A Beginner’s Guide to Rapid Prototyping (2023)

/ #Prototyping
A Beginner’s Guide to Rapid Prototyping (1)

by Anant Jain

Everything you need to know about rapid prototyping in 7 minutes (or less)

A Beginner’s Guide to Rapid Prototyping (2)

The process of going from an idea to a product is a messy one. Learning how to prototype your idea, getting feedback, and iterating on it is the most critical skill anyone aspiring to build their own products should have. This is also one of the most significant parts of a UX Designer’s job.

Prototypes come in many forms, from a rough sketch on paper to an interactive simulation that looks like the final product. This guide is for complete beginners who want to understand what Prototyping is all about.

We’ll cover the meaning of a few terms related to rapid prototyping as well as the following:

A Beginner’s Guide to Rapid Prototyping (3)

What is Rapid Prototyping?

Rapid Prototyping is an iterative process used to visualize what a website or an application will look like in order to get feedback and validation from users, stakeholders, developers, and designers.

When used well, rapid prototyping will improve the quality of your designs by enhancing communication between the various parties and reducing the risk of building something that no one wants.

A Beginner’s Guide to Rapid Prototyping (4)

What do you need to prototype?

A prototype is not designed to be a fully functional version of a system, but is only meant to help visualize the user experience of the final product. As Google Ventures design partner Daniel Burka says:

The ideal prototype should be “Goldilocks quality.” If the quality is too low, people won’t believe the prototype is a real product. If the quality is too high, you’ll be working all night, and you won’t finish. You need Goldilocks quality. Not too high, not too low, but just right.

You can prototype not just screens, apps, or websites, but almost anything. Prototyping is an excellent method to test the following (examples provided):

  • New functionalities: Prototype Instagram Stories in the Instagram app (before they were launched)
  • Changes in a workflow: Prototype Medium’s new publishing flow after the introduction of paid memberships
  • New technology: Prototype a self-driving car journey!
  • New interface: Prototype Apple Watch interface (when it first launched)
A Beginner’s Guide to Rapid Prototyping (5)

So, now you understand what rapid prototyping is for. But how do you do it? We’ll cover that next.

(Video) What is Rapid Prototyping?

The Rapid Prototyping Process

Rapid Prototyping involves a three-step process, repeated as many times as needed:

  1. Prototype: Create a visual mock-up of your solution or interface.
  2. Review: Share the prototype with users and evaluate if it meets their needs and expectations.
  3. Refine: Based on this feedback, identify areas that need to be improved or clarified.
A Beginner’s Guide to Rapid Prototyping (6)

A prototype will usually start with a very simple mock-up of key areas and become more complex with each iteration as you gather more data from user feedback.

How much should you include in your prototype?

Focus on the critical functions that will be used most often. The point of rapid prototyping is to show how a feature will work or what the design will look like without prototyping the entire product in detail. Remember, we’re aiming for the Goldilocks quality!

Prototype one User Flow at a time. Instead of going screen by screen, base your prototype on a story that will take the user through the areas that you want to prototype. This way, you will get more accurate feedback because your prototype will reflect real life scenarios. For instance, prototype the “sign-up/sign-in/reset password” flow together.

Also, remember to have an iteration plan in mind. A good rule of thumb when planning iterations is to start broad and then work your way towards a more detailed version of the solution. As you iterate, the fidelity of your prototypes, as well as how much you include in them, will increase.

But wait, what is this fidelity?

A Beginner’s Guide to Rapid Prototyping (7)

What is meant by the fidelity of a prototype?

Fidelity refers to how closely a prototype matches the final product or solution. You can choose from a lot of different options and levels of accuracy, depending on the stage of the process and the goal of the prototype.

Visual (Sketched vs. Styled)

Layout and design are the most noticeable aspects of a prototype’s fidelity. If a prototype is produced with a high level of visual fidelity from the beginning, users will tend to focus on visual rather than functional details, which would distract from the primary goal of the early stages of prototyping.

A Beginner’s Guide to Rapid Prototyping (8)

Functional (Static vs. Interactive)

Should the prototype be static, or does it have to look fully functional (interactive)? Both versions have pros and cons: static prototypes are simpler and quicker to implement, while interactive ones can be used later for usability testing and user training.

A Beginner’s Guide to Rapid Prototyping (9)

Content (Lorem ipsum vs. real content)

In the early stages of prototyping, standard “lorem ipsum” content can be useful to avoid distracting the user so they can focus on providing functional feedback instead of commenting on changes in the text.

However, as the prototyping process continues, evaluate the need to replace dummy text with real content so users can get a feel for how it affects the overall design.

(Video) Hitchhiker's Guide to Rapid Prototypes!

