Join James Williamson for an in-depth discussion in this video What is a prototype?, part of UX Foundations: Prototyping (2013).
Prototype is a term that gets thrown around a lot often in the context of many different situations. Because of this, there might actually be a little bit of confusion about what exactly a prototype is. That's why I want to start out by defining what a prototype is, at least in terms of what it means for this course. That'll make sure that were all on the same page and establish a focus for what we're going to be talking about. First, let's talk about what a prototype isn't. I often hear it mentioned in the same breath as sketches, wireframes, and mockups.
These design elements, while important to the overall process, are not prototypes. Each one is static and represents a single state of the proposed design. Sketches help you explore your ideas quickly and help you experiment and refine designs. Wireframes are more of a map of the project. Sort of a visual guide to its internal structure if you will. And mockups are usually a more refined representation of the finished visual design. Missing from each of these is the ability to show how the application actually works, what it does, or how one is supposed to interact with it.
And that's where prototypes come in. Prototypes are simulations, models, if you will, of how the finished product will work. They let you experience how the application flows, how its interactions work, and test the usability and feasibility of your designs. Because people tend to think of simulations as almost finished products, there's a tendency to expect prototypes to have a certain degree of fidelity to the finished design. In reality, prototypes can have any type of fidelity you need. From paper sketches to fully realized designs.
Depending upon what you need them to do, they can simulate your entire application or a single use interaction. All that's really required for something to be a prototype, is that it simulates some aspect of how the application is intended to work. As we'll see throughout this course, that ability is incredibly important to the overall design process.
- 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