Prototyping is a process that has existed with or will react diferently to a proposed piece of
since the inception of ‘product design’. In the world of web and application development, the idea of prototyping is
not new either.
Many developers have created beta releases of
their builds, to sense-check functionality and to help validate the project for additional funding or client sign of. The idea of interactive prototyping, however, is a step even before that, utilising the designs to feign a user experience without a single line of code being written. In the world of rapid and agile development cycles, this has become a necessary step to ensure time is not wasted developing an idea that would never satisfy the end user.
When sending through a set of designs to a client or developer, especially in organisations where the design team is separate from the front-end team, it’s very dificult to work out a flow for a
functionality than expected. Companies spend large amounts of time and money on A/B testing and focus groups to try and optimise their interface based on user and business objectives. None of this is possible with only the feedback of the business, designs and developers – it requires the insight of the end users themselves.
The interactive prototype also becomes a testing ground for all new functionality or changes in approach that will inevitably crop up during the development process. Utilising this design-only prototype can aid in getting approval from the project stakeholders and validation from user groups before reworking code in the development environment. To gain the full benefit of the prototyping process, it needs to be considered a live file throughout the project’s life span, constantly updated with each new phase, alteration and bug fix.
With each of these changes there
user when viewing each screen in
isolation. Historically, web and app the end users is invaluable ” achieve the same goal. Using the
“ Getting the build in the hands of
will be diferent treatments to
developers would rely on
wireframes, design mock-ups and
videos to relay the experience to any stakeholders or or requires numerous taps may on paper seem fine, but created and tested with quick succession. When
team who would need to build the solution. Interactive once actually dropped onto the screen may seem clunky approaching a new implementation, it’s always best to
prototyping tools – now built into many UI design tools or low-cost platforms – utilise the designs and hot spots to allow for the creation of a tappable, swipable or pinchable vision of the proposed user experience. Grabbing a mobile and tapping through the designs or perusing a web design, while clicking away on call to actions, is the easiest way to present a proposed flow in the setting it will actually be used. Not many people would buy a mattress without being able to jump around on it a bit first – this is the digital UI equivalent!
If the client, designer and developer – along with the wider project team – all have visibility of this interactive prototype, it also removes the age-old issue of misinterpretation of flow or expectation gap. Members of the project (both client and internal) are not always able to translate the repercussions of decisions made during the design process, particularly on flow while looking at something as systematic as a wireframe to visualise the flow. An element that according to the wireframe is only accessible by a complicated gesture
or too hidden. This is the point where rework is required to alter an interface element that had already been ‘signed of’, or has been present throughout but had not been fully understood until all members of the team were able to play around with the build in their hands. It’s a lot easier to facilitate this during a design prototype stage than with a beta build.
This ability, for people to get their hands on the experience before development, extends to that of the end users, who can give valuable feedback on the proposed solution. This is the key reason it is so important for web and application developers to go through this process for all technical builds. Getting the build in the hands of the end users is invaluable: it allows for test groups to be put together and validate the approach and idea. Over the many projects that I have been part of at Pocket App, every single one has benefited from the utilisation of interactive prototypes. Even following all the best practices, user research, latest trends and industry experience, there will still be areas of the experience that users will not resonate
try out as many solutions as possible; however, this can be time-consuming to do using development and is not a true representation using just flat designs. This can help try, test and validate the perfect approach from the bank of available ones, rather than just the one we happen to develop.
In summary, embedding prototyping into any developer’s workflow may seem to some as an unnecessary step in the world of rapid development- based prototyping; however, it can reduce rework substantially when dealing with clients, stakeholders and, most importantly, end users. It allows the proposed design and experience to be demonstrated as it was meant to be, in a way that the user can physically navigate and connect with. It could be the diference between when a client or stakeholder works out that they do not agree with the proposed design – this could be either during the early design phase, or many months and cafeine-fuelled coding nights later.