How to run a rapid prototyping project

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Rapid prototyping can be a helpful tool for us as digital project managers to help clients who ask the question; ‘But will this work?’ and ‘How will this work?’ Often the simple, but frustrating answer is simply, ‘We don’t know yet — but let us help you work it out.’ A great way of working it out, and one that’s becoming increasingly popular with agencies and clients is by rapid prototyping -investing a little to make an informed decision on product viability before making any big investments.

Our industry moves at lightning speed, and as a digital project manager, we have to be quick to adapt to new ways of working. A current example of that is rapid prototyping. Nine months ago, I had never worked on a rapid prototyping project and now I’ve just wrapped up my fourth rapid prototyping project to test product viability quickly. So if you haven’t already worked on a rapid prototyping project, I’m in no doubt one is just around the corner for you.

This post explains different routes to exploring product viability and will provide you with some guiding principles to help you manage fast-moving digital or analogue projects with confidence.

But first, what is rapid prototyping?

Rapid prototyping refers to the process applied to building a proof of concept or rapid prototypes. A prototype is good for testing the validity of a concept. It will allow you to develop more features, faster but this is normally at the cost of quality and for this reason, the product will be, for the most part, disposable.

Prototypes come in different shapes and sizes

Although there are various ways you can explore product viability, here are three distinct approaches:

  • Proof of concept — A proof of concept is a very lightweight, throwaway demonstrator of the product aimed at testing the idea behind the product before building it.
  • Rapid prototype — A rapid prototype is a lightweight first version of the product that can be tested with real users to gain more confidence in the product before the full build.
  • Minimum viable product (MVP) — An MVP is the first production-quality version of the product, building up fully working features for the users.

Your confidence in the product should be the main deciding factor for determining which approach to take.

The riskier the idea = the faster you should go.

Some people may say that if an idea is risky then you should spend more time thinking about it before building it. In some ways, they’re right. You can validate a need almost without building anything, There are numerous examples of validation testing which are worth researching.

However, once you know there’s a need, the only way to prove that need’s to build something, release it as quickly as possible in it’s rawest form, get feedback and iterate. We’ve found numerous times that when you’re researching an idea, the customer will inevitably say “I’d buy that” and then when the product ships, the sales don’t shift.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>“I would definitely buy that” — 100 people<br><br>People who will actually buy it = 10</p>&mdash; Jeff Sheldon (@ugmonk) <a href=”">September 1, 2016</a></blockquote>
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Rapid prototyping mitigates risk every time by shortening the feedback loop and ensuring your building a product that’ll sell.

Find out which approach is best for your project and some useful guiding principles for managing projects such as these on

Delivery Director at @DeesonAgency