5 Tips For Prototyping

preliminary designs to develop into a testable product that you can present the client with and gain valuable feedback. Here are five tips for prototyping to help you make the most of it.

1. Prepare Your Audience

You designed and created your prototype, so you’re privy to every intimate detail of its design and functionality. Its users, however, will be experiencing it for the first time, and therefore unsure of what to expect.

There are a few things you’ll want to let your audience know before presenting them with a prototype. If you’re presenting a low fidelity design, be sure they’re aware that they’ll be testing the functionality of the prototype rather than the aesthetics.

In addition, remind your audience that this is, indeed, a prototype, and subject to change pending their evaluation. Prototypes are as close to the final project as possible without being the actual completed product, so there will likely be a few minor glitches.

Tips For Prototyping

Giving a presentation on your prototype before actually presenting it will ensure the audience is aware of what they’re seeing, the functionality you expect from it, and what kind of feedback you’re expecting from them. With clear guidelines, you’ll be able to make the most of your prototype.

2. Use a Wireframe

Wireframes make better prototypes. It’s that simple. A wireframe is a blueprint for the prototype and the final product, and should not be taken lightly when it comes to their importance to development projects.

Building an effective wireframe starts with finding the best wireframe tools for the job. Which tool best suits your needs will depend on whether or not you and your team require a full design interface or a simplistic wireframe tool.

Using a wireframe sets your project up for success and makes for more effective prototypes. The entire team will have a better sense of the direction of the project, and thus be able to make adjustments accordingly.

3. Make User Interactions Simple

Starting with a low-fidelity prototype is always the best practice. User interactions with your prototype should not be overly complex or distracting because of too many visuals. You’re testing the functionality of your design, not how it looks.

Even during the prototype phase, you want to keep the testing simple. Try not to include too much information at once, only what is necessary to give the user a good experience and enough interaction to provide necessary feedback.

Including a few variations of elements of pages in your prototype can help you decide which works best for your project. Your users will be able to pick the one they feel most comfortable with, or that is designed the best, and this could become the final design. After all, who would know better than the users themselves?

4. After Functionality, Go For Aesthetics

So you’ve ironed out the functionality aspect of your project, your users have provided feedback, and everything seems to work great. Now what? It’s time to include visuals and graphics in your prototype.

Well placed graphics, images, and fonts can make or break the attractiveness of a website or software design. Be sure to have your users include feedback on the placement of graphics and other aesthetics, and make changes as necessary.

Often times the graphic design of a website or software can be overwhelming, causing distraction and eventually frustration with its users. Try to keep your colors and fonts relevant to the project. You may or may not need that fancy font, even though it sounds good in theory.

Focus more on what the client wants and how your users respond to the prototype. This feedback will help you decide which aesthetics are pleasing and which are only distractions.

5. Keep The Product’s Function In Mind

Your development project should serve as an answer to a question or solution to a problem. Sometimes we can lose track of this during the design process, getting caught up in making the best prototype with the prettiest fonts.

What was your app or website designed for? Are you selling a product? Are you creating a blog? A customer service app? Each of these has different needs, and will, therefore, require different prototypes.

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Keep in mind that a good website or app serves its function in an effective and pleasing way for the customer. Be sure your prototype is designed with this in mind. It is a reflection of your final product, and although it doesn’t have to be perfect, it should be good enough to show the user its capability.

The Take-Away

The best prototypes are simple, effective, and easy to use. They’ll provide the user with an experience akin to the final stage of development, representing all of your hard work and efforts.

Keep the client informed, and always take their feedback into consideration.

Remember that functionality comes before aesthetics and that your website, app, or software is there to solve a problem or answer a question. If your prototype does not represent a product that can do these things, you may need to do a redesign.

Don’t forget to create a blueprint for your prototype. Use wireframes and sketches to map out the direction of your prototype and to keep the team on track with any changes. Good communication equals a good product.