Using real labels is also an excellent opportunity to test whether your “copy” is working well or not. “Copy” is just a fancy term for text labels and information you see on the screen, like calling the “Publish” button “Publish,” “Post,” “Send,” “Done” or something else.

What fidelity levels exist?

  • Low-Fidelity: Low-Fi methods like pencil-and-paper sketches produce static prototypes with low visual and content fidelity that allow for quick and easy changes. This forces the user to focus on functionality and on how they will use the system instead of what it looks like.
  • Medium-Fidelity: Computer-based tools like Visio produce what we can call medium-fidelity prototypes in the form of wireframes and workflows. This level of fidelity is used to demonstrate a system’s behavior, to determine if user needs are being met, and to evaluate the user experience.
  • High-Fidelity: High-fidelity prototypes can sometimes be so realistic that they are often mistaken for the real product. They are also much more time-consuming to produce. Tools like InVision, Sketch, Figma, Adobe XD, Framer, and so on allow non-technical users to create high-fidelity prototypes. Although these cannot be converted into usable code, they can be very handy later for usability testing or user training purposes.
A Beginner’s Guide to Rapid Prototyping (10)

How do you select which fidelity level to prototype on?

Most of the time, designs are best evaluated by starting with a rough sketch, then moving on to higher fidelity levels depending on the system’s complexity and requirements.

Sometimes, your choice might be guided by client requirements or areas of focus. For example, if you want to evaluate the visual impact of an interface change, you might want to go with a styled design instead of a rough sketch. Or if your solution is message focused, you may decide to use real content instead of standard “lorem ipsum” placeholder text.

How do you choose a prototyping tool?

There is a wide variety of tools available for prototyping depending on your needs and approach. Before choosing a tool, here are a few questions to ask:

  • How much time would it take to learn how to use the tool?
  • Does it support prototypes for the needs of my product (web, software applications, mobile apps, some new technology, and so on)?
  • Does the tool allow me to share my prototypes with others and gather their feedback?
  • How easy is it to make changes to the prototype?
  • Can I use pre-defined templates and stencils with this tool?
A Beginner’s Guide to Rapid Prototyping (11)

Prototyping best practices: do’s and don’ts


  • Work with users and stakeholders to get the most feedback and engage them in the ownership of the final product
  • Set expectations early by making sure the users and stakeholders know that prototyping is a way to get answers to specific questions, and does not represent the finished product.
  • Make your high-fidelity realistic (including response delays) so that users and stakeholders are not disappointed when they compare it with the final product.
  • Save templates and stencils to reuse on future projects.
A Beginner’s Guide to Rapid Prototyping (12)


  • Don’t prototype features that won’t be in the final product
  • Don’t be a perfectionist. Good enough is your friend. The goal of rapid prototyping is to give everyone a common ground.
  • Don’t prototype everything!

If your’re wondering how you should go about testing out your prototypes, read my post on Usability Testing here:

The well-kept secret behind great UX: Usability Testing
Whether you only have a prototype or a full-fledged product, it’s a really good idea to run monthly usability tests…medium.freecodecamp.org

A Beginner’s Guide to Rapid Prototyping (13)

Thanks for reading this quick guide. This was originally published as part of the UX Design course on Commonlounge, a platform that has courses with small bite-sized lessons like these on topics ranging from Django to Machine Learning that deliver the most value for the time you put in.

You learn by working on real-world projects and getting feedback from industry mentors. You should check it out here!

A Beginner’s Guide to Rapid Prototyping (14)


(Video) What is Rapid Prototyping? | Get started in UX Design 2021







(Video) How to Rapid Prototype in UX



If this article was helpful, .

Learn to code for free. freeCodeCamp's open source curriculum has helped more than 40,000 people get jobs as developers. Get started



What are the 5 steps in rapid prototyping? ›

In general, five steps are involved in the RP process, as shown in Figure 14.1. They are CAD solid modeling, model conversion to STL, STL model slicing, model fabrication, and post-processing, resulting in a physical prototype.

What is rapid prototyping quizizz? ›

What is Rapid Prototyping? The process by which a model of the final product can quickly be made. Changing the design of something after production has already begun.

What is rapid prototyping quizlet? ›

Rapid prototyping consists of a family of fabrication processes developed to make. engineering prototypes in minimum possible lead times based on a computer-aided design (CAD) model of the item.

What is rapid prototyping PDF? ›

• Rapid prototyping is basically a additive manufacturing. process used to quickly fabricate a model of a part using 3-D CAM data. • It can also be defined as layer by layer fabrication of 3D physical models directly from CAD.

What are 4 different types of rapid prototyping? ›

What are the Different Types of Rapid Prototyping?
  • Stereolithography (SLA) or Vat Photopolymerization. ...
  • Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) ...
  • Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) or Material Jetting. ...
  • Selective Laser Melting (SLM) or Powder Bed Fusion. ...
  • Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM) or Sheet Lamination.

