All About Rapid Prototyping

February 18, 2021

Do you ever wonder how an initial idea for a website or application moves forward into a full-functioning product a user can interact with? Here at fjorge, it all begins with a discovery phase where we are able to capture all of those initial ideas and build off of them using our expertise. Many times this involves an activity referred to as rapid prototyping.

Understanding Prototypes

Before we dive into rapid prototyping, let’s first understand what a prototype is.

A prototype is a visualization or mockup used to share an idea and how it works with key stakeholders before it’s put into production. Prototypes focus on things like usability and interactions and allow for the UX/UI to be validated by the users before a product is built.

What Is Rapid Prototyping? 

Rapid prototyping is an activity done by designers to experiment with a variety of ideas and interactions. It allows for us to quickly pair different solutions together without boundaries or feeling like we’ve invested too much into one idea. This is an important part of our process at fjorge because it allows us to discover the best usability solutions without worrying too much about specific design details right off the bat.

Getting Started & Tools

I find it helpful to begin the rapid prototyping process by identifying the main pages or templates that are required for the project by creating a list of the kind of information that needs to go on each page. This can either be done within FlowMapp, or simply with pen and paper. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy.

rapid prototyping

From there, we’ll start to sketch out a variety of solutions without spending too much time on one idea. Getting the client involved in this process can be particularly useful and allows for feedback to be received early on, which creates less work for design and development later on down the road.

While sketching out ideas on a whiteboard is a great way to get lots of eyes on an idea at once, the socially-distant nature of the pandemic has forced us to get a bit creative. Limnu is a virtual whiteboard application that we’ve found to replicate a similar experience on the web. Personally, I like to pull it up on an iPad and sketch out ideas using an Apple Pencil. Clients can each have the whiteboard pulled up on their own screen to get involved in the process and conversation around usability and user flows.

rapid prototypingOnce we’ve been able to review, revise, and experiment with these quick low-fidelity sketches, we’ll move forward into a prototyping tool that allows us to work through some of these ideas and make design decisions in a cleaner, more-polished manner. Adobe XD and Figma are a couple of our favorites at fjorge, however, there are a bunch of other options on the market such as Sketch and InVision.

As a designer, it can be tempting to jump right into the programs to start building outflows and polished designs. However, I truly believe that a lot of the magic happens in the initial discovery and experimental phase of a project. Rapid prototyping allows us to do the necessary legwork upfront in order to make the best design decisions for your product.

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