Paul Hill by Paul Hill

How to successfully integrate design thinking into extreme prototyping

  • Prototyping
  • Design Capabilities
  • Design Thinking

In today’s fast-paced, technology-driven world, it’s essential to get digital products to your customers today — not tomorrow. That’s what has led to the growth of the extreme prototyping movement, a rapid-fire approach to building applications. 

However, there are many ways in which this goes against design thinking. 

Design thinking is a slow, methodological approach to development. It involves getting into the user’s state of mind and iterating on a product until it meets their needs and wants as acutely as possible. 

In this post, we’re going to take a look at these seemingly disparate ideologies and determine what middle ground there is to be had — if any

Design thinking methodology 

What is design thinking?

Design thinking is a human-centered approach to software development.

During design thinking, you and your team will gradually enter the mindset of your users, both through behind-the-scenes conversations as well as real-world engagement with potential users. 

Unlike approaches such as systems thinking, design thinking begins by understanding the problem. Why is it a problem? What are its challenges? And how can it be resolved in a way that is useful, practical, and satisfying? 

That last point is another unique aspect of design thinking. It’s not about fixing the problem so much as it is about doing so elegantly. 

All in all, design thinking is a multi-step process that takes time, focus, and resources. 

The benefits of design thinking

There are several benefits behind design thinking, which is why it’s become the dominant mode of thinking in software development for the past few decades. To help you better understand why design thinking is so popular, here are just a few of the benefits it has to offer. 


First, design thinking is a great way to empathise with your user base. It makes the development of a product a personal experience, where you get a concrete idea of how a product is going to be used daily. 

Not only is this important for creating a product that users love, but it also helps give the entire project direction, focus, and continuity. 


Another benefit of design thinking is that it is highly adaptable. You are expected to start with one set of ideas and end with different or at the very least adjusted perspectives. 

This is the result of iteration, empathising, and getting consistent feedback from your users as you develop the product. It keeps your team flexible, creating a product that solves a specific problem without becoming rigid in the process. 


Lastly, design thinking has the benefit of being very collaborative. It allows for ideas to be shared throughout the development process, giving everyone on your team a voice in how your project progresses. 

This collaboration extends to the users as well. Through user testing and feedback, the users can leave their mark on the final product. 

Extreme prototyping

The second ideology we’re looking at is extreme prototyping. Extreme prototyping is a newer and more intense methodology for software development. And as the name suggests, this is an intense and extreme process. 

In extreme prototyping, the developers work closely with the customer. Closer than with any other agile development practice.

The goal is to create code that is as simple, lean, and efficient as possible.

Code is written one day, reviewed and edited the next, and the process is repeated until the product is finished. 

The benefits of extreme prototyping

Despite being a newer form of agile development, developers are already enjoying the benefits of extreme prototyping. Below are a few of the most common benefits that extreme programmers experience. 

Save money and time

The most direct benefit of extreme prototyping is that it allows teams to conserve resources. By condensing work into a shorter amount of time, the final result can be completed faster and with less investment. 

Simple code keeps projects efficient

Since extreme prototyping focuses on simple code, projects can remain efficient. Apps run fast, debugging is less complicated, and adding/removing features is easy. 

Builds camaraderie among programmers 

Lastly, extreme prototyping involves programmers working closely together. In some cases, programmers end up working in a pair, with one programmer writing the code and the other looking for issues and areas of improvement. This helps boost camaraderie and strengthens your team. 

How can we find the common ground?

While design thinking and extreme prototyping are two very different approaches to agile development, they have enough common ground that you can use them in tandem. Or at the very least, you can pull the best ideas from both of them and create your own agile mashup. 

For example, both of these ideologies have a strong focus on the user. In both cases, you’re constantly working to empathize with the user and collect their feedback. 

When looking to combine these modes of working, developers will generally take on the practical aspects of extreme prototyping (working fast, in pairs, and with constant feedback) and the principles of design thinking (empathy, flexibility, and user stories).

Kickstart your next development project with Thunk

Whether you’re looking to merge these two methodologies or simply get your next development project kickstarted, Thunk can help. Our experts have insights to share and practical support to offer. Reach out today and see how we can help you achieve development success.