Do you find it challenging to implement new ideas and innovate? Is it hard to get budgeting approval from stakeholders in your organisation? It might be time to try rapid prototyping.
Rapid prototyping is a cost-effective way to prove critical assumptions and reduce risk on innovation projects. It’s the process of quickly mocking up key components of a system, be it a website or application, and validating it with users, customers and stakeholders.
Why use rapid prototyping?
Making a prototype can help advance an idea with a fraction of the effort and cost of a complete development. Prototyping rapidly and iteratively generates feedback early in a project, improving the final product and reducing risk throughout. It allows you to experiment with multiple approaches and ideas, facilitates discussion through visuals, and reduces the likelihood of missed requirements by ensuring everyone shares an understanding of the product. It allows you to learn and validate the project’s direction quickly, by getting it into the hands of your team or the end user.
Presenting complex ideas to stakeholders or your board for approval can be tough. The chances of getting understanding, and therefore commitment to an idea are much higher if you have a functional prototype.
Rapid prototyping process
The main purpose of rapid prototyping is to very cheaply and quickly validate decisions and lower project risk. Are you trying to gather customer feedback? Get buy-in from stakeholders? Knowing the purpose of your prototype will help you to define your project scope and the level of precision required.
As from the Lean Startup Methodology “A core component of Lean Startup Methodology is the build-measure-learn feedback loop.The first step is figuring out the problem that needs to be solved and then developing a minimum viable product (MVP) to begin the process of learning as quickly as possible”
There are three steps involved with rapid prototyping.
The first step involves building wireframes, design or functional prototypes. By starting small, you can mock up key areas which can grow over multiple iterations as required. You don’t need to build a complete functional prototype to get value out of this process. Depending on the scope of your system, you can use one or all of these methods. The most basic, is producing wireframes, which helps to visualise screens within your site or your system. The next level is design, which gives you complete look and feel of your system. Finally, the highest level is building a functional prototype, simulates interactions and key features. The prototype simulates critical components of the user experience. By picking the core user flow(s) and prototyping only these, you can get to the next step rapidly.
Once the wireframe/design/prototype is ready for testing, share it with your users or stakeholders to evaluate whether it meets their needs and expectations. Collect feedback, confirm what worked and what didn’t. If the prototype was beneficial, improvements can be made in the next step. If it totally missed the mark on what your customers and stakeholders wanted – you’ll have learnings from which you can base your next round of prototyping on.
Based on user feedback, identify areas which need to be refined or further defined and clarified.
Once the prototype is validated, demo it to your team. It can then become your documentation for developing the product. With the prototype validated, your team can move on to the next core component of the experience, and repeat the process.
Once a prototype has been tested and proved to be successful, there should be no issues for you to get buy-in from stakeholders and clients.
By starting simple, and becoming increasingly sophisticated you can prevent potential pitfalls. There’s no perfect methodology for rapid prototyping, it is all about evolving your product. “Nail it, then scale it” sums up how your next innovation project should proceed.
We can help you reduce the risk of your next project by proving critical assumptions, saving time and reducing your overall spend.