Prototyping allows us to materialize our ideas, and thus validate them with users and get their valuable feedback. According to Wikipedia, a prototype “is an early sample, model, or release of a product built to test a concept or process or to act as a thing to be replicated or learned from.”
So, thanks to prototyping we can identify pain points and areas of improvement. We can then use all that knowledge to iterate and improve the product or service we are developing.
How to Apply Prototyping in UX Design
In user-centered design, we can use special tools that don’t require a big investment in time or money in order to test our ideas at an early stage. We have the possibility to create low-fidelity prototypes, that is, basic models that are fast, cheap and easy to create. What’s the reason for that? Because in early stages, the aim is to validate ideas and get feedback. Creating a prototype in a few hours with simple resources will help us obtain input that will then allow us to design a better version of a product based on the issue we are trying to solve.
Besides, having a prototype that can be touched and experienced helps us visualize what we are developing and design our solution in a much more realistic way; and since it’s low-fidelity, we don’t need to focus on small details that aren’t relevant at this stage.
A Few Examples of Rapid Prototyping
- Storyboarding: we can outline a flow of ideas or a series of process steps through a storyboard, with the user in mind. The focus should not be set in the presentation itself; we won’t be spending time in creating beautiful images at this point. Cardboards and markers are all we need.
- Role Play: this is a useful tool for prototyping a service. The idea is to represent the service by acting out the different roles required.
- Paper Prototyping: this is a quick way to validate applications. We draw a series of steps and the user is asked to interact with this “interface”.
- Digital Prototyping: it’s similar to paper prototyping but with digital tools, which give a more vivid rendering of how the final product will look like. It also enables remote user testing.
- Modelling: another possibility is to create low quality models of products with everyday materials like paper, cardboard, wood, etc., so that the user can interact with them.
Continuous Testing at Early Stages
Prototyping shouldn’t be considered as something that is done once, but rather as a tool we will use often. Thanks to it, we can make a product or service a reality, display it, validate it, operate it and, most importantly, keep on learning.