Prototyping is an established technique in UX research but exactly what is prototyping and when should it be used? We will give you some ideas on how prototyping might fit into your organisational UX programme.
A prototype is a working, interactive version of a product that describes all the essential functional elements but it is not necessarily the final design in terms of look and feel. It certainly should not be finessed or detailed to the same extent as the final product; it is meant to be an approximation of the functional elements of the concept.
The purpose of prototyping is to simulate the workings of the final product to test the fundamental principles, anticipate problems and identify areas that need more attention. It also ensures that the brief has been properly interpreted and understood before all the work of populating the site with detail and sophisticated graphics and functionality is undertaken.
The Benefits of Prototyping
- It is a relatively quick and cheap way to test out the original principles of the project and to ensure they have been properly assimilated by the design team and that the initial concept itself is viable and reasonable;
- Early sharing of ideas enables problems or mistakes to be addressed and good ideas to be developed and enhanced
- They are a practical and relatively simple way of engaging stakeholders and involving them intrinsically in the development process;
- They are a good way of feeding back progress and testing assumptions and decisions that have been made in the interpretation of the original brief;
- They enable the interactivity and functionality of the concepts to be tested superficially before a lot of time and effort is expended on full development;
- Protoyping can facilitate the introduction of real content and information so meaningful testing and analysis can be undertaken and evaluated;
- Protoypes can be used for testing with actual users and provide a much more reliable way of researching than other descriptive or proxy methods
- The proliferation of devices and platforms that designs are required to work across are so numerous that only a technique such as prototyping can deliver any really meaningful and reliable indicators as to usage and difficulties.
- Axure – the most popular proprietary prototyping tool
- UXPin – a useful piece of kit with over 900 separate elements that can be incorporated in your prototype design
- Proto.io – a very robust tool that allows HTML/CSS code to be exported from a prototype for use on actual devices
- Mockplus – a versatile, comprehensive application that allows for mockups across a range of platforms and devices.
If you are interested in prototyping and would like to find out more about the techniques involved and proprietary tools available why not get in touch on +44(0)800 024624 or email us at email@example.com