About Rapid prototyping
The term 'rapid prototyping' is actually used in product design. It refers to the process of rapid production of sample components based on design data, i.e. the rapid production of physical objects for testing purposes, e.g. in mechanical engineering.
For the production of digital objects, like a website project, this method can be adapted wonderfully and has already established itself. We quickly (rapidly) create a first version of a rough, structural website layout (prototype).
The prototype components are the individual building blocks or functions of the website, such as a carousel, an accordion or a shopping cart button. In other words, a part with a function. The design data corresponds most closely to the various requirements, for example, user expectations, the client's specifications and the technical framework conditions.
How fast is rapid?
Prototyping is rarely done at the beginning of a project. Usually, the designer needs extensive background knowledge about the scope, goal, requirements and general conditions of the project before a testable prototype can be created.
If this knowledge is available, initial ideas can quickly be brought into a rough visual form.
How and what we prototype
In order to stay focused in the coordination with the client or testers, it has proven useful for us to first focus on the most important functions and processes of a design, and to first define the content, structure and functions before we start thinking about how the whole thing could be made pretty.
The questions we ask ourselves are:
- What is the most important feature?
- What are essential elements?
- How do we define the MVP (Minimum Viable Product)?
- Which elements or functions might be difficult to understand - for the client as well as the user?
- For which building blocks will we need to create several variants and alternative versions?
It is important to set clear goals and KPIs so that teams focus only on the tasks needed to achieve those goals.
Typical building blocks we prototype first are often the essential elements for user navigation. For example, a mobile navigation with the function to display different menu hierarchies, which we can then tune and test. Or the complex user guidance for the presentation of structured, categorised, and filterable data in a news or content hub.
Other components that we often prototype either individually or in context are:
- Call-to-Action buttons (with interaction feedback)
- Teaser variants
- Carousel or image or teaser sliders
- Sticky (navigation) elements
- Conversion elements (forms, donation, member and newsletter subscriptions, etc.)
- Sequences in the user journey
With the prototype, we usually start very simple and then iterate up to a more complex layout. In this process, a gradual transition from low-fidelity prototypes (e.g. on paper or in the form of wireframes) to high-fidelity prototypes, which make the entire user experience tangible as mock-ups, is created through the iteration steps.
The individual steps are:
- Basic Design System
- Look & Feel
- Connect user flows and add interactions
- Test, Tweak, Repeat
In the process, we always go into consultation. On the one hand, it is important that what we come up with is also feasible, which is why we involve one or more developers in the process right from the start. Furthermore, the customer must be able to understand and accept the ideas and approaches to give their final approval. And last but not least, the prototypes have to be tested for acceptance, usability, accessibility and comprehensibility.
Benefits of rapid prototyping
In our agile project workflow, prototyping has many advantages. For example, it is very flexible. Prototyping can be used to communicate and test the idea, interactions, structure or even the look and feel. The results can be produced very quickly and are easily adaptable and expandable.
In cooperation with our customers, weekly demo-sessions have proven to be successful. There, we present our ideas and concepts and then discuss the results together. We adapt the prototype together in real-time to find the best solutions. The full integration and transparency in cooperation with the client is highly appreciated. Our clients feel included and taken seriously. In addition, coordination times are minimised, processes are simplified and there is full transparency in the progress of the project.
Rapid prototyping is not just about speed. Designers spend their full concentration on optimising the user experience, with the goal of creating an ideal solution for the customer and user as quickly as possible. The clickable prototypes form a good basis for starting development as early as possible. It also enables the integration of real source systems, and the use of dynamic data sets and, therefore, comes closest to the future product.
The classic waterfall process in design, which was commonplace for decades, has long since become obsolete. We no longer want to work without the efficiency, flexibility, and transparency that rapid prototyping offers us in our projects.
To find out more about how your digital platform can benefit from Rapid Prototyping, get in touch with our team of UX experts at Amazee Labs today.