What is Rapid Prototyping?

Rapid prototyping is a method of exploration that determines what a system will look like, before a single line of code is written. Prototypes can range from pen-and-paper sketches (low-fidelity) to clickable screens that mimic the flow of a real website (high-fidelity). Rapidly creating and revising prototypes allows for early and frequent feedback, making the final version useful, usable and desirable.


Rapid Prototyping: ACHIEVE

Prototyping a dashboard and mobile app

Over two months, our team moved from pen-and-paper sketches to a clickable prototype of a dashboard for clinicians and mobile app for patients. The prototype was eventually included as part of a R01 grant proposal. 

Learn more about ACHIEVE



Telling a story with data visualization

Understanding data is a complex undertaking that requires training, experience and domain knowledge. The right visualization can relay key information and insights to even a novice user.



Improving healthcare by empowering culture change

The SMART toolkit defines nine strategies for preventing healthcare-associated infections. To assemble the toolkit prototype, Research IT synthesized input from over a dozen researchers, allowing them and their audience to envision how they might use the toolkit.

How does rapid prototyping improve research?

Rapid prototyping saves time and resources over the course of the development process. It's easier to make changes when prototyping than to do so after the software, website or app has been developed. High-fidelity, pixel-perfect prototypes also communicate the vision for your project to an outside audience, and can be used in feasibility studies, grant proposals and specifications documents.


Clarify project

Brainstorm with low-fidelity prototypes to prioritize competing ideas

Validate your

Test a prototype's effectiveness with users before a single line of code is written

Document requirements

Clarify requirements for developers by including visuals

Share your

Convince skeptical reviewers your solution is effective and reduce back-and-forth

RIT's approach


Gather requirements

At the start of a project, designers in College of Medicine Research Information Technology meet with researchers to understand the goals for their research inquiry. At this stage, we seek information on who will be using the system, on what kinds of devices, and in what contexts.


Capture user needs

Learning about the people using the system is crucial to creating a prototype that is useful, usable and desirable. In this stage, we meet with users to ask them about challenges they face, digital preferences and the context in which they would use the system.


Design and iterate

Rapid prototyping is an iterative process. Using our knowledge of digital design best practices, accessibility standards and the people using the system, we create prototypes, then revise based on feedback from researchers. We include the final version of the prototype in specifications documents, and use the discussions around the prototypes to guide what specifications are written.