Prototyping and piloting – what's the difference

When discussing testing with humans, two main concepts come up – prototyping and piloting.


Prototyping usually happens early in a product or new service feature development cycle. Typically, you'll hear designers mention three types of prototyping:

  • Rapid prototyping

  • Live prototyping

  • Technical prototyping

Rapid prototyping

Rapid prototyping happens early and may occur in a number of different format up until the mid-phase of product or service development. You are trying to work out "What are the different ways I could solve this problem". Examples of rapid prototyping include; quick sketches, service scenario role-plays and wireframes. As the name suggests, you move fast and try many options.

Live prototyping

Live prototyping happens midway through the product or service development cycle. At this stage, you are testing; "Does my product or service connect with the community I'm serving?". It involves deploying a heavily simplified version of your feature or service in the real-world and observing users' reactions.

Technical prototyping

Technical prototyping occurs at points where you are wondering; "Can I solve this problem in this specific way". At this stage you are trying to determine the feasibility of your feature or concept.


Piloting occurs when you are very close to the final version of your service or product and you need to test its economic viability. This is a high-fidelity test, as close to the overall experience of using your service as you can get

This workshop

This workshop focusses on prototyping. The aim is to help you unlock your eye for seeing easy and cheap (time, money and effort) ways for testing your concepts.

A side note

As a mental trick I see all products and services as forever in the prototyping phase. This allows me to nurture an innovation mindset and constantly look for ways to improve or completely revolutionise my offering.

Further reading

The future of prototyping is now live – by David Aycan and Paolo Lorenzoni on Harvard Business Review

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