Why You Should Be Prototyping
Let’s take a look at a hypothetical and at the same time very real scenario. You have been working hard on launching a large-scale product. Your designers and developers have spent months (or even years) crafting the experience to make it perfect, exactly the way you envisioned it. Finally, your product is ready to see the light of day, and your customers start using your creation. You begin getting the first bits of feedback from the users. And it is not very rosy. They are complaining that it’s confusing, clunky and doesn’t solve the problem the way you thought it would. You feel devastated. After you’ve put your heart and soul into this product, your users don’t care. Then, you either get to work trying to understand what exactly is not working and how to fix it, or the project gets shut down by the “emperor.” In both cases, it’s a lose-lose situation. Nobody is happy to hear that the product they invested in and supported failed. Nobody.
Is there a way you could have prevented this situation? Yes, there is! And it’s called – Rapid Prototyping. And many manufacturing companies have been using this method long before you were born. Prototypes in the physical world are an essential part of product development because the cost of not prototyping is just too high in this world. And even though you usually need fewer resources to create a digital product, you can still save a lot of time and money by adding Rapid Prototyping in your process.
What Is a Prototype
A prototype is a simulation (or a draft) of a new product which you can create much faster and cheaper, so you can test your ideas earlier. They can have different shapes, forms, and styles. A good example to illustrate a tangible prototype is the first insulin pump:
(Image courtesy of Healthable.org)
What Is the Value of Prototyping
The main benefit of prototyping is how it can speed up the learning process. This especially is important when developing something new, as the risks of creating a product that doesn’t work as intended are very high. If you don’t prototype, you put yourself in a disadvantageous position. If you wait for your product to be completed before testing it with your users, you risk launching something that nobody needs or can figure out how to use. This results in extra cost and time to fix what’s not working, and potentially even losing to your competition, not to mention brand reputation damage and team morale impact.
Who Can Benefit from Prototyping
Most common scenario when someone would benefit from prototyping is making decisions on how a product will look and function. So, product owners and managers, designers, and developers can extract a lot of value from prototyping. On the other hand, the idea behind prototyping is much broader and may be applied in many areas within your company. For instance, you are the VP of Marketing, and you think you have a great new idea on how the newly developed Campaign Analytics Dashboard should look like. How can you communicate your vision to the rest of the team, so they understand you? Prototype it! A visual “explanation” will help you get everyone on the same page and minimize back and forth. Another example is content writing, e.g., a report or an article. Instead of waiting for it to be completed before showing to anyone, you “test” your first raw version as soon as you can. This allows you to confirm that the overall direction is right, and save time on re-writing the whole thing from scratch if it wasn’t achieving your goals. Writers call it a “draft” and this is just another term the content industry uses for prototyping.
You get the idea, right? Start testing your idea way before it’s completed and polished.
“Fake it till you make it.”
Latest posts by Kirill Vechtomov
- Prototyping 101 - November 27, 2017