The Power of Rapid Prototyping
We use the power of design thinking to take your ideas from a concept to a high-quality prototype, so that you can test and deploy your products faster.
In this era of digital transformation, it’s never been more important for companies to be able to find faster and more efficient ways to bring products to market and of course, to iterate on those products so that they can stay ahead of their competition. And while it may seem plainly obvious, many companies still struggle to integrate rapid prototyping into their process. In fact, I still hear clients insist that they know exactly what they want, and that there’s no need to validate and test their ideas with real users before jumping into development.
So I thought it would be worthwhile to dive into some of the many benefits of prototyping during the design process.
“If a picture is worth 1000 words, a prototype is worth 1000 meetings.” — Tom & David Kelley, IDEO
01. Creates a Shared Vision
I’ve sat in countless meetings with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, where the executives would debate ideas presented in presentation decks. And rather than provide clarity or alignment, many times those meetings yielded more confusion instead of collective understanding. Creating a prototype allows everyone to see an incarnation of the solution and how it would work.
I like to say that an idea is very much like a seed planted in the ground. Everyone has a different vision of what that seed will grow into. A prototype makes those ideas tangible. It promotes clarity with stakeholders and team members alike by showing a North Star vision of what is possible. Where a PowerPoint deck might highlight an opportunity and lay out flat representations, a prototype shows how the idea can actually be made manifest. A prototype is something that can not only be seen, but also interacted with, and hence, it holds much more power.
02. Identifies What Works and What Doesn’t
By making and testing a prototype, you’re able to validate your assumptions. At the end of the day, all product and/or business ideas are simply hypotheses. And the best way to test those hypotheses is with experimentation. By creating a rapid prototype of a design solution, businesses can test their concepts with people, and hear users’ thoughts and feelings before going through the time and expense of building and deploying the full product. Seeing a user interact with your prototype can spark new ideas or highlight potential usability issues, or even highlight flaws in the business model. Because we are not our users, testing helps to uncover blind spots in our vision.
03. Explore More Ideas
Another advantage of designing and building prototypes is that it provides an opportunity to explore more ideas, and perhaps, most importantly, a more divergent set of ideas. Because prototypes are, by nature, disposable, it allows your team(s) to try out many concepts, without becoming too attached with a particular one too early.
04. Allows You to Take Bigger Risks
In addition to exploring a broader landscape of possible solutions quickly, prototypes enable you to test out concepts that may feel like bigger swings or dark horses.
The cost of building a prototype is vastly cheaper than developing the actual product, and it’s faster to create. Therefore, you can test out riskier ideas that that you wouldn’t otherwise pursue if given only one shot. This allows you to take bigger swings at the bat and to test out unconventional thinking in pursuit of a product market fit. Sometimes the right solutions are found in unexpected places.
05. Derisks a Project
Creating a product can carry a high initial investment, but the cost of bad design is even more expensive. Studies have shown the cost of design changes once a product has shipped can be exponentially more expensive than if those changes were made during the design phase. Leveraging user feedback gathered from your prototype, you can identify issues sooner, such as poor usability or lack of desirability or learnability in your product. It’s always easier and cheaper to fix a problem during the design phase than when the product has already been coded.
06. Builds Stakeholder Buy-in
Instead of asking people to imagine how your idea works, with a prototype you can actually show them. A prototype provides a tangible representation of your vision that people can touch and feel; it’s an artifact that you can demo to executives, stakeholders, potential investors, alike. And where ideas may be cheap and plentiful, the execution of an idea is everything, and a prototype helps bridge that gap from imagination to shareable vision.
07. Provides Design Documentation
Lastly, prototypes can serve as a powerful tool for sharing the vision of the product with developers. A functional prototype can highlight how the design is intended to move, function, and behave. It can illuminate elements such as microinteractions, and provide a common ground to engage in feasibility conversations with engineering.
We’re living in the golden age of prototyping. There’s more tools than ever before to create and test ideas, whether it’s 3d printing or creating a digital facsimile of an app. It’s only a matter of building in the process of prototyping that is needed to take advantage of its many benefits.