Join James Williamson for an in-depth discussion in this video Design process overview, part of UX Foundations: Prototyping (2013).
It goes without saying that every process is different. That's certainly to be expected for the different design processes across various agencies and individuals. However, there are some fundamental parts of the design process that should be a part of every project's development, regardless of scale. And prototyping, can play a critical role in this process. Before we get in the details of creating and testing prototypes, I want to give you a brief overview of a typical design process that involves prototyping. If your process doesn't look like this, it doesn't mean that it's wrong or that I'm advocating you switch.
I would encourage you, however, to think about your current process, where your problem areas typically are and then consider whether modifying parts of it makes sense, especially if prototyping isn't a part of your normal workflow. Most design processes start with brainstorming, for me it's sketching I still do almost all of my brainstorming with a pen and paper. I set a time limit for my team or myself and I just sketch and take notes as much as I can within this time frame. Other brainstorming sessions may include collaborative planning, word storms.
Or working with style or element tiles. Regardless of the method you use, the goal is to generate as many ideas as you can, whether they're good or bad, within a certain time frame. After that, we have a brief session where we evaluate and refine those ideas. Time limits are important here as well, because it's so easy to go off on unrelated tangents, or get caught up in specific details. Ideas should be discussed on the basis of their merits, and good ideas are kept and adapted, and bad ideas are thrown away.
Next, we generally take our good ideas and begin the planning process for the project. This could include some basic documentation based on the ideas we've generated or a simple outline or wire frame that further refines the concept. Again, details here don't really matter too much, just a general focus begins to take place. After that, we experiment with the ideas that survived by prototyping them. That means that we might have one prototype that explores multiple idea working in tandem, or we might actually have competing prototypes that approach the project with different ideas or executions.
Either way, what's important here is to begin actually working with the ideas in a real and tangible way. Now this leads us to testing and evaluating our prototypes. As we begin to use them, we can instantly see, which ideas were successful, and which just didn't translate. We can also easily identify aspects of the project that will require careful thought and planning, or those that just work as intended. That allows us to refine the ideas and designs by further brainstorming and prototyping. If this sounds cyclical, it is.I believe strongly in creating multiple iterations during the design process and generating prototypes that progress as the design is refined.
I feel this workflow leads to greater user experiences than those that try to plan everything at the very beginning of the project. In fact, it is not unusual for the prototyping process to start out with a simple paper prototype and then evolve to a higher HDML prototype as ideas are defined. For me that is important. Prototypes allow us to work through idea issues through trying ideas, testing them, and refining them. If they aren't an early part of the design process, you lose the ability to innovate and experiment.
This type of approach isn't right for everyone or every project, but it's worth considering if you're not currently working this way.
- What is a prototype?
- How prototyping helps user experience
- Defining prototype goals
- Sketching ideas
- Creating paper prototypes
- Building low-fidelity and high-fidelity prototypes
- Creating HTML prototypes
- Testing and evaluating prototypes
- Choosing the right prototyping tool