Developing a software-based product is quite tricky, and the phase of design creativity is the most exhausting. You need to ideate the product based on the defined user requirements, conceptualize the UX design of the product, take approval, and then proceed toward the changes if needed. On this note, spending time and effort at the initial stage of development can cut down the possibilities of bottlenecks. So, it is crucial to focus on the design thinking stage and experiment with the solution you will deliver.
As per the statement Tim Brown, the author of 'Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation',
"They slow us down to speed us up. By taking the time to prototype our ideas, we avoid costly mistakes such as becoming too complex too early and sticking with a weak idea for too long."
Here comes the utility of prototyping in the main context. There's more to find out about prototyping and its relevance. So, let's find out.
What is Prototyping?
A Prototype is a demo model of the product or software. It is developed to evaluate the ideas and make changes until the final approval comes from the customer. Accordingly, prototyping is the experimental procedure where designers present their ideas in digital and tangible form. The design team creates a functional prototype with detailed clarity to understand the design concepts of the product and examine it on the target audience. With a prototype design, you can validate and improve your designs.
Prototyping is the fourth stage of the design cycle and design thinking. It is an integral part of UX design that follows the ideation phase. In this phase, the designing team builds and chooses ideas to match users' needs. You, as a designer, should focus on prototyping from the initial stage- maybe with any specific type of prototyping to ensure that you get the relevant feedback and take the development process forward.
Is Prototyping Relevant in UX Design?
At any point in time, Prototyping is relevant. Given the prime aim of software development is to solve the identified problem and provide an optimal user experience, prototyping is necessary. After getting a project, a developer cannot simply start coding; they need an accurate design considering which the preceding work can proceed. This is where the UX prototyper plays a crucial role. They make a developer's job much easier by developing a design prototype.
You cannot get things correct the first time. A product designing process goes through several trial and error methods until it gets perfect. For example, if I want to make a house, I should initially build the design specifying how large it will be, how many stories it will have, the position of the entry gate, and others. Only then I would be able to make the perfect house. Isn't it? You can't just start building the house without any design. In that case, it will not meet your customer's requirements. Right?
Thus, to save on your budget and resources, you need to design or prototype it.
There's a lot more to understand about the importance of prototyping. Let's check some of the most important reasons in the following section.
9 points to Validate the Importance of Prototyping
It improves the quality of project designing
You should focus on the project designing phase to get the desired UX. Prototyping provides you with the foundation based on which you can plan the subsequent steps. A prototype design gives you the right direction to look forward to.
It improves communication and collaboration.
The approval of a UX design does not involve one or two people. It involves the entire team and the associated stakeholders. Prototyping promotes better collaboration among all the stakeholders. This helps in achieving innovation in UX design. Although it may be a lengthy process, it is beneficial in the long term.
The design process involved in Prototyping can save both money and time.
UX designing is a lengthy and tiring process. Providing prototypes to users can save time as you don't have to repeat the entire process after it gets approved by the users. As it involves users, you can easily present the demo model and seek confirmation. This process also involves saving money in terms of conserving resources.
It reduces risk in the later phase.
While building a product for your user, you always prefer to detect the risk at the initial stage so that you don't have to start the product from scratch. This goes similarly to UX designing. You need to identify the design flaws at the beginning. In this regard, prototyping plays the most significant role in recognizing potential flaws and usability concerns.
It supports rapid iteration.
The 'rapid iteration' element is relevant when you want to improve a design. A prototype design supports frequent iteration through the optimal use of resources. Also, this process enables you to introduce innovation and achieve maximum user experience.
A product design is never perfect in one shot. You need to make regular improvements to attain perfection.
It clarifies the design criteria
With the involvement of users, a prototype design makes the developers aware of what they need to build. It gives them a clear insight into the product design.
For example, while building an app, a developer may or may not want to incorporate drawer navigation. The relevance of this element will entirely depend on the app's utility. So, the designer should build a prototype to clear out the design criteria.
It considers the User's Participation
Users' involvement in prototyping makes things much more transparent. Even though the process can be lengthy, it is effective. Getting feedback from users can help in understanding their preferences.
It Focuses on User Satisfaction
As Prototyping considers a user-centered approach, it stresses the improvement in usability. Hence, it maximizes user satisfaction.
Acquiring new clients
Client acquisition depends on the user's experience of the product. Increasing the effort to design prototypes can enhance UX and prove your seriousness towards the project.
Besides being familiar with the importance of Prototyping, you should also understand the common mistakes.
What are the Common Mistakes to Prototyping in UX design
Relying on the wrong tool
You need to be well-versed in all the Prototyping tools. Selecting an irrelevant prototyping tool will not allow you to meet the design objectives.
To select the appropriate tool, you should understand the client's requirements, whether they want a high-fidelity prototype or a low-fidelity. You should always experiment with different prototyping tools.
Considering Wireframe similar to Prototype design
This is wrong. Wireframing and prototyping have stark differences. A wireframe is a simple and static representation. On the other hand, a prototype design is much more dynamic and detailed.
Wireframes should be considered when you want to design the basic layout and structure of the product, whereas prototypes are considered to refine and test the functionality of the product.
Confusion between low-fidelity prototyping and high-fidelity prototyping
You may need clarification on low-fidelity prototyping and high-fidelity prototyping when clients ask you for a prototype design of the product.
These are the two different methods of prototyping. Low-fidelity prototype design is used for validating ideas. It involves a rough mock-up or sketch of the product. However, high-fidelity prototypes are used to test the UX. It includes interactive components such as functional code. So, you communicate with your clients about their requirements.
Not considering a clear objective.
This is the most common mistake that designers need to address. They take a random approach to prototyping without any clear goal. You should be familiar with the objective you want to meet.
Tools Used for Prototyping in UX Design
Choosing the appropriate tool is the most important for a UX prototyper. Here is a list of some helpful prototyping tools that you can consider.
Sketch- It is a designer-based tool. It supports system-based designing using vector graphics. You can create clickable and fast-viewing prototypes.
Figma- This tool supports full-stack designing, such as prototyping and wireframing. It has a creative interface that is relatively user-friendly. It works well for macOS and Windows devices.
AdobeXD- It is one of the professional tools used for designing. For prototyping, use the XD prototypes. You can access this tool from tables, desktop, or mobile.
UXPin- It supports full-stack UX designing. However, it is a code-based tool where you can create a high-fidelity prototype.
Flinto- With Flinto, you can get a user-friendly experience and build high-fidelity designs. It is an effective tool for Mac users.
Framer- You can design interactive prototypes. It is well-supported in Chrome browsers. You can comment on your prototype and share it with users or team members.
Axure- It is a user-friendly tool used for UX designs. It is accessible from Windows and macOS platforms. It is a popular tool among front-end developers.
What are the Best Practices for Prototyping
You should create a proper prototype design regardless of what product you want to build. Let's get a quick visual representation of the best practices you should consider before starting prototyping.
Source: Unified Infotech
We have come a long way in discussing the importance of prototyping in UX design. The main reason is that an effective prototype increases user satisfaction. It also saves resources and time. To achieve the optimal use of prototyping, you should follow the best practices, choose the right tools, and avoid common mistakes.