What is rapid prototyping, and how is it transforming app development?

By Scott Steinberg

While mobility becomes an integral part of day-to-day business, app developers are building new tools to help organizations leverage critical data, engage customers, collaborate with colleagues and more. Rapid prototyping is changing the way developers build these apps.

What is rapid prototyping? It depends on whom you ask.

Developing faster working models

To some, rapid prototyping is the quick-turn development of mobile applications and software. To others, it’s the fast creation and production of physical goods such as products and parts. In every instance, creations exist in early, unfinished formats, with the goal being to develop and produce a working model as quickly as possible 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 is, “What is it like to constantly be cooking up and delivering on new ideas?” — ideas that can quickly become practical experiments.

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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. This is doubly so for mobile app developers, who can use them to constantly update and refine 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. Better yet, by embracing the methodology, entrepreneurs and organizations of every size are increasingly churning out more products, services and solutions than ever before, especially for mobile.

The benefits of rapid prototyping

Essentially, when you open yourself and your organization up to these types of strategies, you’re allowing yourself to enjoy a variety of benefits over traditional production models, such as the following:

  • More cost-effective ways to gauge potential demand
    A growing number of organizations, especially mobile app and video game developers, are 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 and sourcing feedback from community members, it’s possible to discover which features or attributes are best connecting with your community or may require redesigns. Many apps and software solutions now ship in a far different final format than they began due to the insights and feedback gained through these efforts that can greatly multiply a solution’s odds of success many times over.
  • A better sense of when it’s time to pivot or abandon a project
    What is rapid prototyping if not a quick and affordable way to determine whether concepts are working? If not, perhaps they need some retooling, or it may be best to explore another strategy entirely. Either way, rapid development lets you quickly tell what makes sense.
  • Enhanced ability to innovate, with 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 with far less difficulty.
  • Deeper insights into user behavior
    As a mobile app developer, you could try to guess who the target market is for your product, which features will resonate most 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. In some cases, you might even enjoy real-time feedback straight from the market.

Rapid prototyping is completely transforming the shape of development and production, and it will only continue to do so going forward, especially in the field of mobile app development. 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.

Written By

Scott Steinberg

Keynote Speaker and Bestselling Author

Award-winning professional speaker, Scott Steinberg, is a bestselling expert on leadership and innovation, and the author of Make Change Work for You: 10 Ways to Future-Proof Yourself, Fearlessly Innovate, and Succeed Despite Uncertainty. Among today’s top-rated international speakers…

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