How To Use Rapid Prototyping to Reduce Time-To-Market

Jenna Rodrigues
March 24, 2021

Even smart people do dumb things if they don’t get a reality check. It’s one thing to embarrass yourself with your choice of Halloween costume (we won’t tell!) but a lot more is at stake when you’re rolling out a new software product.

You don’t want to waste time and money on what you assume is the best thing since sliced bread only to get crickets when you unleash the finished product to the world. Here’s how rapid prototyping can help you get to market faster with fewer risks.

Not So Fast… What’s Rapid Prototyping Again?

Rapid prototyping in software development refers to the creation of functional models in short iterative cycles to quickly test and improve features by focusing on the needs of the end-users. It’s often used alongside the Agile methodology to refine functionalities and explore technologies. It helps product development teams focus on the highest priority features so they can deliver the most value to the client.

The Benefits of Rapid Prototyping in Product Design and Management

Rapid prototyping can help you minimize development risks and reduce time-to-market. You’re less likely to be spending time and money on features or technologies that don’t meet your business objectives. Here’s why you should incorporate rapid prototyping in your software development projects:

Get Something To Show For

Rapid prototyping allows you to quickly improve the core design of an application. You can leverage the visible progress and tangible results to get buy-in, support, and feedback from stakeholders. This will help you create momentum and move the project along.

Allocate Resources Wisely

Rapid prototyping helps the development team identify and focus on an interface, feature, or function that matters most. You can prioritize resources on the 20% of features that will deliver 80% of the impact while preventing the process from being dragged down by minor details.

Stop Navel Gazing

The emphasis on end-user testing ensures that the development process focuses on usability and customer experience. The early user feedback provides the valuable reality check needed to nail the feature set so you can avoid delays caused by requirement changes later in the process.

Identify Common Issues

A prototype allows you to test critical interactions along the customer journey and solve common design issues early on. You’ll only need to address and fix the root cause once, instead of multiple instances after the development process has begun.

Get onto the Same Page

The prototyping process encourages discussion and collaboration among stakeholders and end-users. It helps you get stakeholder buy-in to reduce friction and ensure that the final design is more likely to meet customer demand and market expectations.

Mitigate Project Risks

The low cost of prototyping enables you to explore solutions before committing time and money to build an application. You can proactively mitigate potential problems that can derail the project to avoid unexpected delays and expenses in the development phase.

Reduce Time-to-Market

Rapid prototyping allows you to shorten the development timeline and launch your product faster while ensuring that you’re going to market with features that meet consumer demand. Having the first-mover advantage also means you can generate revenue sooner and claim a larger market share.

Key Stages for Rapid Prototyping in Software Development

Rapid prototyping aims to explore as many options as possible within the shortest amount of time so you should keep it simple and move fast. But it doesn’t mean you can just throw spaghetti on the wall and hope that something will stick. Here’s the method to the madness:

Ideation and Planning

Explore your options and determine the best course of action by incorporating insights from research, user surveys, and industry best practices. You’d likely generate a long list of ideas — don’t toss it out! You may revisit them later if your first option doesn’t pan out or you may incorporate them into your product roadmap.

Don’t over-complicate the process. Start with the simplest approach that’ll allow you to produce a functional model of your product idea to validate the assumptions, design, and features at a low cost. You can also create several prototypes at this stage to test different directions.

Prototype Development

A prototype takes you much further than sketches on paper. It demonstrates how your app works so stakeholders and test users can react to something tangible. This allows you to get an accurate gauge of what they think of the idea and design.

There are different ways to create a prototype, ranging from a basic paper version to an interactive model. There are many no-code tools you can use to develop interactive wireframes to illustrate your concept. The key is to identify the core idea, feature, or assumption you want to test so you can select the fastest way to build a prototype without compromising its ability to extract useful insights from test users.

Testing and Feedback

At this stage, have your target users take your prototype for a spin to validate that you’re creating something they want to use. The insights will prevent you from spending time and resources on developing products and features that won’t sell.

Observe how users interact with the prototype and capture insights through interviews. Notice how users talk about their experience, what features and functionalities they’re most excited about, and where they get stuck interacting with your prototype. Be mindful about how you structure the questions so you can get customers to tell you about what they want instead of what you want to hear.

Rinse and Repeat

Based on the user testing, you’d identify key functionalities that should be included in your initial launch while eliminating those that aren’t essential. You can now incorporate the insights to refine the features and create a high-fidelity prototype to further validate your concept.

The iterative process allows you to hone in on the core functionality of your solution. You can then focus your resources on developing features that your target market wants. At the same time, you can shorten the time-to-market because you aren’t wasting time on dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s when you’re spelling “Camber.”

Get the Most of Rapid Prototyping

Rapid prototyping is fast but not sloppy. To reap the benefits, you need a team with extensive experience and expertise in digital product development. Our just-enough design methodology, paired with insights generated from rapid prototyping, can help you avoid creating solutions in search of problems.

Schedule a free consultation to see how we can help you bring your product idea to market in the shortest time possible.

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