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Rapid prototyping is a useful tool for digital project managers who want to help clients ask the questions: ‘But will it work?’ and “How will it work?”. Often, the simple but frustrating answer is, ‘We don’t know yet. But let us help you figure it out.’ This is a great way to work out the problem and is becoming more popular with clients and agencies.
Our industry is moving at lightning speed. As digital project managers, we must be able to adapt to new ways to work. Rapid prototyping is a good example. Nine months ago, I hadn’t worked on a rapid prototype project. Now, I’ve just completed my fourth rapid prototype project to quickly test product viability. If you haven’t worked on a rapid prototyping projects, you should.
This post will explain the different ways to explore product viability. It will also provide some guidelines to help you manage digital and analog projects quickly and confidently.
First, let’s talk about rapid prototyping.
Rapid prototyping is the process of building a proof-of-concept or prototype quickly. A prototype can be used to verify the validity of a design. You can develop more features faster, but this will usually come at the expense of quality, so the product will most likely be disposable.
Prototypes are available in a variety of sizes and shapes
There are many ways to evaluate product viability. Here are three:
Proof of Concept – A proof is a lightweight, throwaway prototype of the product that’s intended to test the idea behind it before it is built.
Rapid prototype – This is a lightweight prototype that can be used to test the product with real users before it goes into production.
Minimum viable product (MVP). An MVP is the first product-quality version of a product that provides all the features needed by users.
The main deciding factor in deciding which approach to take is your confidence in the product.
The more risky the idea, the faster you should move.
Some people might argue that if you think an idea is too risky, then you should take more time to think about it before building it. They may be right in some ways. It is possible to validate a need without building anything. There are many examples of validation testing that are worth looking into.
Once you’ve identified a need, the best way to prove it is to build it. Release it as soon as possible in its rawest form, get feedback, and iterate. We have found that customers will always say “I’d like that” when you are researching an idea. Then, when the product ships, sales don’t shift.
“I would definitely purchase that” – 100 people
10 people who will actually purchase it
— Jeff Sheldon (@ugmonk), September 1, 2016.
Rapid prototyping reduces risk by shortening feedback loops and ensuring you build a product that will sell.
How do you know which one is right?
How fake is disposable
Proof of conceptLow
Minimum Viable ProductHigh
Very little/noneBuilt for the long-term
You must be open to new ways of working and processes in order to build things quickly.
Guidelines for managing rapid prototyping projects
It takes a new mindset to work in the manners described below. I recommend that you start your project with an internal kickoff to go through these principles and explain why it’s important.