Join James Williamson for an in-depth discussion in this video How prototyping helps the user experience, part of UX Foundations: Prototyping (2013).
Prototyping isn't right for every project. The fact is, prototyping can add considerable time and cost to projects. So, you have to make sure that they are a necessary part of your application or site's design process. Of course, the opposite is true as well. If prototypes aren't a part of your process, it can often end up costing you lost time and money, through mis-steps and imperfect results. You know, I always hesitate to make absolute statements, as there are usually multiple ways to achieve the same results. But, in terms of when to use prototypes I'll say this.
If user experience is important to your project, you need to be working with some degree of prototyping. So, why is prototyping so important to UX design? Let's take a look at some of the ways that prototyping helps user experience. It's certainly true that good user experience doesn't just happen. It's usually the result of meticulous planning and an exhaustive design process. Most of the interfaces that you use that feel effortless are the result of countless hours of designing and redesigning until it was finally ready for release.
In my opinion, that's the main value of prototypes. You can use them, test them, and refine them until you get the desired results. Prototypes allow you to test out what works, and what doesn't, before you make the expensive decision to write code or produce assets. Perhaps equally important, are the discoveries that you'll make along the way. Testing prototypes often result in unexpected ideas and approaches to solving problems that you wouldn't have come across any other way. As a result, you might be able to enhance your project beyond it's initial scope.
The probability that prototypes will lead to innovations makes the process well worth any additional time or resources that they might cost. Prototyping is also one the of the only ways to involve the end user in the design process. By testing and evaluating prototypes with targeted users, you can catch mistakes, avoid incorrect assumptions, and ensure that your interface is intuitive to your target audience. Perhaps, a less obvious way that prototyping helps UX, is by increasing the lines of communication within teams.
Typical design processes involve requirement documentation that's written by client representatives or marketing professionals. Then you can have a mixture of team members, content strategists, front end designers, developers, marketing, executive level input, all contributing and working with the project design, often in ways that is not really collaborative at all. By including a prototyping phase, these team members can collaborate together to make sure that not only is the project feasible in achieving the desired goals. But that the focus remains on making sure that you're crafting the best overall user experience as well.
- 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