Prototypes are the most effective and versatile way of testing your design before a launch and can be priceless when it comes to having a more efficient design thinking process, yet they take minimal extra effort. Creating one usually adds a few additional steps to any project but could save hours and hours.
Depending on the design, a prototype could be a map of ideas and concepts written on a scrap of paper, a usable version, or any stage. It all depends on your needs and goals and what you’re most worried about.
Learn more about prototyping to see how it can benefit your designing process below!
There are three common forms of prototypes designers use depending on their needs. The format you choose depends on your concerns and priorities and the design’s main goals. Some designers may even use a combination of prototypes at different process points.
This physical prototype form is often used in the beginning stages of a project to define and qualify concepts and ideas. A designer maps out and illustrates their ideas using paper and pen to do this. This is the best method to see how a design will look or figure out the initial inspiration.
Using tools such as Proto.io, Sketch, etc., designers can make software prototypes to explore layouts and test responsiveness. This prototype takes longer to build as it creates something almost as fully fleshed out as the actual result of the project, but it can be worth it to test the limits and weaknesses of a design. This can also be an excellent format to engage customers or investors, as it will be easier to understand the final product.
Creating a coded prototype can be faster than software and is especially useful for testing responsiveness and managing development and maintenance across multiple breakpoints. Changes can also be implemented much faster in a coded prototype, allowing tests to be done more quickly. However, this method is best for backend and logistical findings and testing and will not provide much context for user-facing design elements or be as effective for marketing purposes.
The Benefits of Prototypes
Fix Weaknesses and Mistakes
Prototypes are like experiments, especially when trying new techniques, styles, or technical aspects. Although it’s great to have confidence in a design, some parts sometimes work out differently than they’re intended to and will need tweaks and fixes or, in some cases, may need to be scrapped and replaced altogether. It’s better to find any mistakes and weaknesses in your design before going live to target audience. Having a prototype will help you recognize these problems before they’re discovered by users and be better equipped to solve them and show them to others who can help.
Become Even Better
On the other hand, testing a design will go off without a hitch. Congratulations! Still, having the prototype has inspired you to see how aspects of the design could be even better or develop new ideas that make it more effective. Since you already have the prototype, it will be easier to implement these changes and test if they work before putting them in front of investors or sending them out to users. This allows for more creativity, flexibility, and room for innovation.
Improves Teamwork and Collaboration
When coming up with ideas for a design, it can take effort to articulate them by simply describing them. This is where sketching out ideas or, even better, creating a usable prototype can help illustrate what you’re talking about and assist your design team in understanding your concept. This can prompt more ideas and better collaboration, allowing people to get more involved.
Prototypes can also include those who aren’t directly working on the project but are involved, such as investors or stakeholders who could benefit from seeing the idea more tangibly and get excited about it (or be more willing to fund it). This can also help ensure everyone is on the same page about the result and improve communication and understanding overall.
Prototypes can also showcase your design sooner, allowing you to get the word out about what’s on the horizon to those interested. This includes stakeholders, investors, current users, and clients, allowing you to market and build hype long before the design is released. This can also be a great way to gauge interest and see what parts of the design are getting people excited or what factors might be met with criticism, allowing you to fix these issues before they hit the market.
Prototypes can be the act of putting pen to paper and sketching out an idea and do not need to be overly complicated, time-consuming, or costly. Even the most basic formats and prototypes can be incredibly beneficial in the design process for strengthening a project and making it better.
Prototypes are worth the little extra effort to experience all the benefits they provide, from increased collaboration to minimizing errors and strengthening overall designs. After all, the best designs, and those with the best accessibility and usability, have usually been tested thoroughly using prototypes.