What are the 3 types of prototyping? ›

What are the different types of prototyping? The 4 types of project prototyping are feasibility prototypes, low-fidelity user prototypes, high-fidelity user prototypes and live-data prototypes.

What are the three phases of rapid prototyping? ›

Three Phases This ID Model is marked by three developmental phases: Front-End Analysis, Rapid Prototyping (design and development), and Project Deployment. The three phases are described in more depth below. All three phases are related to a Rapid Prototyping environment.

What is the basic process of rapid prototyping? ›

Rapid prototyping is a fast design process that involves an idea, prototyping, and testing of a physical part, model, or building using a 3D computer-aided design (CAD). The building of the part, model, or assembly is typically accomplished through additive manufacturing which is also known as 3D printing.

What is rapid prototyping simple? ›

Rapid prototyping is an agile strategy used throughout the product development process. With this approach, 3-dimensional prototypes of a product or feature are created and tested to optimize characteristics like shape, size, and overall usability. See Also: Rapid Experimentation.

What is the difference between prototyping and rapid prototyping? ›

Unlike traditional prototyping, rapid prototyping has a completely different approach to creating 3D models and components. In the rapid prototyping process, the chosen materials are milled on a CNC machine or made using industry software with 3D printing stereolithography capabilities.

What is another term for rapid prototyping? ›

Rapid Prototyping [RP]

Applied as a synonym for additive manufacturing or 3D printing because the original use of additive manufacturing was to create prototypes quickly and rapid prototyping was the most common term used in the 1990s.

Why is rapid prototyping important in the design process? ›

Why is rapid prototyping important? Rapid prototyping is an essential part of the user interface design process. It allows designers and product managers to test new concepts and theories with users and create a final solution that has been validated before handoff.

What are the two basic categories of rapid prototyping? ›

RP technique comprise of two general types: additive and subtractive, each of which has its own pros and cons.

What are examples of rapid prototyping? ›

Following are the types of rapid prototyping technology available for engineering product designers: Additive manufacturing – Stereolithography (SLA), Selective laser sintering (SLS), Direct metal laser sintering(DMLS), Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM), MJF, Binder jetting and Poly jetting.

Is rapid prototyping same as 3D printing? ›

The term rapid prototyping is different from 3D printing/additive manufacturing. Rapid prototyping is the technique of fabricating a prototype model from a CAD file. In other words, 3D printing/additive manufacturing is the process, and rapid prototyping is the end result.

Which method is most commonly used for rapid prototyping? ›

#1 3D Printing

3D printing is an additive manufacturing process ㅡ which means it involves adding portions of materials in layers to form the desired prototype. It is the most common method for rapid prototyping because of its high accuracy, material compatibility, and low cost (especially for a low volume of parts).

What are the 2 types of prototype models? ›

Types of prototype models
  • Rapid throwaway- This method involves exploring ideas by quickly developing a prototype based on preliminary requirements that is then revised through customer feedback. ...
  • Evolutionary- This approach uses a continuous, working prototype that is refined after each iteration of customer feedback.

What is the easiest type of prototype? ›

Sketches and diagrams

This is perhaps the most basic form of prototyping, but using a paper drawing is still a widely used way to share a concept.

What are the 4 main qualities of prototype? ›

Key takeaways:
  • A prototype is a sample version or simulation of a product that is used to evaluate a process or concept. ...
  • A prototype possesses four main characteristics: interactivity, precision, representation, and evolution (improvisation).
Feb 6, 2023

What are the 4 main reasons we prototype? ›

Prototyping helps evaluate and test a design, clarify production costs, sell a product and secure patents.

What are the three main activities in prototyping? ›

The Three Phases
  • I: Alpha Prototype.
  • II: Beta Prototypes.
  • III: Pilot Phase.
  • Manufacturing.

What is the order of rules of rapid prototyping? ›

3 Rules of Rapid Prototyping
  • Find the quickest path to experience.
  • Doing is the best kind of thinking.
  • Use materials that move at the speed of thought to maximize your rate of learning.
Feb 26, 2013

What are the six methods of prototyping? ›

Bench Model Prototype. Fully Functional Rapid Prototype. Visual Model Prototype. Pre-Production 'Alpha' Prototype.

What is the first step in software prototyping? ›

Step 1: Requirements gathering and analysis

A prototyping model starts with requirement analysis. In this phase, the requirements of the system are defined in detail. During the process, the users of the system are interviewed to know what is their expectation from the system.

