UX Prototyping

A dummies guide on how to do it right.

Great user experiences don’t happen by accident. they take careful planning and a design process that’s focused on the end user.

What is a prototype?

Sketches — For exploring ideas quickly.
Wireframes — Map out application structure.
Mockup — Refined representation of visual design.

Prototypes are simulations. They simulate some aspect of the user interaction.

How Prototyping Helps UX

If user experience is important to your design — which it should be, you need some form of prototyping.

Prototyping leads to innovation. It allows you to involve the end user in the design process, and it helps to increase communication between the teams working on the product.

Prototype Goals

Without properly defining goals you waste time and resources creating ineffective prototypes.

  • Prototyping allows you to help refine your design. By refining your design you are effectively physically testing your design, testing ideas, and including user feedback into the design process.
  • Prototyping allows you to design without technical restraints. Focus on the user experience rather than what’s possible. Development restrictions can harm UX.
  • Prototyping helps to increase collaboration, and commuication more so than any other design phase.
  • Prototyping helps you sell your idea/product. Selling an idea is easier with a physical representation. The fidelity of the prototype should be based on the demographic it’s being showcased to. Look to the further reading links at the bottom of this article to see other articles on using storytelling to aid in selling ideas.

Prototyping as Part of the Design Process

5 step circular design process for creating effective prototypes.

  1. Brainstorm — Give yourself or your team a time limit and sketch as many ideas as you can within that time frame. Generate as many ideas as possible, then later refine those ideas with a new time limit in place.
  2. Project Planning — Based on your ideas generated above, take a few of the best and start thinking about the basic concepts and wireframes within those ideas.
  3. Prototyping — Based off of those basic concepts from above start prototyping. Remember that prototypes come in many different forms, paper sketches, keynote slideshows, or fully functioning interactive apps with help from HTML to name a few. They also have different levels of fidelity, and remember to base the amount of fidelity in a prototype by the demographic who will be interacting with it.
  4. Test and Evaluate — See what was successful, and what needs work. In order to find out what was working properly you’ll need to do some usability testing. A future article will cover what usability testing is, and why it plays such a key role in the development of products.
  5. Refine — Start the process over again, and you’ve found yourself in a loop which is designed to aid in the development of great ideas, and their resulting products.

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About the Author

I am a User Experience Designer at MindSea Development Inc., where I work with a diverse multidisciplinary team designing mobile solutions that grow business and delight people.

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