4 Benefits of a Rapid Approach to Innovative Prototyping Product Development

Sean Oakes bio picture Sean Oakes

Agile product development can be an efficient way to design and produce edTech products, but it leaves little room for innovation. In fact, the agile method doesn’t leave much room at all for discovery, search, or trial and error.

Don’t miss out on better solutions to creative problems just because you haven’t built in more time and resources to go looking for them! Instead, embrace rapid prototyping in your product development process. You’ll foster breakthroughs that will benefit teachers and learners alike. 

By producing prototypes quickly and demonstrating them to users or other stakeholders, your team will think more strategically about product requirements every step of the way. This will push your edTech product in exciting new directions—and bring internal stakeholders along for the ride.

Here are the four biggest benefits of a rapid approach to innovative prototyping in edTech product development:

  1. Take More Strategic and Creative Risks

    Whether you’re creating a rostering tool or designing a new content sequence, your design team’s sense of the “traditional” solution begins during discovery.

    As you conduct a competitive audit and other edTech research, consider the most popular brands in your product space. Who’s up-and-coming? Who’s doing something new? 

    It’s important to understand where your competitors are coming from, but you should also look for opportunities to flip the conversation on its head. Ultimately, you’ll find more innovative design solutions by re-examining your own user pain points. 

    When you consider the best ways to solve a problem—independent of user expectations and competitor data—you broaden your pool of solutions. Rapid prototyping will help you identify and test these innovative solutions even faster and with more strategic clarity. 

    After all, the stakes for a rapid prototype are much lower than the stakes for your finished product. Prototypes give your team the opportunity to break free of traditional design solutions—without sinking too much time or money into a design that won’t work.

  2. Align Stakeholders with Rapid Prototype Demonstrations

    Because rapidly built prototypes demonstrate real interactions, they’re perfect for engaging your internal stakeholders, collecting feedback, and aligning on strategy.

    With a prototype in front of them, stakeholders no longer have to imagine how your product actually works. You won’t need to stop and bring them up to speed by reviewing user data or persona documentation, either. 

    Instead, your stakeholders simply react to a feature or technology idea as it’s executed in real time. Hopefully, this helps your product team get the right input from the right stakeholders at the right time. 

    That way, your entire team can stay excited, energized, and aligned as you charge ahead in the design process.

  3. Catch the Holes in Your Design Strategy

    Even if everyone on your team has reviewed product wireframes a million times over, creating clickable prototypes immediately illuminates the holes in your planning and design strategy.

    Prototypes reflect the complexity of your product. In the context of design, strategy, and feedback sessions, a prototype helps you identify assumptions, edge cases, and technology gaps that you may have missed.

    A word of caution. Focusing too intently on your prototype’s functionality can backfire. If the prototype process becomes too complex, 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!

  4. Builds a Design-Forward Company Culture

    Rapid prototyping is just one element of building a successful design culture. 

    Help your team develop a design thinking mindset by encouraging them to explore real problems in education. Which new technologies and design methods will solve the most pressing problems faced by educators and students?

    You may even inspire them to look to other industries, mediums, and digital product spaces to pull new ideas into their toolkit. Which brands are being enviably playful, innovative, or disruptive? Where do you see new technology opportunities?

    By conducting research outside of client and product deliverables, your team will think more innovatively about edTech research and design. They’ll also be able to apply new design and technology solutions to your products and test these solutions quickly—using rapid prototypes, of course!

Resources for a Rapid Approach to Prototyping

With practice, rapid prototyping gives design teams opportunities to find unexpected solutions to complex problems. To develop a prototype on a tight turnaround, your UX and development teams may even need to use unfamiliar technology or learn new skills quickly.

Here are the most important resources you can provide your team as they whip up a prototype for testing or stakeholder feedback: 

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.

Time
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?

Design thinking 
Use design thinking to break down problems and foster the most creative solutions from both visual designers and developers.

Software
Many programs offer prototyping tools to help your designs come to life. Here are a few we recommend:

We know creating rapid prototypes 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, they’ll also learn new skills destined to keep your next edTech product ahead of the curve.

Are you designing and testing new features for your edTech product? Find out how Backpack Interactive can help! Contact us below.

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