What is prototype in simple words? ›

1 : an original model on which something is patterned : archetype 2 : an individual that exhibits the essential features of a later type 3 : a standard or typical example 4 : a first full-scale and usually functional form of a new type or design of a construction (such as an airplane)

What is the objective of rapid prototyping? ›

The objective of Rapid Prototyping is to review how a part will work or what the design will look like without prototyping the entire product. Designing a part is one thing, while designing a tool to make the part is another.

Which is the best prototyping technique? ›

Top 4 Quick Prototyping Methods
  1. Paper Prototype. Paper prototype is one of the earliest forms of prototyping you can use—its a prototype created using pen and paper. ...
  2. Clickable Wireframes. ...
  3. Wizard of Oz. ...
  4. Role Play.

Where is rapid prototyping used? ›

Rapid prototyping is a common early step within the product development process that quickly iterates upon an initial design. During this phase of product development the designer or engineering team is primary focused on testing form, fit, and function of the product or component.

How many types of rapid prototyping exist? ›

There are four major types of rapid prototyping, which we discuss below.

What is the major importance of a prototype? ›

The most important advantage of a prototype is that it simulates the real and future product. It can help attract customers to invest in the product before allocating any resources needed for implementation. You can test the design's correctness before it comes into production and you can discover design errors.

What is the conclusion of rapid prototyping? ›

Conclusion. Rapid prototyping can reduce the time between iterations and allow engineers to discover inventive ways of solving any design engineering problems.

What are the limitations of rapid prototyping? ›

What Are the Disadvantages of Rapid Prototyping?
  • It's not as useful for complex products. Rapid prototyping may not be the best method for testing if the prototypes are not close enough in appearance and functionality to the final product. ...
  • It costs more upfront. ...
  • It limits the materials at your disposal.
Nov 2, 2021

What are the key aspects of rapid prototyping? ›

There are four main factors that play into a “successful” rapid prototyping workflow. These factors are 1) technology knowledge, 2) application awareness, 3) access to equipment and materials and 4) design for additive manufacturing.

What are prototyping techniques? ›

Details. Prototyping is a technique for building a quick and rough version of a desired system or parts of that system. The prototype illustrates the system to users and designers. It allows them to see flaws and invent ways to improve the system.

What are two key elements of successful prototyping? ›

3 Essentials of Successful Prototyping
  • Speed is everything. You wouldn't use your first sketch as the definitive solution to a problem. ...
  • Keep it small. When using prototypes early and often, it is essential not to overdo it. ...
  • It's not for production.

Is laser cutting rapid prototyping? ›

Laser cutting is an important part of rapid prototyping and custom production because of its many advantages. It is applicable in making plastic and metal parts because of its advantages, such as precision and quality assurance.

Who invented rapid prototyping? ›

Rapid prototyping in the modern sense is often considered to have been invented in the 1980s by Hideo Kodama and Charles Hull with the development of 3D printing.

What is the process of rapid prototyping? ›

Rapid prototyping is a fast design process that involves an idea, prototyping, and testing of a physical part, model, or building using a 3D computer-aided design (CAD). The building of the part, model, or assembly is typically accomplished through additive manufacturing which is also known as 3D printing.

What are the 5 Filtering dimensions of prototyping? ›

In defining the set of filtering dimensions, we include appearance, data, func- tionality, interactivity, and spatial structure (Table II). These dimensions corre- spond to the various aspects of a design idea that a designer tries to represent in a prototype.

What is step 4 of the prototyping process? ›

Brainstorm and Analyze (Modeling or Ideation)

What are the three stages in rapid prototyping explain? ›

Three Phases This ID Model is marked by three developmental phases: Front-End Analysis, Rapid Prototyping (design and development), and Project Deployment. The three phases are described in more depth below. All three phases are related to a Rapid Prototyping environment.


1. Rapid Prototyping
2. Introduction to #Part #Machining A Beginner's Guide
(Rapid Prototype Service China)
3. Rapid Prototyping: How to!
(Moonshots Podcast)
4. Rapid Prototyping & Product Management by Tom Chi at Mind the Product San Francisco
(Mind the Product)
5. 5 Types of Rapid Prototyping Processes | CNC, Vacuum Casting, SLA, FDM, SLS | Serious Engineering 15
(Star Rapid)
6. What is "RAPID PROTOTYPING" Season 14 Ep 14
(Design Thinking 24/7)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Fr. Dewey Fisher

Last Updated: 09/30/2023

Views: 5766

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (62 voted)

Reviews: 85% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Fr. Dewey Fisher

Birthday: 1993-03-26

Address: 917 Hyun Views, Rogahnmouth, KY 91013-8827

Phone: +5938540192553

Job: Administration Developer

Hobby: Embroidery, Horseback riding, Juggling, Urban exploration, Skiing, Cycling, Handball

Introduction: My name is Fr. Dewey Fisher, I am a powerful, open, faithful, combative, spotless, faithful, fair person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.