Some “need to know” basics before developing a product.

Developing a product can be a difficult journey, knowing some of the basics can prevent poor design and improve the chances of your product being a success. Here are some “need to know” basics before developing a product.

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Understand your market

Understanding your market is the most important element when designing a new product. You need to understand what buyers like about how your product delivers its outcome. Selling a product gives you the opportunity to understand your target market, but you can’t sell something you don’t have. The way around this is by looking at how you come up with your idea in the first place:

Three methods to brainstorm an idea:

  • Using an existing product as a consumer is probably the most common method because we automatically judge a product when we use it. Modernizing or improving an existing idea is a great platform to start from. There is already a market for it with sales channels. You have access to product reviews which can validate your opinion and give you access to other buyers’ opinions.

  • Creating an accessory for an existing product is similar to the above except you won’t be competing with the product with something of your own. Cellphone covers are a good example.

  • You want to improve a product that you have dealt with as a professional. For example, people will normally tell an electrician what kind of plugs they prefer and why. The electrician also understands what is required to install the plugs. You understand the target market because you’ve dealt with the product and buyers on a firsthand basis.

These methods might seem obvious, but creating a completely new idea requires more time, research and money than the above methods.

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How are you going to sell it?

If you are a professional, like the electrician, then you are already dealing with the resellers. If you use the first or second method, then you can and use the same sales channels as your competitors or you can use the following:

Existing Online Stores (e.g. Takealot)

The easiest and most convenient way of selling your product online is using existing online stores such as

  • is already a popular site and there is a good chance people will find your product due to the site’s popularity. However, you still need to do marketing of your own.

  • Order fulfillment duties are taken care of, so you don’t have to deal with the delivery of your product.

  • You don’t have to pay subscription fees to use their service, so you don’t lose any money if you don’t sell anything.

Takealot will charge a commission fee, when a sale is made, which is based on the type of product. Their commission terms are specified on their website (

Create your own Online Store (e.g. Shopify)

You can create your own online, eCommerce, store with websites such as but this method requires a lot of work:

  • You’ll have to do a lot of marketing since no-one will be aware of your website or sales service.

  • You are responsible for all the order fulfillment duties.

  • It requires skill and know how to build a successful eCommerce website.

The upside is that you don’t have to pay anyone a commission fee but you’ll have to pay a subscription fee for the eCommerce website.

Online Second-Hand Markets

Selling your product on Facebook Market or Gumtree is probably the simplest way but it is not applicable for all products and is mostly used for second-hand goods. There are no costs involved in using either unless you want to use Gumtree’s marketing tools to make your ad more visible. The problem is that your ad will not remain on the first page very long and you are not necessarily displaying your ad to the right target market. Despite this, the right product can sell well, and you gain a lot of information because you will be talking to each client when making a sale.

Craft Markets

Markets are popular these days, but it can be very difficult and costly. You need to pay a fee for a space and access to power is sometimes an extra fee. You’ll quickly find out if your product is viable for a market because you’ll either have visitors that are intrigued, or you’ll have none. Markets work best for unique low-cost products, in other words, an impulse buy.

Retail Stores

The classic way is to approach a retail store and inquire if they will stock your product. They will most likely sell your product on a consignment basis. This means that they are not buying any stock and will only take a commission fee on the units they sell. They are more likely to buy stock when the product is a good seller. You can negotiate that they should buy stock from the start, but you might be obligated to buy it back if it doesn’t sell in a specified time period.

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The design and manufacturing process


There is a reason why this section is not at the beginning. If you don’t know your market, then you can’t brief the designer. Defining the brief is the first step in the design process and allows the designer to establish the product specifications and limitations (Additional research is sometimes done once the designer is briefed).

The next step is to create a concept (Concept Design). This can be done as sketches, CAD models or basic prototypes (physical test samples). The concept design is not viable for manufacturing because it is only for presentation purposes and to prove its functionality.

The design is refined (Final Design), in CAD software, to make it viable for manufacturing once the concept is approved by the client. A prototype is created with technology such as 3D printing to test and evaluate the design before it gets manufactured. The design is further refined after testing the prototype. Multiple prototypes are sometimes created in the concept or final design stage.

Keep in mind that your first product version does not need to be perfect. You can use the funds from your sales to develop the next, improved version. 

In most cases, 2D manufacturing/ technical drawings are created once the design has been tested and finalized.


Manufactures can’t submit a quotation or manufacture the product without technical drawings, a CAD model or both. In some cases, they can give you an estimate if you don’t have the files.

They can be difficult to deal with because they are always busy and the person in charge of submitting quotations is sometimes the director or a person who has factory duties. This makes it hard to get hold of them but designers can bridge this gap.

Design consultancies already have relationships with the manufacturers. Going through your designer, for the manufacturing, can be a more effective than approaching them directly. You don’t have to be concerned about any production issues because it will be the designer’s duty to take care of it. The only downside is that a commission fee will be added on each unit for the project management service.

This is only a brief explanation of the design and manufacturing process. It might sound straight forward but designing and manufacturing a product requires a lot of time and money (depending on the product type). Also be aware that finding the right designer and manufacturer is a process on its own, it can take months.

Don’t forget the packaging

Packaging is something that is overlooked because you were so busy getting the product made that it ends up being rushed. However, it is an important aspect because it’s what the buyer sees first.

Should I protect my design?

The last aspect that should be mentioned is protecting your design. This is a very debatable subject but some think that their design should be patented or have a design registration. This is only the case if it is unique and if you have the funds to protect it.

Some protect their design because they intend to sell the rights to use it. This is a valid reason but you require the funds to take legal action if the licensee breaks the contract. A good reason to protect your design is when you are seeking an investor. An investor is less likely to invest in an idea that can easily be copied by someone else.

The best protection for most products are to market your brand as the original and to keep innovating. Your money will be used on the product itself and not on legal fees. Creating competition is not a bad thing because you can learn from them and, most importantly, their buyers. 


Improving or modernizing an existing product is an effective way to start your journey in product design because it’s easier to understand your target market. This allows you to brief your designer that will take you through multiple stage to prepare it for manufacturing. The manufacturing stage can also be managed by a design consultancy so that you can focus on how to sell it. Depending on your type of product, using websites such Takealot is a convenient way of selling it.