Digital transformation is everywhere these days. Companies that were in the process of making the shift to digital before Covid-19 have found their plans fast-tracked beyond all expectations. Organizations that weren’t yet quite there have realized they need to catch up in the shortest possible time.
Almost every company and organization uses software these days, whether it’s just for simple email communications or complex eCommerce processes, inventory management, or business intelligence. Often, off-the-shelf software doesn’t fulfill business needs, and spending money on a custom software solution is often the only viable option.
Investing in Custom Software
Building custom software is an investment that brings multiple advantages for companies, such as scalability, customization options, increased efficiency and accuracy, optimal security, and specific, advanced functionality.
There are many models to choose from when it comes to developing software, including the most commonly used waterfall and agile methods. The prototyping model is popular, however, because it offers users the chance to get involved ahead of the project implementation. This allows companies to reduce the development time (and costs!) and gives users a more thorough understanding because of their involvement.
How Iterative Prototyping Works
The principal behind iterative prototyping is to develop a minimally viable product that can be tested, with a view to continuing the development based on feedback as fast as the information is available. This allows users to test out aspects of the design before the entire project is ready for use, which gives developers the opportunity to incorporate user feedback into the process early.
Over the long term, iterative prototyping results in better quality and functionality, more satisfaction among users, and other benefits. Here are 10 reasons why you should consider this model for your custom software project.
10 Ways Iterative Prototyping Is the Best Model
There’s a big difference between using traditional prototyping methods and the newer, iterative prototyping methods. Here’s how these can save you time and money, and why:
#1: Delivers a Faster Time to Market
With traditional prototyping, development teams typically wait until they reach a pre-identified milestone before creating a prototype and testing it out. The design needs to first be finalized, tested, revised, and then start over again with testing of the revision. With an iterative model, they can develop a “working design” and create prototypes based on it much earlier in the process.
In addition, it’s possible for the project team to get multiple iterations of the product tested simultaneously. This speeds up the final time to market noticeably and delivers value to the business faster.
#2: Results in Greater Efficiencies
Iterative prototyping makes better use of companies’ resources, partly because end-users get to test the product earlier in the game. Instead of first going through an internal testing process and only then getting user input, the two can happen simultaneously. Iterative prototyping also works well with parallel development to deliver greater efficiencies.
When the project reaches the final stages, prototypes include all the feedback gathered during the iterative process. This means the last stage of testing uses a more complete product than it would otherwise.
#3: Entails Lower Development Costs
The iterative prototyping model uses a range of technological tools such as:
- low fidelity wireframes
- clickable yet codeless digital prototypes for software user testing
- 3D printers, and
- computer numerical control (CNC) machines for physical and mechanical devices.
These types of tools make it possible to produce multiple prototypes at the same time, which lowers the cost involved in each one and takes advantage of the resources available. If one prototype doesn’t meet users’ needs another one might, without having to expend labor and resources all over again for the next one. This economy of scale lowers development costs overall in the long term. In companies where resources are scarce, the opportunity to keep costs down while producing an MVP can be a game-changer.
#4: Provides Exhaustive Testing Opportunities
No software product can be brought to market without thorough, exhaustive testing, so there’s no escaping the fact that it has to be done. The speed with which all possible prototypes can be tested counts significantly, though, in the overall duration of the project and the final return on investment.
Instead of starting the prototyping process all over from scratch each time, it’s possible to repeat this phase as often as needed in the same period until the design satisfies the users. With iterative prototyping, developers can move forward confidently knowing what functionality works and what doesn’t.
This vastly improves the chances that end-users will like the final product, as well as minimizing the risk of going live with a defective product.
#5: Produces Early Detection of Defects
One of the primary benefits of iterative prototyping is that developers and implementers can get valuable feedback from end-users earlier in the project. Engineers can determine whether the software matches the specifications used in the design and identify any problems and defects early. Updates can also be made iteratively, without having to wait until all feedback is received before fixing any bugs.
#6: Enables Adherence to Budgets
With iterative prototyping, project managers and software developers have ongoing insight into how accurate the initial project estimates were. This helps them to calculate whether deadlines and milestones are likely to be achievable and whether the budget and time allocations are going to be enough.
At the same time, an iterative process allows for more flexibility, because issues that arise can be addressed without impacting the entire project, and project sponsors and managers can easily evaluate development progress.
#7: Reduces User Training Requirements
If potential end-users are involved during prototyping stages, they need less training when the software is finally rolled out to the organization. This improves the likelihood that users will find the end product useful and reduces both the time and costs associated with training and upskilling them to use the tools.
Often, it can be difficult to predict what a user’s pain points will be until they actually begin using a program. With iterative prototyping, issues can be addressed one by one as they occur, without waiting for a major update to take place. Users also end up with a better understanding of the functionality if they have been involved during the prototyping stages.
#8: Necessitates Fewer Redesigns
Having to perform a complete redesign slows a project down considerably, which not only delays the time to value (and ROI!) but also increases the overall project costs. With an iterative process, developers are able to address any serious defects early in the process, instead of waiting until after the prototype is complete. This avoids spending time on designs that may be flawed from the outset and reduces the number of redesigns required over the life of the project.
#9: Delivers Robust User Feedback
User feedback is a major advantage of iterative prototyping because it provides a valuable resource that developers can use. This allows a stronger focus on the value to users, which impacts the customers’ experience. If a company finds users are leaving at a particular point in the journey, user testing and feedback can help to discover why it happens. This ultimately leads to more user-friendly products in the long term.
#10: Provides Valuable Analytics
Software development is an inexact science, so updates and redesigns need to be evidence-based and non-subjective. During an internal testing phase by a limited number of users, particularly if they are tech-savvy, it’s hard to imagine the issues less knowledgeable users will come up against.
With iterative prototyping, developers gather valuable analytics on which they can base redesign decisions. Metrics like overall user satisfaction, the number of usability issues, and the time it takes to complete a task offer important clues to where improvements are needed.
An Obvious Choice
If your company’s mission is to increase revenue, improve customer satisfaction, and boost productivity through custom software, the obvious choice is a product development team that uses iterative prototyping. You’ll reap benefits such as a faster turnaround time, more involvement with the final product, and less wasted time and resources.
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