Back To The Blog

The Ultimate Designer's Guide to Rapid Prototyping

What is rapid prototyping? This is a beginner product designer's guide to understanding the key terms used in product design and rapid prototyping.

Designers have been using prototyping for centuries. When you can test ideas and designs before the finished product, you can create something that functions and performs better. 

As useful as it is, conventional prototyping methods do have limitations. Older methods take a lot of time, they can be costly, and they’re not great for bringing more people into the design process. This is where rapid prototyping makes things easier and more efficient for designers.

What’s rapid prototyping used for? It can be used for the design of any type of product. It’s commonly used in the manufacturing sector. In the case of this article, we’re looking at rapid prototyping for the design of digital products like apps and websites. When it comes to the design of websites and apps, rapid prototyping is probably one of the leading approaches for creating the best finished product possible — so it’s important to know the basics.

What is rapid prototyping?

Prototyping is a process by which design teams create simplified experimental versions of a product. This allows you to test the basic functions and performance of a product without investing the time and resources that would go into building a complete test version of the product.

With rapid prototyping, design teams quickly make these simplified versions of the product to test features and functions. It usually starts with the most stripped-down idea of what the product can be using the simplest prototyping methods possible. As you rapidly move through different iterations of the prototype, you build the idea out and move on to more complex methods for building prototypes.

This saves time and cuts costs because you can test different ideas to see what works in the earlier simple stages before moving on to models that are more complex and costly. It also makes it easier to share ideas with other people and provides opportunities to test with users, making it  a fast way to get to the ideal version of a product.

Rapid prototyping generally works in the following stages:

  • Brainstorm: You need to brainstorm before you start working on any prototypes. Build a profile of the product and what it is supposed to achieve. Figure out which basic features and functions you will need to test in the earliest stages of prototyping.

  • Prototype: This is where you create a prototype that can be tested. With the first prototypes, you won’t go all in trying to add every feature or refine every detail. You just want to test the basics. As your confidence in the concept grows, you can add more features and refine the prototype more in future prototyping stages.

  • Evaluate: Share the prototype with stakeholders and users to see if the solutions work. Make sure to pay attention to what works and what doesn’t work.

  • Refine: Take what you learned from testing to refine the design and find solutions. These refinements will be implemented in the next iteration of the prototype.

Rapid prototyping works in cycles. Once you’ve finished the refining stage, you’ll go back to the beginning to build a new (and hopefully better) version of the prototype. 

Prototyping Methods

Rapid prototyping works in stages. During these stages, you might use different prototyping techniques to achieve different goals. The following are some of the prototyping methods that may be used:

  • Sketching: Sketching on paper is a great place to start as it’s a low-cost, simple way to create early prototypes. You can sketch out different app screens or web pages on paper and share them with others for feedback. It’s also a very accessible tool because most people can sketch.

  • Digital Prototypes: Once you’ve gotten everything you can from sketching, you can move on to creating digital prototypes. This is where you use digital tools to create mockups that look like the product and possibly simulate some of the features. This can be great for testing some of the design ideas without having to build a coded version of the prototype.

  • Native Prototyping: After digital prototyping, you can try native prototyping. This is a process that involves coding to build a functional prototype that can be tested on the devices for which the product is intended. You start building native prototypes when you’re confident in the design and feel ready to test it on real devices with real users.

So Why Use Rapid Prototyping?

Rapid prototyping is a faster, cheaper way to get to the ideas that work. It provides design teams with the opportunity to test everything before getting set in the engineering cycle. Just remember, the more you can prototype and test, the better your product will be.

Reach out today to find out about how our rapid prototyping can help you.

October 05, 2021design