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Rapid Prototyping versus Traditional Development


When put into list format, the differences between Application Development VS Rapid Prototyping are very stark:

Traditional Application Design

  • Engineers and business development teams work on a bloated technical spec often 50-100 pages long that has very little value or meaning because it can’t be visually interpreted and doesn’t reflect the core experience of the product.
  • Programmers create an enormous database with little flexibility
  • Developers take months to put together choppy wireframes that will later drive the design/skinning process. As all designers know, programmers leading the design process is a dangerous idea.
  • Developers hand off template skinning duties to UI designers who have less flexibility than if they were starting from scratch and iterating on templates with the client.
  • Eventually the application launches and the design process feels like a quick & dirty effort to put “lipstick on the pig”

Rapid Prototyping Process

  • A designer interprets the clients’ ideas for the product goals and user experience, shaving out features that don’t make a real impact and focusing on the core value
  • The designer begins working immediately on Photoshop/Illustrator comps of high level pages such as Home, Registration, Account Dashboard and a set of style rules for Forms, Data Tables and Wizards
  • One approval is reached, the designer begins coding out high level pages and linking them together in XHTML/CSS.
  • All template pages are fleshed out in XHTML and can be easily modified, removed, added to or iterated upon.
  • Different states can be developed to show errors, blank states, populated states, etc.
  • Designers hand off templates to the client who then gets developers to respond visually and experientially.

Though the design process and programming process is reversed, sometimes it can still take a while to develop the application given the HTML templates, but several key benefits of doing the design first include:

  • Ability to get programmers to understand exactly what they’re providing.
  • Ability to show investors or early stage clients exactly how the app will look and work to raise money while in development.
  • Ability to provide user testing to get feedback and make any major necessary changes to prototype.

Author Alex Fedorov

Alex is a strategic thinker with a gift for information architecture, known for his ability to wireframe complex workflows and multiple states of applications at the speed of light. He is passionate about clean, data-driven design.

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