Rapid prototype development is a term used to describe a body of techniques used in the development of early interactive prototypes. In general, rapid prototype development relies on the use of development and visualization tools, such as computer-aided design (CAD). The goal of this form of prototyping should not be to develop a nearly-perfect working model of the end product. Instead, it can be used to produce and revise a series of prototypes. These can be used to showcase various features of the end product and to develop a more nuanced understanding of changes necessary to increase usability.
For rapid prototype development to be effective, it is important to avoid spending too much time on early prototypes. Testing and evaluation are essential for effective rapid prototype development, and early testing may indicate the need for major changes. In early prototypes, emphasis should be placed on important features essential to the functionality of the product. Other features intended to improve user experience or increase the aesthetic appeal of the product can be added after core functionality is tested and optimized.
Proper testing methods are also necessary for rapid prototype development to be beneficial. Those testing and evaluating the product should be given tasks to complete with the product that mirror those expected in the real world. Tasks for which the product is already optimized will not, in general, result in any good suggestions for improvements. Additionally, it is important to select testers who would use the product and who already use similar products. Such people know what a product needs in order to be effective for the purposes in question and can offer evaluation based on extensive experience.
Excessive features and frills should be avoided during rapid prototype development. Testers given a highly-polished prototype with excessive features aside from the core features may assume that they are testing a finished product. Furthermore, excessive features presented early in the production process may distract from the core purpose of the product.
The profitability of rapid prototype development should be evaluated before this prototyping method is chosen. Rapid prototype development requires expensive software and manufacturing resources in order to produce usable prototypes. Producing a series of prototypes can also be quite time-consuming. It is best to use this prototyping method when it is necessary to hone and optimize various features of the product before it is fully usable. Such prototyping may not be necessary when the main concerns are aesthetic changes or minor feature additions.