We perform numerous UX tasks as we go through the design process to create a final product. Following the UX design process involves gaining a good understanding of users and testing the product to obtain information about usability and overall experience, with the help of a prototype. Creating and testing prototypes before the official launch represents an essential part of the process of UX design. The prototype serves as a tool for visualizing the interactive design work. More exactly, it is a simulation of the final product, whether it is a website or a mobile app. Sketches, wireframes, and mockups serve important purposes, enhancing the user experience and saving time and money.
If there are any usability problems, they will be resolved in the nick of time. Attention needs to be paid to the fact that the prototype is not an analog of the final product. It is a simple means by which the designer can verify the correctness and appropriateness of the digital solution. Collecting feedback and making changes is easier at the early stage as opposed to when the product is almost ready. In this fiercely competitive industry, speeding the time to market is essential. It is not recommended to carry long and extensive research or prolong the development cycle. It is important to plan for the transition early in the product design phase and to ensure quality products are being delivered to the market.
What makes a good UX prototype?
The challenge is to construct a prototype that enables the user to experience the idea. The question now is: What are the successful hallmarks of a successful prototype? All prototypes share the following qualities: representation, precision, interactivity, and evolution. The UX prototype should showcase the real-world functionality of the product. It can have a different fidelity, which means that it does not have to convey the exact same look and feel of the final product. Nevertheless, the model needs to be fully functional or at least partially functional. After the prototype has been tested, it is necessary to build an extensible product, something that can accommodate the new features or changes.
As far as prototyping methodologies are concerned, they can be divided as follows:
- Paper prototyping – for testing product ideas
- Digital prototyping – for testing interface elements
- HTML prototyping – for testing the coding ability
There are various options to choose from when choosing to design a UX prototype. If you decide to simply sketch down your idea or create a functional interactive prototype, you should use a combination of methods to ensure the success of your project. To avoid confusion, it is best to let people know that not all the features will work. Have the product tested in a real market environment before full production and launch.
The value of prototypes in the area of website and app design
There is a common misconception that prototyping implementation slows down the digital project, when in fact it saves time, money, and resources. UX prototyping is a great way to visualize challenges and introduce solutions in a timely manner. It helps get a better understanding of what is designed and for whom it is being designed. Prototyping offers the necessary tools to validate and make refinements. When producing digital solutions, you cannot work with assumptions. Assumptions have a low probability of being true, which is why they should be tested. As a UX designer, you need to identify unintended scenarios. It will be time-consuming, but it is better to spend more time on coding a demo version than redesigning the product in an advanced stage.
Validation ensures paying customers and sets the foundation for potential growth. Be focused on the functionality of your website design, and not just on the beauty and appearance of the product. You can fix the issues, if there are any, before you pass on to the UI tasks. If you do not test the UX prototype, you will end up working more than necessary on the UI, which will not be much efficient and will suffer important modifications. The more UX prototypes you build and test, the better your digital solution will be. Creating a visual representation of your idea enables you to clearly see what needs to be improved before constructing the market-ready version.
Prototyping is an essential part of design thinking and user experience design because it allows you to improve on your ideas in a timely fashion. It would be great to create prototypes for both UX and UI, yet not everyone is willing to spend so much time on these tasks and would like to enhance the design of a web or mobile app a lot faster. Tools are not extraordinary, which is why it is hard to give your approval to the design concept. This is the reason why designers collaborate with different experts over the course of the process, who are capable of understanding the limitations of prototypes to simulate the exact characteristics of the intended design. Time frames tend to vary, so it is not possible to estimate how long it will take to complete the project.
Test the digital solution in all the environments where users are likely to deploy it. Even if there are best practices for prototyping, the type of degree of fidelity to the original depends on the specifications of the project and the preferences of the UX designer. It is recommended to build a high-fidelity prototype early in the design process. The level of details and functionality built into the first example should let you explore usability issues in detail and make pertinent conclusions. Unlike a low-fidelity prototype, which is more affordable and easy to revise, the high-fidelity prototype is more familiar to users and pinpoints specific components like visuals and engagement.
At the beginning of the design process, you do your best to understand what is possible and what the user needs. Starting from there, you develop polished ideas, refine certain parts of the product, and validate with end users. The good news is that it is not necessary to dispose of countless resources to build your own UX prototype. A pen and piece of paper are enough to get started.