Though wireframes and mockups offer a basic idea about the product, it is the prototype which gives life to your design. Beautiful mockups might look great on the screen but prototypes are required to generate the actual user experience. While skipping a prototype might save you cost and time but you may end up spending a lot more time and money during development. The real significance of a prototype can be summarized using the below factors.
Communication and collaboration
Even when requirements and ideas are documented carefully it can always be misinterpreted. A working prototype removes all the barriers of communication. A prototype aids in both internal as well as external communication.
A prototype brings together both developers and designers to work on the same objective to start with. Different departments use different jargons and have different protocols, whereas a prototype has no standard protocols and it brings out the creative part of all the teams involved. Both designers and developers love to work on a prototype phase it is both fun and creative. It increases communication and collaboration among teams.
A prototype also helps in third-party communication during presentations to stakeholders. Well defined wireframes and beautifully crafted mockups may at sometimes confuse clients whereas a prototype offers a real-life user experience and removes all grey areas in understanding. A working prototype is a powerful tool for businesses when they pitch the idea to investors.
Prototyping is the phase where your ideas are turned into a real-world model. A working prototype can be tested with real people and will reveal all UX challenges. It benefits the designers in the following manners.
- Decision making: Some of the important design decisions like ergonomics, shape, function, etc are finalized during the prototype phase. It provides live feedback which will improve your decision making.
- Focus: The prototype offers a live experience which focuses more on user experience. When a prototype is tested live in front of the designer, the UX priorities and challenges are made available better.
Both wireframes and mockups present a visual clarity to the users but they can’t be tested. This is where prototype comes in which can be tested by real users. When usability testing is done right, you are able to detect problems and fix them early in the design while a saving a lot during development. In order to conduct a good usability testing following basics has to be taken into account.
Understand the product: People who are going to test the prototype should know the product well. If they start testing the prototype without a concrete understanding of the product it will lead to invalid results.
Selection of test-takers: Each and every product cater to a specific set of target demographics. One should select the right set of the target audience for usability testing. The qualitative test requires a sample of 5 users whereas a quantitative test requires a minimum of 20 users.
Types of Usability testing: There are different types of usability tests and different ways to conduct them. One should pick the right tests based on the project budget, time limitations and requirements.
Set your Design Priorities
Most of the design experts recommend prototyping early for better results. The static design process can come later in the process but prototyping should start early. There is no need to design a highly crafted prototype instead it can be a basic and low-cost prototype.
Always remember that the benefits of prototype outweigh its cost. There are certain limitations and restrictions which could prevent companies from designing a prototype but it is always recommended to do a prototype even if it’s a basic one.