Paul Hill by Paul Hill

Everything you need to know about iterative prototyping, from the experts

  • Design Process
  • Prototyping

Iterative prototyping is a product design methodology in which the product is never considered fully finished. Instead, it’s always treated as a prototype with room for improvement, even after it’s in the hands of your users. 

This approach to product design can be used when developing an app or a service. You see this all the time in software these days. An app is deployed to users as a “beta” version without ever graduating to its alpha stage. 

By operating in this way, you can continue to modify your product while receiving real-world feedback from your users. 

It’s worth noting that iterative prototyping is better-suited to digital products, which can be updated over the air. Physical products can technically be continuously improved upon over time (e.g. the iPhone) but it’s unlikely to be effective for most teams. 

The stages of iterative prototyping

You can apply iterative prototyping to any workflow you already use, so there are no definite stages. Just take the steps between the launch of your workflow and its conclusion and loop them. 

A more prescriptive model might look like this:

  1. Plan and list requirements. Here, you’ll set the blueprint for this cycle of development. 
  2. Design and ideation. During this stage, you’ll create the building blocks for this cycle. Algorithms, graphics, and features can be ideated/created here.
  3. Implementation. Now it’s time to put the pieces you’ve created so far together. You’re building the rough draft of your product. 
  4. Testing. Next, work through what you’ve built, find bugs, and resolve them. A straightforward beta testing process. 
  5. Review and feedback. Once you’ve tackled all of the bugs you can spot, you launch this updated version of your product. Review it internally to see what works and what doesn’t, and of course, listen to your users! Start collecting your internal and external feedback for the next cycle.
  6. Restart! Go back to Stage 1 with the new feedback and experience you’ve collected and start the next cycle of development. 

A mobile device in a user testing session

The benefits of iterative prototyping

There are several key benefits to embracing iterative prototyping, not the least of which is that it allows you to continually improve your product over time. 

You can continue to modify your product while receiving real-world feedback from your users.

You don’t need to get it perfect the first time

Just as close as you can, because you’ll have time to perfect it later. 

It brings user feedback to the forefront 

You’re continuously receiving criticism and praise, which you can factor in at the start of each iterative cycle. So your user research becomes more concrete the longer you work on the project.

Iterative prototyping is fast! 

It allows you to start with your core features first safe in the knowledge that you’ll add more as time goes on. 

This speeds up deployment, gives stakeholders faster insight into your progress, and improves your ability to scale. 

Take your design process to the next level with Thunk

If you’re interested in embracing iterative prototyping and taking your design methodology up a notch, reach out to the experts at Thunk. We can find the best solution for your team and work with you to implement it.