What is Rapid Prototyping?
The term rapid prototyping is most frequently associated with product development and engineering. This step in the product lifestyle is crucial for creating early samples of the final product and is used to test the product’s concept and usability.
Similarly, in web development, rapid prototyping is used to transform the rough, concept ideas of a website into test models that can be assessed and evaluated based on their functionality and usability. Rapid prototyping for websites can range anywhere from simple paper illustrations to fully functional models that are ready for deployment.
During this process developers, designers, and stakeholders work collaboratively to refine and finesse the prototype into a complete and fully-functional website. This collaborative and immersive experience ensures clients are knowledgeable about how their site functions, making it a crucial step in User Experience (UX) Design.
Why is Rapid Prototyping Crucial in the Web Development Process?
It Saves Time and Development Costs
As the name suggests, rapid prototyping focuses on versions of the product that are quickly, and loosely drafted based on the product concept, meaning that developers and designers are not required to focus on small details during this stage.
Once the prototype is reviewed and refined collaboratively, the product begins to move into the development phase. After having finessed the design and functionality during rapid prototyping, developers can move forward knowing the client’s expectations, therefore reducing the chance of wasting development time on website functions not included in the approved design.
It Tests the Final Product
How frustrating would it be, for both the client and the developer, if the final product falls below the client’s expectations? Fortunately, rapid prototyping can help prevent this.
Rapid prototyping tests the functionality and use of a website. It allows the client a glimpse into how their site will look and function once complete, helping to eliminate any uncertainty and guesswork throughout the development process.
It Allows Effective Communication
The quick-minded nature of rapid prototyping allows graphic designers to quickly test out different design styles and functionalities, making it easier to communicate these ideas with developers and clients. Research has shown that it’s more effective to visually communicate a message, especially something as complex as a website, therefore, illustrating the website design and functionality during this stage helps deliver a more accurate description of the website to all parties. Clients are quickly provided a snapshot into the design process, making the editing workflow much more effective.
The Rapid Prototyping Process
The rapid prototyping process is composed of five stages. They are described in detail below.
At this primary stage, all stakeholders need to agree upon a concept for the initial design. Creativity is encouraged and collaboration is key. It is crucial to take detailed notes and sketches during this stage, so all interested parties know how to move forward. These notes will be the foundation designers and developers will build upon, sharpening their ideas into a final product.
Based on the client’s request, the design team will translate the ideas into product mock-ups. These early rough drafts can range from paper sketches to fully-functional prototypes, depending on the scope of the project. Rapid prototypes can look very different for different projects, ranging on a scale from low-fidelity to high-fidelity.
Low-fidelity prototypes are the fastest and most simple form of prototyping. These designs are usually paper sketches or simple computer drafted wireframes. The main purpose of a low-fidelity prototype is to test the functionality of the model, without taking into consideration any of the visual components. Low-fidelity designs are fluid and easy to change, based on the absence of complex details.
On the other hand, high-fidelity prototypes bear a closer resemblance to the final product. They include visuals components, consider functionality, and may even include finalized content, such as web copy. With high-fidelity prototypes, the client is provided a better understanding of what their website will look like once complete.
Often projects move forward in a linear system, starting with low-fidelity designs and moving into high-fidelity mock-ups, but this is not always the case. If the project is less complex, a low-fidelity prototype may be sufficient. Likewise, if the client and the designer have a clear understanding of the project, they might jump directly to a high-fidelity prototype. What matters most during this stage is not the level of detail in the prototype, but that parties work together collaboratively to create samples that can be tested and vetted for the design functionality and performance.
After viewing the prototypes, the clients expected to provide their feedback, making suggestions for edits to the mock-ups. These changes can range from major modifications, such as concepts, experiences, interfaces, or overall designs, to minor tweaks, such as font size, graphic placement, or menu designs. The goal of this stage is to ensure communication lines are open between the client and the designer, and the information is processed in an efficient and effective manner.
After receiving feedback, the designer is responsible for making adjustments as necessary. The recommendations from the client provides the designer with feedback to polish and perfect the final design, before it moves into development. Once the modifications have been made, it’s important to check back in with the interested parties to ensure the proper changes have been made. Only then is the product ready to move into the production stage.
Once the design has been approved, the design and all design elements are given to the web developer, who is responsible for code the interface to replicate the prototype. This can be a simple process if the design is basic or follows a templated design. It can also be incredibly complex and involve multiple plug-ins, in order to provide the functionality, design, or look described in the prototype. The timeframe on this stage can span from a half-days work to multiple weeks depending on the scope of the project.
Our Rapid Prototyping Services
At Pixel, we believe that every client deserves a website that represents their brand's identity and vision. Our tried and true rapid prototyping process ensures our clients receive visual models, based on their unique needs and project. Our design team is fluent in producing both low and high-fidelity prototypes, relishing this creative first step in the web development process.
Connect with us to get started with your web development project!