Prototyping is a great method to get your ideas out of your head onto paper or screen, but what are you going to do with this stuff? A prototype is just one stage of a process, and you have to know and follow the process in order to benefit from it.
There are various interpretations of the number of steps in Rapid Prototyping (3-5 stages). I prefer explaining all 5 of them to highlight the bigger picture and draw attention to each of the steps because they are all critical to success.
You have to decide what you are going to test, what answers you are looking for, what type and level of fidelity will work best for your particular objective.
This is the prototyping itself when you produce something tangible that you can use to test. Depending on what kind of prototype you decided to use in the previous step, the result can be either physical or digital.
Even though you can use your prototype yourself, just to “think with your hands”, so to say, the most value comes from showing it to other people, the potential users, and stakeholders. Getting their feedback and gathering insights is what you are really looking for.
The testing results from the previous steps should feed into your thinking process. You should analyze what you’ve heard and seen and think carefully before jumping to any conclusions. The quality and validity of your learnings are very important. If you did testing incorrectly and asked the wrong questions, this may derail the whole process and send you down the rabbit hole.
After decoding your test results and extracting the insights you were looking for, it’s time to apply all you’ve learned to the next version of your prototype.
Though this 5 steps process looks like a to-do list with a start and end, it is a good practice (and my strong recommendation) to continue prototyping, testing, and learning. A product that does not evolve is a dead product (unless you have a monopoly, then you probably don’t care about all the stuff I am telling, anyway =)