Companies today need to be at their best as they conceive and launch new software products into the marketplace for consumers or constituents. Ongoing product innovation is becoming a focal point for companies looking to build or protect their businesses by extending beyond their traditional product lines or industry verticals. One way to ultimately save time and money on new product ideas is to quickly test assumptions with potential users via rapid prototyping.
Rapid prototyping lays the foundation for a future product by simulating the most vital aspects of the end product. An interactive prototype lets an anticipated product’s end users experience the simulated behavior of a product without it being fully functional. Quick iterations of prototypes help generate feedback early in the product lifecycle. They allow for improvements to be made to a product design before any large-scale operational commitments are made or expenses are incurred.
With an actual prototype in hand, the intent and purpose of a product can be effectively communicated. This helps your product design team work toward eradicating design and functional flaws at an early stage. A working prototype can also serve as a potent tool in the hands of a company trying to sell a product idea or add-on to clients. In the right situation, prototypes can also help secure funding for a project, either internally or externally, as they often communicate intent far more effectively than a memo or business plan could.
From a product development standpoint, the impact of rapid prototyping on the product lifecycle is that it eliminates redundant or unnecessary features at the earliest stages of development. This can help vastly reduce development and testing time over the course of a product’s life. Done right, rapid prototyping can reduce operating costs and the element of risk associated with the launch of a new software product. Fewer flaws up front lead to an improved end-product as the product conforms to design goals and meets user expectations.
Interested in learning more about rapid prototyping? Smashing Magazine has an old but good overview of the rapid prototyping process, and Emily Schwartzman from Cooper gives a good overview of the pros and cons of various prototyping tools in a 2013 blog post.