Helpful Rapid Prototyping Methods and tools to bring Digital Ideas to Life Fast

Creating a finished app or digital experience isn’t easy or quick. We all waste time along the way. It’s inevitable. But there are many methods to help us fail faster and more wisely especially during digital ideation. Sometimes we have ideas, but it is impossible to figure out the reality of an idea until we can experience it in more detail and that’s where prototyping comes in. Prototypes allow creatives see their ideas breathing early which often triggers even better thinking. Prototypes allow technologists to anticipate issues and spot opportunities. Prototypes allow testers to provide valuable feedback. Importantly, prototypes help sell ideas. There is a very strong argument that the faster we can prototype, the better the end product will be.

But here’s the problem – most studios spend way too long building prototypes. Sometimes the prototype becomes a project in its own right taking weeks, maybe months.

So here’s some quick inspiration of techniques from creative companies and individuals to help you “Ready, Fire, Aim”:

1. Use a prop to create an illusion  (Source: IDEO)
Use the environment, use people, use props to simulate an experience. Here’s a perfect example of being nimble from IDEO. (Note – Make sure you watch this clip all the way to the end).
a. The Prototype
b. The Final Product

2. Lo-Fidelity Paper prototyping (Credit: Ariel Waldman, on Interaction Design/ Rachel Ilan)
Draw it. Photocopy it. Snap it. Animate it (if you like).

3. Low fidelity Paper and Cardboard Experiences
An early Nintendo prototype. Only scissors, pencil, glue and card required.

4. Projected the experience
Projectors and pico projectors can be used to manipulate the environment, just like paper and card:

See how Google glass was prototyped in a day using a pico-projector, chopsticks and  a coat hanger.

5. Video your assets
No programming skills or software? Simply edit your drawings as an animated movie:

6. 3D print something
Much faster than you’d think. 3D printing has become an essential part of any prototype requiring physical elements.

Check out:

7. Digital Tools
Finally – some software tools to get you started.

Lo to Medium fidelity (generally use for more rapid, less functionality prototypes)
Flinto –
Proto IO
10 Screens
Pop. (iPhone App) (Android App)
App Cooker
Fluid UI
iPhone Mockup
UX Pin

Medium to High Fidelity capable (for prototypes with extended functionality and features)

Axure – (I use this quite a lot)
Omni Graffle

HTML Animation tools (make moving animations to demo functionality)
Google Webdesigner
Adobe Edge

3D Printing Tools
Scanect (3D scanning with Kinect):
Google sketchup –
123d catch –

Note: I know there are many more tools. Drop a comment if you think others need a deserving mention and I will update the list.

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3 Responses

  1. James Earp says:

    Indigo Studio is another good one 🙂 (

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