Talk to your customers, whip up a barebones working model of your app or webpage, continue iterating, and voila. Rapid prototyping in a nutshell.
What could go wrong?
Turns out there are a number of common traps designers encounter along the way. From prototyping too early to falling in love with your ideas, it’s easy to get bogged down in the details and forget your goals.
To help you get the most out of your work, here are the five most common mistakes in rapid prototyping and how to avoid them.
Mistake #1: Prototyping too early
Despite the fact that it’s called rapid prototyping, resist the urge to rush into this stage. It can be tempting to open up a prototyping tool and work out the details on screen, but take the time to define the problem and think through the design beforehand. After all, there’s a reason that prototyping is the fourth stage in the design thinking process.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying this process should drag on for months. But, slowing down in the early stages can save you time later on.
Mistake #2: Falling in love with your idea
We’ve all been there. You get in that ideal state of flow and produce something that impresses even yourself. Sounds like the perfect day at work—except when it comes to prototypes that are meant to change.
To ease your heartache, think of a rapid prototype as a disposable artifact. Each iteration serves a specific purpose—whether to gather customer feedback or get executive buy-in—and when that has been achieved, say adieu and replace it with something better.
“Think of a rapid prototype as a disposable artifact.”
Mistake #3: Getting carried away with the design
Prototyping software and tools have become so advanced that you can easily pile on the bells and whistles in minutes.
But spending too much time on the design not only leads to frustration later on with inevitable changes, it also takes away from the primary goal of rapid prototyping: to gain feedback.
If you’re prone to over-prototyping, focus on the minimum viable interaction—the fewest number of steps to accomplish a task.
And remember that prototypes are meant to be imperfect.
Mistake #4: Prototyping at the wrong fidelity
We all have our favorite prototyping tool that we use again and again. But problems arise when you create prototypes at the default level of fidelity that the tool provides, without reevaluating the level of fidelity that is appropriate for the situation. For example, instead of creating a highly interactive, digital prototype, it may be better to sketch on paper to get quick feedback on design concepts.
Determine the best fidelity for your prototype by thinking about your end goal and how much time you have, and agree on the scope early on to manage expectations.
Mistake #5: Feeling discouraged when a prototype fails
Prototypes are meant to test assumptions, and not every assumption will be validated. But that shouldn’t constitute as a failure.
To be productive while prototyping, reframe your definitions of success and failure. Remember that you will always uncover mistakes when you’re testing new ideas, and it’s often those mistakes that lead to the greatest learnings.
Steer clear of these rapid prototyping traps
Rapid prototyping is all about freedom. The freedom to create without requiring dev resources, to test as you go, and to fail fast.
But with that freedom comes the risk of falling off course. And that’s okay—as long as you’re aware of the common traps and learn from your mistakes, you can continue iterating to make something better.
Bringing more parts of the core designer workflow into the place of creation was at the core of our process when designing Studio. Rapid prototyping is one of those parts, and that’s why we’re excited to bring prototyping into Studio. We think it’s going to make design faster and more connected.
Interested in early access to InVision Studio? Sign up below and get ready to take your rapid prototyping to the next level.
Emily has written for some of the top tech companies, covering everything from creative copywriting to UX design. When she's not writing, she's traveling the world (next stop: Japan!), brewing kombucha, and biking through the Pacific Northwest.