UX Prototyping – Everything you need to know

Prototyping is one of the most important parts of the development process. Whether you’re creating a new website or a new app, you should take prototyping very, very seriously.

Today, then, we’re going to take a look at the various things you need to know.

So, what is prototyping?

Put simply, prototyping means creating a visual demo of the product you intend to buy.

People are visual thinkers. You can explain how your website or app is going to work as many times as you like, and your stakeholders will sort of get it. But it’s only when you show them a sample of what it’ll actually look like that they’ll get real clarity.

In the digital world, you’ll always have people you need to impress- whether it’s beta testers, social media influencers or simply your investors! Being able to show them roughly what the end result will be is invaluable.

But why else should you prototype?

Simple. Because it will save you time and money! You see, by prototyping, you can sidestep a host of potential problems later on – problems that are very costly and time-intensive to solve when you’re already halfway through the build!

If you sort out these issues at the prototyping stage, you’ll be able to start the actual build prepared, and completely it with less problems.

So, what are the key main benefits to prototyping aside from simply ‘making the idea real’?

It lets you work through iterations in the design

Let’s say that you and your team spend two months building a new website for a client. You’re happy with the work, but then you present it to them, and the key stakeholder says ‘hmmm, I like it…but could we change this, and then this, and then this….’

And by the time he’s finished talking, you basically have to rebuild the whole thing again, and charge accordingly. You wind up with an unhappy client!

If, on the other hand, you’d shown the client a full prototype with the design at the beginning, he’d have been able to make his multiple changes then, and work through his different ideas before you’d even started building.

As a result, you can head into your first build knowing exactly what your client wants, and they’re far more likely to be delighted with the results.

You can spot potential issues upfront

No build happens without errors. They might be design problems, or issues with the backend code…but you can be sure that issues WILL arise.

While prototyping can’t necessary fix backend problems, if you design a working prototype of the front end, you’ll find out pretty early on what the potential problems with the build will be.

As a result, you can work out solutions in advance when it’s cheaper – and less time intensive – to fix.

On a similar note…

You can make sure the user experience is outstanding

If you’re anything like us, the chances are you’ve probably used a genuinely terrible website or app before. Everyone has.

The chances are that the designers of these apps didn’t use prototypes. If they had, everyone would have told them how terrible their designs were upfront!

It’s better to find out your design doesn’t work for people before you’ve started designing, unsurprisingly.

Remember, user experience is the most important thing you need to consider. Because if your target customers don’t like using your software, nothing else matters.

Building a full working prototype and letting users try it out is a great way to ensure you build something they’ll eventually be happy with.

However – and this is very important – you must take their initial feedback on board and action it! There are plenty of companies out there that ‘ask for feedback’ because they feel they should, and then ignore it and decide they know better anyway. Don’t do this!

So, what are the key mistakes you need to avoid when prototyping?

Firstly, designing too soon.

If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times – user experience research must be carried out before you start designing!

Just as writers would rather just start writing, designers always want to simply get started! However, it’s important to make sure you’ve done your research and that you have a specific plan in place.

If you simply start throwing out prototypes, you’re very likely to end up with ten results nobody really likes.

If, on the other hand, you design two prototypes, but they’re both based on achieving specific goals that you know your users want, you’re likely to get a lot closer first-time round.

Know exactly what you want your design to achieve before you start prototyping. It’s worth the extra research time.

Getting too attached to your idea

This is another common creative habit – falling in love with your first idea.

Remember, the point of prototyping is to give the people that matter – your clients and your users – the chance to get involved and to tell you exactly what they want.

Do yourself a favor and make this a part of your process – it can actually be fun to take feedback on board. What’s more, you’ll end up with a far more successful product, which is the only thing that matters!

Don’t get attached to a single iteration of the design.

Going mad on the features

The ability to build accurate, working prototypes sometimes gives companies a case of ‘too many options.

In other words, just because they can pile on three sign up boxes, ten drop down menus, a video sidebar and a massive ‘fill in your details now’ box…they decide they should.

Don’t let the options available ruin your UX research. Remember the rule of one: have one main goal in mind for your design, and keep it as simple as possible. Ignore the extra bells and whistles – as long as you’ve done your research, you’ve probably got everything your users need to make them happy already.

Oh, and if you ever need inspiration, take a look at the classic iPod- possibly the best example in history of the classic, clean design that has everything you need and nothing you don’t.

Prototyping at the wrong fidelity

We’ll finish with a more technical error, that’s very common.

Put simply, designers usually have their favorite prototyping software. As a result, they’ll often prototype a project in a different fidelity to the requirements of the final product.

Of course, you need to take into account where you are in the creative process. If you’re still in the ‘create ten different ideas’ stage, don’t go full fidelity. But if you’re at the stage where you’re showing users and clients your work, you want them to see – as close as possible – what the final result will look like.

The last thing you want is for clients or users to be given a final product that simple doesn’t look like the prototype they remember – and that they liked!

Get in touch today

If you’d like to learn more about prototyping and app design, get in touch with Iconic Solutions today. We’ve helped build apps and websites for some of the best companies in the USA, and we’d love to work with you too.

Get in touch today if you’d like to benefit from our years of experience.

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