Creating prototypes of your service as you iterate is an essential part of building your product or service. Prototypes allow you to rapidly test different designs and solutions, abandon the ones that don’t test well, and work on improvements for the next round.
Prototypes are used throughout the development cycle – alpha, beta and live – to experiment with different designs and solutions, and to test new features and improvements. They generally become more technical in beta and live.
A prototype represents a potential design solution and works as a simulation of how a user will interact with your service. It can simulate one aspect of an interaction or the end product.
It’s important to remember a prototype requires some sort of interaction with a user and tests two main functions:
- Does the design function as intended?
- Are users able to do what they need to?
Prototypes are used to:
- Improve usability through constant testing
- Help ensure you’re building the right service for users
- Help the team develop a shared vision about the service as it moves towards the end result
- Enable faster design exploration, which is more efficient than using production code
Low fidelity prototypes are useful for exploring and sharing ideas, and can be used to test basic functionality, not look and feel. They are generally used early in development in alpha phase.
Pen and paper drawings
Drawings of different screens that will appear throughout the user interface and design. They are not designed to convey complex interactivity or functionality.
- Allows for quick revision and refinement
- Everyone can do it, meaning improved team collaboration
- Allows for early weeding out of issues such as confusing information architecture
- Easily mimics scrolling
- Provide useful project documentation
- User feedback can be quickly and easily applied to layouts that aren’t working
- Allows you to test your product’s user interface (UI)
High-fidelity prototypes are typically used later in the development process (beta) when the team has a clear idea of the final product. They are designed so user testing can occur in a realistic environment that replicates the live product.
- Looks like the real thing so user testing results are more accurate
- Enables testing of complex technical aspects
Through the wonders of sophisticated software, digital prototypes can bring to life visually powerful and realistic replicas of your product including interactive features and complex animations.
Coded prototypes perform as a live product and are less expensive to develop than live stage production code.