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Rapid Prototyping and Experimentation

Creating and testing real-world prototypes

Julie Stanford

Learn about the mindset and process for evaluating product and service ideas by creating real-world prototypes and testing them through a technique called rapid experimentation.

Rapid experimentation is a method for quickly gathering user feedback on later stages of iteration—at the point when design ideas are somewhat gelled, but designers remain uncertain about whether the design will meet the need and evoke the intended response. You'll learn creative ways to discover what users will actually do in the real world when using your product or service without (not just what they just say they might do).

This hands-on course covers specific steps and processes for planning, setting up, and running rapid experiments to test if your prototypes meet real needs and evoke the responses intended in the real world.

What you'll learn-and how you can apply it

By the end of this hands-on course, you’ll understand:

  • The mindset and process for testing your ideas for products or services by building targeted prototypes and running rapid experiments
  • What kinds of user behavior you can test and when to experiment
  • How experimentation fits within the larger design and product development process
  • Specific techniques for planning, running, and analyzing experiments to test if your concepts meet real needs and evoke the responses intended in the real world
  • How to plan for measurement, data-collection techniques, and when to use qualitative versus quantitative methods

And you'll be able to:

  • Plan your own rapid experiment to assess an idea’s efficacy
  • Create an actionable hypothesis for experimentation
  • Create experience prototypes without any coding
  • Quickly gather data about real-life usage in order to answer questions about your concepts
  • Measure your results and collect rich data you can trust

This training course is for you because...

  • You're a product manager, entrepreneur, designer, researcher, or any kind of product decision maker
  • You want to get out of your head and start seeing if your ideas work based on what people DO versus what they SAY
  • You’ve heard of rapid experimentation and want to start doing it the right way


Participants should be familiar with Lean or Design Thinking processes at a high level—i.e. they’ve heard about these techniques by reading a long article or a book or they've taken a short workshop).

Recommended Preparation

A new approach to design thinking

From design thinking to design driven

Further Learning:

About your instructor

  • Julie's favorite thing in the world is to help companies use design thinking to reinvent a product space. She is a respected thought leader in techniques for need-finding research, rapid experimentation, and cross-platform experience design. Julie is also a recognized educator at Stanford, where she is on the faculty of the d.School and the Computer Science department. Julie has a BS in Symbolic Systems and a MA in Communication, both with a specialization in Human Computer Interaction from Stanford University.


The timeframes are only estimates and may vary according to how the class is progressing

Introduction: The Five W’s of rapid experimentation (20 mins)

What is rapid experimentation and when should you use it? We’ll define rapid experimentation and explain what types of questions it can answer as well as when other research techniques would be more appropriate. We’ll also discuss several examples with a look at why they were effective and talk about why it’s so hard to put yourself into a rapid experimentation mindset. To get you started, we’ll try some techniques for pushing yourself, beginning with “I Don’t Know.”

Getting your hands dirty: Introducing our collaborative project (10 mins)

In this class, you will work independently and collaboratively to plan your own rapid experiment in the context of a case study. We’ll lay out the details of the original idea and the research conducted to date and use that to plan a rapid experiment assessing the idea’s efficacy. This hands-on approach will form the backbone of our class.

Inviting in the Devil’s Advocate: Planning what to test (40 mins)

Break Time

Learn how to plan an experiment. We’ll start with brainstorming all the questions and assumptions that we can come up with. Then we’ll discuss how to identify which assumptions to focus on first for testing. Finally, you’ll learn how to create an actionable hypothesis for experimentation.

DIY: Prototyping for experimentation (40 mins)

Now that you know what you want to learn, it’s time to brainstorm what kind of experiment you will run to test your hypothesis as quickly and cheaply as possible. We’ll look at a variety of techniques for running experiments and creating experience prototypes without any coding. You’ll finish this session with a wide variety of tools in your back pocket that you can apply to the specific question you're trying to answer.

Measure twice, cut once: Planning to measure the results (20 mins)

Break Time

The success of any experiment depends as much on the experiment as on your plan for measuring the results. We will discuss how to plan for measurement, data collection techniques, and when to use qualitative vs quantitative methods. You will learn how to ensure that you can trust your data and not get befuddled by confounding variables. You’ll also learn how to follow up with participants to get even richer data at the end.

Put a bow on it: Integrating rapid experimentation into your product development process (30 mins)

We’ll tie everything together, ending up with a clear picture of how rapid experimentation fits in with existing innovation, design, and product development processes. We’ll see how rapid experimentation speeds up timelines and reduces risk. We’ll also discuss who should be involved in your organization and when.

Break Time

Final Q&A (20 mins)