What is rapid prototyping? It all depends who you ask. To some, it’s the quick-turn development of mobile applications and software. To others, it’s the fast creation and production of physical goods (e.g. products, parts, etc.). In every instance, creations exist in early, unfinished formats, with the goal being to develop and produce a working model as quickly as possible, so as to discover just how well concepts work in hands-on tests. And, as you might imagine, it’s utterly transforming the world of software development – especially in terms of mobile applications.
Unlike traditional development approaches, it may help to consider that the methodology places an emphasis on quickly envisioning and fabricating solutions, so that organizations and individuals can quickly go from ideation to execution. So when you ask “what is rapid prototyping,” what you’re really asking “what is it like to constantly be cooking up and delivering on new ideas” – ideas which can be quickly be turned into practical experiments. And the results of these experiments, which can often take the form of alpha or beta software and applications, early-release hardware revisions, prototype gadgets, and more, are often hugely helpful and informative for organizations. Doubly so for mobile app developers, who can use them to constantly be updating and refining creations to more effectively connect with end-users, even before creations have formally launched.
That’s because embracing early prototyping effectively enables you to vet new concepts early in the production cycle, discover potential areas for improvement, and determine whether new business strategies or solutions are called for in turn. Better yet, by embracing the methodology, entrepreneurs and organizations of every size are increasingly churning out more products, services, and solutions (especially mobile solutions, e.g. downloadable or cloud apps) than ever. Essentially, when you open yourself and your organization up to these kinds of strategies, you’re allowing yourself to enjoy a variety of benefits over traditional production models such as:
- More cost-effective ways to conduct market tests, and gauge potential demand or interest for new solutions. A growing number of organizations, especially mobile app and video game developers, are even selling users’ early access to these prototype creations – and using these funds to fuel ongoing development of more complete and polished versions.
- Greater access to customer feedback and insights. By conducting public or private tests with working prototypes (i.e. in the form of beta tests) and sourcing feedback from community members, it’s possible to discover which features or attributes are best connecting with your community, or may require redesigning. Many apps and software solutions now ship in a far different final format than they began, thanks to the insights and feedback gained through these efforts – insights and feedback which can greatly multiply a solution’s odds of success many times over.
- A better sense of when it’s time to abandon a project or pivot to new solutions. What is rapid prototyping if not a quick and affordable way to determine if concepts are working? If not, perhaps they need some retooling, or it’s best to explore another strategy entirely. Either way, rapid development lets you quickly tell what makes sense.
- Enhanced ability to innovate, and greater agility. The more you put rapid prototyping solutions in place, the more you empower yourself and your workforce to quickly cook up and deploy new strategies and solutions as changing market situations or customer needs demand. In fact, many organizations now swear by this operating model, as it allows them to far more rapidly adapt to changes in the marketplace, and with far less difficulty.
- Deeper insights into user behavior. For example, as a mobile app developer, you could try to guess who the target market is for your product, which features will most resonate, and the best pricing or advertising model to use to connect with them and move straight into full-fledged product development. Alternately, you could experiment with multiple editions or takes on an app, marketing campaigns, landing pages, and other solutions to see what works best in context, and even in some cases enjoy real-time feedback straight from the market.
As is apparent, rapid prototyping is utterly transforming the shape of development and production, and will only continue to do so going forward, especially in the field of mobile app development. If you haven’t started experimenting with it yet? You’re highly encouraged to do so. The methodology provides a quick and cost-effective way to come up with more compelling concepts, rapidly put them through their paces, and increase the odds of your ideas and solutions going from good to great.