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What is rapid prototyping?
Although there are many descriptions of rapid prototyping around on the net and in literature, our interpretation of rapid prototyping focuses on what it means to you. A rapid prototype is targeted at decision makers, with the purpose of providing them with enough information so that they can make the best informed decision. A decision maker can be an investor such as a venture capitalist, business angel, bank manager, business partner, client, you or crowd sourced funding. They can also be a user or supporter, for example, clients or customers, employees and third party providers such as graphics design agencies. A rapid prototype is a tool to help realise the vision for a product or service before it is fully completed.
At SOLCAMB Limited rapid prototyping is an integral part of our unique concurrent analysis, design and development process. We aim to provide you with a demonstrable product or service throughout your project, to learn more see our agile software development services page.
Our rapid prototyping services
In our view, almost anything can be considered a rapid prototype, the point is that it is delivered as soon as possible to the level required to enable the decision to be made. These are what we see as rapid prototypes in increasing levels of complexity:
- A written workflow for a new product or service. This would be an elaboration of an idea that is turned into requirements from your perspective.
For example, a coffee shop would have the idea or goal that they would like to differentiate from their competitors as well as providing a more personalised experience to their customers by creating a loyalty mobile app that enables customers to choose their favourite drinks and place orders before arriving to avoid cueing.
The workflow in this case is a written description of everyone who will interact with this app from the barista making the coffee to the customer walking in to collect their order and what capabilities they need.
- A storyboarded workflow as an extension of a written workflow. This is a first glance at the look and feel of a project. It can be used to get a response from the decision makers whether they like the look and feel and provide useful feedback before any costs have been spent in development.
For example, an electrical testing company are investing in a mobile app to provide their engineers so that they can receive jobs from the backroom staff while on the move and submit them without returning to the office. The engineers are aged from 19 to 62 with varying computer competency skills; some have never used an app before.
Nevertheless, the business owner has forecasted the financial benefit and is going ahead but wants a system that everyone can use. The app must be very simple to use, obvious or even guiding with training only to make aware what the app should be used for and not how to use it.
In this case one of the objectives of the rapid prototype is to get the engineers on board with the changes that will come and get any feedback that can go into the design to make it easier for them once the system is launched.
- A limited-functionality working model using the written workflow and storyboard as the base. There may be key elements to the functionality of the final product or service need to be physically tested.
For example, a local training company is looking to expand their business using a scalable business model that uses an app to deliver structured training videos. They have profiled and questioned their customers and have identified locations in which the customer will use the training app including on the train, in a parked car between meetings, at home and at the office. Due to different bandwidths available they realise the app needs both a live stream capability and offline and need to test this with the clients they interviewed. The rapid prototype will not be a finished product but would demonstrate the two scenarios on the devices and any issues can be identified and fixed before the final product is widely released.
Integrating a rapid prototype with an existing product or service
It is possible to incorporate all levels of rapid prototyping into your existing products or services. This would be to test the new capabilities you have scoped for on a small group of decision makers. This is often referred to as alpha or beta testing and the terms give the decision makers an understanding of how far along you are with the idea.
- During an alpha testing phase, your decision makers’ expectations should be that they are getting a very privileged insight into your roadmap and that the idea is far from finalised. It is quite acceptable if budgets are tight to have no working prototype at this stage.
- The beta testing phase is naturally a little further along and expectations should be managed to show that you are serious about this strategy but you need their input to get it right. The significance of being further along with an idea generally raises expectations that there’s something to test but there can still be gaps in the whole story. These gaps are filled with written and storyboarded workflows; however, the beta phase could be multi-staged and working prototypes could be introduced over time.