If you've embraced agile product development, your product team likely builds products with the design skills and tool sets they already know will be successful. Even if you're planning sprints and embracing iterative design, you'll always be headed toward your product team's MVP solution.
While this can be an efficient way to design and produce products, it leaves little room for innovation. In fact, agile product development often lacks the elements of discovery, search, or trial and error that lead to breakthroughs.
Product teams that rely heavily on agile processes are likely missing out on better or more innovative solutions to their creative problems—simply because they're not given the time or resources to go looking for them.
By developing prototypes and producing demonstrations quickly, your team will think more strategically about product requirements, push your product in exciting directions, and bring internal stakeholders along for the ride.
Balance Agile Development with Rapid Prototyping for Better edTech Tools
Even when used within agile development frameworks, rapid prototyping provides teams with more creative leeway to find unexpected solutions to complex problems.
Both your UX and development teams may need to use unfamiliar technology or learn new skills quickly to develop a prototype on a tight turnaround. We know this isn't always possible when your project has a strict deadline or budget ceiling. But the trade-offs are almost always positive.
Not only will your team stay more up-to-date on current design trends, but they'll also learn new skills destined to keep your next edTech product ahead of the curve.
Ultimately, when you're able to build in more time for learning and problem-solving, you're guaranteed to head into product development with the most innovative and creative solutions your team can muster.
You might even create a future-proof edTech product—and leapfrog over your competition.
Rapid Prototyping Allows for Strategic and Creative Risks
Because the stakes for a prototype are so much lower than the stakes for your finished product, prototypes give your team the opportunity to break free of traditional design solutions.
Whether you're creating a rostering tool or an assessment feature, your design team's sense of the "traditional" solution begins as early as the discovery phase. Your team looks for competitors that represent the most popular brands in your product space. Who's up-and-coming? Who's doing something new?
But keeping up with the competition can sometimes mean treading the same ground as brands that are already successful in your market. Get out of your design rut by actively pulling apart user pain points and considering how to create the best user experience.
When you consider the best way to solve problems independent of user expectations and competitor data, you broaden your pool of solutions—and often hit on something innovative. Rapid prototypes allow your team to test out these innovative design solutions and ensure your new ideas are viable.
You may even be inspired to look to other industries, mediums, and digital product spaces in order to pull new ideas into your toolkit, identify new technology opportunities, and seek out inspiring tone and voice examples. Which brands are being enviably playful, innovative, or disruptive?
It's important to understand where your competitors are coming from, but you should always look for opportunities to flip the conversation on its head. Rapid prototyping will help you identify and test these innovative solutions even faster and with more strategic clarity, so you can stand out from the crowd—and build a product that stands up to the test of time.
Prototype Demonstrations Align Stakeholders Quickly
Unlike design presentations, prototype demonstrations are tactical. They show how the product works in real time, which means your stakeholders no longer have to imagine how your product works in an abstract way.
Clickable wireframes, rapid prototypes, and rough animation are all helpful tools for gathering constructive feedback from your CEO, sales team, and other internal stakeholders with little-to-no context. There's no need to review specific use cases or persona documentation or be brought up to speed by the product owner. Instead, your stakeholders can simply react to a design or technology idea as it's executed in real time.
Because rapidly built prototypes are real, stakeholders stay engaged in the product's success throughout the design and development process. When your company is energized around a product, everything moves faster and falls into place more easily, including budgets and internal support.
Getting the right input from the right stakeholders at the right time makes all the difference to your product team, too. If nothing else, your own team will be excited and creatively challenged as you charge ahead.
Catch the Holes in Your edTech Design Strategy
Even if your product owner, development team, and UX team have all looked at product wireframes a million times over, creating clickable prototypes will help you discover the holes in your own planning and edTech design strategy.
A clickable prototype reflects the complexity of your product. Using prototypes to fuel design, strategy, and feedback sessions will help you identify where team members have different assumptions. With a working prototype in front of you, you'll identify important edge cases or find the gaps between technology and design thinking that you may have missed.
A word of caution. Focusing too intently on your prototype's functionality can actually backfire. Prototypes exist somewhere between a quick, lightweight build and full product design. If the prototype process takes too long or becomes too involved, you could wind up uncovering problems that would never exist in the real product.
Stay on track by keeping your prototype build light and fast. Anything that takes longer than a week to finish probably isn't as "rapid" as it should be!
The Resources You Need to Embrace Rapid Prototyping
Quick turn-around user research and testing abilities
If you start the product design process with a developed testing plan, you can use it to propel your team through UX and technology plans, too. Set up parameters for testing, research, and feedback generation to get the most out of rapid prototyping to solve real user problems.
A devoted front-end developer
With a skilled front-end developer on your team, you can quickly create proofs of concept that help move both UX and UI forward with technology solutions.
While rapid prototyping should take less than a week, building enough time into your entire project to allow for creative thinking is crucial. Where can you extend your timeline to allow for more creative solutions?
Use design thinking to break down problems and foster the most creative solutions from both visual designers and developers.
Many programs offer prototyping tools to help your designs come to life. Here are a few we recommend:
Rapid Prototyping Builds a Design-Forward Company Culture
Successful design cultures are built by teams that think innovatively about design and user research outside of client and product deliverables. While rapid prototyping is most often used to move specific projects forward, the skills your designers and developers need to be good at prototyping start within your company's culture.
Help your team develop an innovative mindset as they explore real problems in learning and education. Which new technologies and design methods can solve for the most pressing problems faced by educators and students?
When your entire team is immersed in the vertical, they'll be able to imagine how to apply design and technology solutions in edTech, test solutions through prototypes, and take your product design into the future.
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