Prototyping is an exciting part of the design/development process. With a prototype, you’ll be able to test the functionality of your design, identify and key issues before release, and get a better idea of what the product will look and feel like. With an effective prototype, you’ll be well on your way to a stunning and functional product your team can be proud of. Here are four quick and useful tips for prototype designs.
1. Start With a Wireframe
While it can be pretty tempting to jump straight to the prototyping phase of your design, without a good blueprint behind that design, your prototype is likely to be less than impressive. A good wireframe can mean the difference between a functional and dysfunctional prototype design.
Wireframing starts with a simple sketch, outlining the overall design and layout of your website or app/software to give the team a more detailed understanding of how everything should fit together. It’s important to remember UX at this stage of design; putting yourself in your future user’s shoes to see if the design is easy to navigate and functions well in its intended purpose.
Once you’ve sketched a good wireframe, you can use wireframe tools to transfer your sketch to a digital medium, adding or subtracting components directly within your software. Many web-based wireframe tools have everything you need to go from planning to prototyping seamlessly.
Using a wireframe tool for your design is akin to an architect using a blueprint. Without one, you’re just throwing resources at an idea without any real idea of what it should look like or what its functionality will be. Don’t underestimate the power of a good wireframe to impress and guide both your team and your client through the design process.
2. Always Gather Feedback
Feedback is incredibly important in the design process. Hours of looking at your computer can leave you unable to notice certain things that a fresh pair of eyes can point out. Gathering feedback from a third party perspective can also introduce you to concepts or processes you otherwise wouldn’t have known about.
Feedback allows us to grow and learn new things; gathering precious insight into our craft from those that share our passion. Client feedback is pretty much a necessity during the design process to avoid costly changes down the road.
Before, during, and after you develop your prototype, you should be gathering feedback from as many sources as possible. Does this function well? Does it look good? What changes must be made and what suggestions should be taken into consideration? What cost are we looking at?
With accurate feedback, you can gauge the success of your prototype before you release it, and iron out any pertinent details you may have missed. Let’s be honest, design and development are both intense processes, and sometimes the finer details can slip through the cracks. That’s why it’s so important to communicate well with your team and get feedback often.
3. Use a Low-Fidelity Prototype
Before you create a high-fidelity prototype with all of the “bells and whistles” your product will offer, you’ll want to create a low-fidelity prototype for preliminary testing. This will not only cost less to produce but will make changes easier to navigate, as the design will not yet be finalized.
Working out the details in a low-fidelity prototype is not only more cost-efficient but also carries less risk. The less money you spend, the better, and the less you risk your money, the better. Prototyping will always carry a cost and therefore some form of risk, making it essential to start with a lower-cost prototype to work out the bugs before investing in a high-fidelity model.
Generally, a high-fidelity prototype will be the closest representation of your final product and is best to present to the less-technical audience that may want to test your product, such as your clients. Be sure your team is ready to commit to a prototype before taking the leap. Make sure you’ve planned accordingly, have a well-planned design to work with, and are certain of which level of fidelity matches your needs.
4. Keep User Interactions Simple
The best software and websites are easy to interact with. UI/UX is an integral part of your overall design, and should not be forgotten during the wireframe and prototyping processes. Your users will literally determine the success of your project. With unhappy users, your website or app/software will experience a drop in both sales and reviews.
The quality of your user’s experience can be measured with a prototype. With interactive prototypes, you can use the website or app as it’s intended to be used, granting you insight into its functionality and identifying problematic points before the final release.
The last thing you want to do is release a product with far too many bugs. Users will reject the product, and your reputation will likely experience negative feedback. Identify issues during prototyping and fix them as soon as possible for the best possible results.
Prototyping is a unique part of the design process, allowing your design to come alive so you can test all of its features. Remember to always start with a wireframe and plan your designs carefully for better prototypes and final designs. A well-designed and planned product will always perform better than one with poor planning!
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