the above questions is ‘no’ then you need to pause and rethink your strategy

UK Standards.

With the UK leaving the EU, we now have a new set of standards that products sold in the UK must adhere to. As well as complying with the relevant standards, products must also clearly show the UKCA label on the packaging as well as the product itself.

Failure to do this could prevent your products from being imported into the UK.

Ultimately the standards are there to protect the consumer and feature many safety tests that have to be complied with. These tests must be documented and held within a technical file. 

In addition to the technical file, a declaration of conformity must also be created.

Should there ever be an accident with a user and the relevant tests have not been carried out, according to UK law, the Directors of the business will be held responsible and could be prosecuted.

More details about product conformance can be found here.

Over-estimating the market size.

It’s very easy to make assumptions about the potential market size in a given area and there are plenty of resources available online to give you data to back up your ideas.

We suggest to all our clients that when you have calculated the market size, run your projections on taking just 0.5% of it in year 1, 1% in year 2 and 1.5% in year 3. If the numbers make sense and the business is profitable then continue. 

If the numbers show a negative balance then pause and conduct more research before spending more cash.

We are currently working on a project within the golf industry and given the market size, our client only needs to capture 0.1% of their product category for their business to be a success. This gives our client the confidence to move forward.

Always be realistic with the financials, you’re only lying to yourself if they are inflated. 

Eco Design.

The ‘Right to Repair act’ encourages all businesses to design their products in such a way that the end user can easily repair them and have access to spare parts.

There is a huge global movement to adopt more circular design principles now and this is being driven by legislation and consumer buying habits. 

It is no longer acceptable to encourage a throw away culture.

We created the Circularity Survey for businesses to assess whether their product is being produced in a sustainable way. The test is free, only takes a couple of minutes to complete and can be accessed here.

Patents and Intellectual Property.

Patents do have a purpose as they give you the opportunity to take legal action against a competitor who has copied your product. However you have to be prepared to pay the legal costs for the process, which can be very expensive. 

However, if one day you plan to sell your business, a potential buyer will look favourably upon any IP that your business holds.

Before a patent is granted, it goes through a ‘Patent Pending’ phase in which you have the right to protect your IP for approximately 2 years.

The downsides….

Publishing your patent allows your competition to see the technical features of your product. For design teams like npd, this provides an instruction manual on how to get past the patent. 

There are plenty of other product development mistakes that we’ve seen businesses make when developing and launching a product, but these six are by far the most common. If you’d like to chat with us about some of our other experiences within product development, then please feel free to get in touch below.




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