Rapid Prototyping Exercises to Enhance Your UX Skills

In this article, we’ll explore a few Rapid Prototyping exercises that are helpful for a UX designer while working on projects or figuring out new ideas.

Bhavana Dandu

By BHAVANA DANDU

User Experience (UX) Designers are often expected to keep their creativity game up and running, just like any other profession that requires new ideas, designs and creative inputs on a daily basis. To deal with a creative block, a lot of methods have been tried and tested. In this article, let’s explore how Rapid Prototyping as a concept can be used to amp up your UX skills.

As most of us are familiar, Rapid prototyping is the process of mocking up the future state of a system in quick iterations, be it a website or an application, and then testing it with a broad set of users, developers and other stakeholders. Doing this in an iterative and rapid fashion ensures that feedback is generated often and early on in the process, so that the final design requires reduced number of changes after its development.

Rapid Prototyping - Fuel
Rapid Prototyping Cycle ©Fuel by Fountane | Dheeraj Guduri

These prototypes could range from a quick paper sketch to a more interactive simulation. The key to successful prototyping is to use the feedback from users to revise the model at every stage, while using the appropriate prototyping method. In this way, rapid prototyping facilitates discussions through visuals rather than words, ensures that designers and developers are on the same page and reduces risks ultimately leading to a better design faster.

So Rapid Prototyping entails multiple iterations of the following 3 step process:

  1. Prototype: Convert the user’s requirements into mockups, factoring in best practices.
  2. Review: Share this prototype with users and validate it against their expectations and needs.
  3. Refine: Considering the feedback, identify the areas needing refinement and make the necessary changes in the next iteration.

Here are some Rapid Prototyping exercises you could practice to upskill yourself in UX design.

Ideate with Crazy 8's

Ideation is proved to be most effective when it’s lightning fast. Since all us are familiar with the notion of failure being inevitable, it would be a fool proof method to invalidate our worst ideas as quickly as possible so as to pave the way for better ideas to be found, quicker.

These new and better ideas could then be used to create a low-fidelity, testable mockup. Ideation could involve spinning bold and crazy ideas, or simple and boring ones. Hence any and all ideas, once on the paper, have a win-win situation.

One such rapid prototyping technique for ideation, known as the ‘Crazy 8s’ helps designers churn 8 ideas in a small window of time. While it may initially seem that the ideas are rushed, undeveloped and not of use, this process could help bring out fresh and raw thoughts which could lead to exceptional solutions which might otherwise not be discovered.

krisika crazy 8s
© Krisika - https://www.krisika.com/owlsense

Here’s how you could practise this exercise:

  • Gather notes- do your required research on the topic you’re working on for 20 minutes.
  • Doodle rough ideas for 20 minutes.
  • Sketch out 8 ideas that you’re confident about, for one minute each. 
    Now choose one out of the 8 ideas, and create a short storyboard out of it. You can further use this storyboard to prototype your ideas.

The goal here is to push yourself beyond your first idea, which is frequently the least innovative, and to generate a wider variety of solutions to the challenge on hand. Practising this exercise regularly will fine-tune your brain into automatically coming up with more innovative solutions, where you would otherwise find yourself exhausted of creativity.

Six Thinking Hats

The Six Thinking Hats have been advocated since school to explain a form of a thinking process. Created by Edward de Bono as a tool for group discussion and individual thinking , this method involves six different colored hats. Each hat represents a different type of thinking, which helps a designer to look at the problem from different perspectives.

42courses 6 Thinking Hats
©42courses https://medium.com/@42courses/six-thinking-hats-10d0a0e9f31f

The “Hats”, in the context of UX and Design could be used are as follows:

  1. White: Facts – focus on the facts and information on hand
  2. Green: Creativity – brings alternatives and new, creative suggestions to improve the ideas on the table.
  3. Yellow: Optimist – focus on the “pros” and benefits of a given proposal.
  4. Black: Pessimist – focus on the “cons”, risks and weaknesses of the given proposal.
  5. Red: Feelings – acts as the user’s advocate, who expresses feelings
    and emotions of users associated with presented design solutions.
  6. Blue: Technical feasibility – focus on implementation and technical details.

This exercise could either be practised with a team of 6 where each individual dons one of the six colored hats figuratively, and pitches in thoughts and suggestions based on the perspective of their hat or it could be practised in complete solidarity too, where you’re thinking from different perspectives about your project each time you change the hat.

The 8-6-4-2 method

8642
Rapid Prototyping Methods - 8-6-4-2 method - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mk0LmXBgTzQ

The aim of this popular method is to sketch your initial idea for 8 minutes, 6 minutes, 4 minutes and finally 2 minutes with a 2 minute break between each sketch to get feedback and implement changes in the next sketch. You could use this technique to turn your ideas to actionable prototypes in under 30 mins.

Daily practise of this method will make you realize that exercises like these will make it almost natural to incorporate feedback into everything you design. Being open to constant feedback will help you keep your designs in check by making you informed about aspects that you may not have previously thought about. This can also act as a boost to your creative thinking.

Solve a Real World Problem

As a designer, you could take a moment from day-to-day and think of a real-life problem that you encountered and wished for a better solution.
You might already have 2 or 3 on your list. Take some time out and as a daily task, sit down to make a list of real world problems and conduct your user research. Find the pain points of the existing solutions and try to come up with better and complete HiFi designs. This exercise helps with thinking fast and to navigate your creative block with ease at work.

Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is a great technique to bring order to chaos. A UX designer can put the various problems and pain points of the user at one place to be able to resolve them one after the other ,while getting a good visual representation on paper of how one problem could be linked to the other and what resources are required for the same.

A mind map can be drawn with the following steps:

  • Take a pencil-paper or sketch-whiteboard and start out by drawing a centre circle in the design space which entails the main task or problem that you wish to solve.
  • In the first layer around the centre circle, start jotting different possible ways to solve the problem. For example,
  • In the second layer, write down ways you can accomplish the solutions proposed in the previous layer and the resources required.

In this way, keep building up the layers until you feel that you’ve exhausted all possibilities to solve the issue at hand. Now use this mind map to help you determine the most practical, cost-effective and feasible solution to your problem.

There's more

The methods above don’t form the exhaustive list, there are of course many more Rapid Prototyping UX exercises that you can make use of for various purposes during different stages. We’ll cover more of these in an article in the future.