Rapid Prototyping: Guarantee the Success of Your Product

Competition is strong. The market changes at lightning speed. What’s hot today will be old news tomorrow. How do you make sure you get your designs right before the finished product reaches your customers? How do you guarantee a successful product?

Rapid Prototyping. It is the simplest and most cost-effective method to validate your product and fix usability issues. If you want to build a successful product, you must build prototypes first. It’s an integral part of the Lean UX method and user centered design process. Get your product in front of your users early and regularly to test the idea and workflows.

Why is it so important?

Because it makes good business sense. Using prototypes allows you to test your product with actual customers as early as possible. Testing early means you can see whether your idea is worth it or not. You’re validating the idea before making the long-term commitment. With traditional market research you’re asking people for their opinions based on hypothetical scenarios. But, with a prototype you can get a version of the product in their hands and see for yourself how they behave with it. This also gives users the ability to better understand the product and give useful feedback on it.

More than just validating the idea.

Everyone loved the idea behind the first prototype. It’s going to be a hit. Time to start building the final product, right? Wrong. Your prototype isn’t only for approving the idea. You need to test the design with your users to uncover usability issues. Building the product takes time and costs money. If you commit to your first design and code without any usability testing, you’re going to have a problem. An expensive problem. Most products fail because of usability issues that prevent the user from using the product. It is cheaper to test early on prototypes and fix usability issues before coding. Changes made after the product has been hard-coded can cost 10-100 times as much (1). 80% of software re-writes occur because essential functions are missing first time around (2). Usability testing uncovers flaws in your product that you can’t see because you’re not your customer. No amount of surveys, interviews or focus groups will uncover how your customers use your product. Testing with prototypes helps you collect real data from your customers and prioritize features.

Prototypes also enable you to get first-hand insights from across your team. If you’re building the product for a client, using a prototype you can get their insights early as well. You’re able to show all relevant stakeholders what the product will look and behave like. This helps ensure your product is fulfilling both your business and customer’s needs.

Rapid and Lo-Fi “Fail early, fail fast, fail often.”

Ok, you’re convinced about the value of prototyping. So let’s bring in our designers and developers and get ourselves an awesome prototype. NOPE. Remember, prototypes are the means, not the end. You’re using them to achieve a goal. To validate your idea and identify usability issues with your design. The key here is iterative design and speed. You should aim to build as many prototypes as you can and as fast as possible. Each prototype should expand on the feedback received from previous prototypes. For this you need a Lo-Fi prototype.

What’s a Lo-Fi prototype? Lo-Fi stands for low fidelity. Fidelity refers to the degree to which you’re prototype will look like your final product. With a low fidelity prototype, you’re creating a rough copy of the designs and the concepts of what you’re looking to build. The emphasis should be on the goals that both the user and the business want to achieve. The visual aesthetic or the functionality is not important. You’re not trying to impress your users. You want to learn from them. Make the user focus on the content rather than the visuals. It’s the journey that the user takes in achieving their goals that is important.

But it isn’t just to focus the users, keeping it lo-fi is important for speed. A fast prototyping cycle lets you do more usability testing. And the more testing you do, the better your product is. Keeping the prototype lo-fi means that anyone can build it; you don’t need to be a specialist designer or developer. By not worrying about making a perfect prototype, you’re able to put it together faster and hence get feedback faster. You want to be bringing in your users at least once a week for testing, maybe more. You don’t need to prototype the whole product every time. Start with a few key user journeys and build out from there, depending on the time available for testing. Build and measure each individual step to be able to craft the whole user experience.

Summary

  • Rapid Prototyping is the simplest and most cost-effective method to validate your product and fix usability issues.
  • Using prototypes allows you to test your product with actual customers as early as possible.
  • Testing early means you can validate the idea before making a long-term investment.
  • It is cheaper to test early on prototypes and fix usability issues before coding.
  • Changes made after the product has been hard-coded can cost 10-100 times as much.
  • Testing with prototypes helps you collect real data from your customers and prioritize features.
  • You should aim to build as many prototypes as you can and as fast as possible. Each prototype should expand on the feedback received from previous prototypes.
  • With a low fidelity prototype, you’re creating a rough copy of the designs and the concepts of what you’re looking to build.
  • A fast prototyping cycle lets you do more usability testing. And the more testing you do, the better your product is.

A Vital Part of the Process

User experience design is a process. All the steps matter. Rapid prototyping and usability testing is just one part of the process but it is a vital one. At UXBERT we’re always building prototypes and running tests in our state-of-the-art usability lab. Half the time it’s not even for a client, someone on the team will have an idea and BOOM! there’s a prototype ready. We’re really into our prototyping. So if you’re ever in need of any prototyping or usability testing assistance, you know who to call!

 

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