What is rapid prototyping?

Whether you’re building solo or as part of a team, it’s critical to move. Fast. That’s why I’m such an advocated of rapid prototyping: a design workflow that consists of ideation, prototyping, and testing. It helps designers quickly discover and validate their best ideas.
With rapid prototyping, you can expect to collaborate with managers, engineers, the users themselves, and other designers. The more voices, the better.

Rapid prototyping benefits

It’s safer

Rapid ideation with multiple collaborators means there’s a better chance of discovering the winning idea. It also means that you’ll end up with a wide range of fallback ideas in case your original prototype is a dud.

A focus on low-fidelity prototyping means that if you take a wrong turn, you’re comfortable throwing the idea in the trash and starting over.

When time is money, testing concepts with real users early and often is your best bet. It’s much safer than taking the fast track straight to high fidelity only to realize its numerous flaws could have been avoided—if only you discovered them earlier via rapid prototyping.

It’s quicker

Designing an app or website from start to finish without collecting any feedback is a recipe for disaster. On the surface, disregarding feedback sounds quicker. But when you arrive at the destination with a confusing user experience that doesn’t solve the original problem, it becomes clear that a more feedback-driven, “slowly but surely” approach would have been far better (and cheaper) than starting from scratch.

It encourages creativity

While brainstorming tends to result in frustration and overthinking, rapid prototyping forces you to think less and ideate faster, unleashing creativity in exciting ways.

It boosts focus and team togetherness

Working closely with a wide range of team members and stakeholders reveals your team’s strengths and weaknesses. It also turns every success into a shared merit, boosting team spirit and morale. This type of collaboration often results in heightened focus and motivation, driving teams to do their best work in the quickest time.

Rapid prototyping best practices

Ideation

Ideation is most effective when it’s lightning fast. Many experts would agree that failure is inevitable, so the quicker we invalidate our worst ideas, the quicker we can find our best one—and use it to create a testable, low-fidelity prototype. Ideas can be a mixture of bold and crazy, or simple and obvious.

A well-known rapid ideation technique, crazily helps designers to brew eight ideas in a short window of time. And while it might seem as if those ideas are undeveloped and rushed (which is true), the process of sketching raw thoughts as they arise often results in exceptional solutions that wouldn’t normally be discovered.

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