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Increase Quality and Time to Market with Rapid Prototyping

Posted in Agile, Business Strategy, Customer Experience, Design, Design Thinking, Experience Design, Innovation, and Technology

Markets are changing faster than ever. Driven by expediential changes in technology, customers want more personalized experiences and they want it now. How do you keep up with the ever-changing market landscape and deliver high-quality products and services?

No matter how deep our up-front understanding is of our market, we really cannot predict our customers’ reaction to the final product. Engaged target audiences earlier in the process and more often. With this process, you start with a small sample size and low-fidelity prototypes than increase the sample group size and fidelity of the prototype. You learn more with each iteration so as the fidelity increases, the amount of changes decrease and the final solution is the highest quality in the shortest amount of time.

Develop a win-win strategy with your product team and experience design team. Ensure understanding and alignment with experience design with the product vision, strategy and roadmap. Partner early in the product lifecycle with your experience design team and continue to work with them throughout the product process – through research, design and testing.

There is a dance between market research, experience design and quality testing. They learn and iterate from one another. Maybe there is an initial design concept based on a perceived need. Some research may be conducted to validate that there is a desire for the solution – do people want it, will they pay for it, will they pay for it now, will they pay enough to create a viable business around it, and is it even technically feasible to develop? The research findings inform the design, it adapts, more research is done, they iterate.

Once it has been established that the solution is desirable, viable and feasible, the dance continues with designs and testing. Testing evaluates the design. There is more iteration and more learning… maybe more research is needed, too. Rapid testing will proof the design is ready for its target audience and a high-quality solution will be delivered in a timely fashion.

In the very early stages of your design, companies like Apple, use paper prototypes or wireframes to lay out the main interactions and to map the flow. When people can interact with your prototype, they’re more likely to uncover places where your solutions don’t react as they expect, or where the experience may be too complex. Glenn Reid explains what it was like working with Steve Jobs at Apple,

“Iteration. It’s the key to design, really. Just keep improving it until you have to ship it… It is a process which requires understanding the parameters, the goals, and the gives and takes. Stretch what’s possible, use technologies that are good, rein it in when the time comes, polish it and ship it.”

Each customer will have their own set of problems that they need to solve. Your job is to get an aggregate view across multiple customers to determine what is the major market problem to be solved and what are symptoms of the problem or outliers. Customers may have some interesting suggestions on how to solve their problems, but it is your aggregate market perspective and deeper understanding of technical possibilities that make you the solution provider. It is more likely that your solution is something that your customers haven’t even thought of because they don’t have the perspective you do.

Iterative rapid-prototyping doesn’t just improve the final product and service quality; it takes out the fear of the unknown of a new idea. The early prototypes can help investor better understand your vision for your funding and focus your organization on innovation.

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