From New Coke to the Apple Newton, history is littered with examples of failed commercial products from even the most successful companies on the planet. In many cases, these massive flops could have been avoided with a little more time in the design stage in order to figure out that the product wasn’t appealing or desirable.
These days, one of the most important strategies for digital product development is rapid prototyping. Just like companies offer their customers a free sample so you can “try before you buy,” rapid prototyping lets businesses “try before you sell.” Here’s a look at how your organization should use rapid prototypes so that you can spare yourself money and headaches and gain new insights for when you move forward.
What Are Rapid Prototypes?
The concept of rapid prototyping has been around for decades in fields like construction and manufacturing, where businesses need to quickly create a product or part in order to test its viability and marketability. Increasingly, the same idea is now being applied to software development. Rapid prototypes are quick mockups of a software application that lack full functionality but that still allow users to understand how the final product will look and feel.
Prototypes are often confused or conflated with wireframes, another tool for the design stage of product development. Wireframes are diagrams of a software application’s user interface that illustrate how the application will behave when users interact with various parts of the UI. Unlike wireframes, prototypes typically include some degree of interactivity and also go into more visual detail.
How Do You Use Rapid Prototypes?
Typically, prototypes are created during the design stage when the company has already defined the software’s requirements. To ensure that the final product will fulfill these business requirements, the team comes up with a prototype that demonstrates the software’s most important features and functionality.
Rapid prototypes are frequently used as part of an iterative development process. After the first prototype is created, the development team solicits feedback from key stakeholders and potential users and incorporates these comments into the next version of the prototype. This allows the team to get a quick snapshot of audience opinions without investing too much time into the product, making the development process more agile and flexible.
What Are the Benefits of Rapid Prototypes?
As a bridge between concept and reality, prototypes are an essential part of the product development process. Some of their advantages include:
- User-friendliness: It can be hard for stakeholders and target users to visualize the end product from a wireframe or textual description. Rapid prototypes get developers’ vision for the software in front of these groups sooner so that they can provide their feedback.
- Lower costs: The development team can identify and address complaints and mistakes before making any major commitments. Redundant or unnecessary software features can be eliminated before actually building them, cutting down on time and expenses.
- Visibility: As a tangible entity, rapid prototypes can improve collaboration by bringing more people into the process earlier on. Developers generate better feedback and discussions by having an actual model to show off.
By providing proof of viability and centering the role of user feedback, rapid prototypes for digital products can yield big dividends and improve the product’s return on investment. In some cases, they can even prevent major losses by revealing deep-seated issues with the proposed software that need to be corrected. Rapid prototypes help you conserve time, energy, money and resources for later so that you can work on delivering the highest-quality end product.
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