January 31, 2019 | 5min read
Why Your Business Needs Prototypes
If you are planning to build an app, a website or a device that requires a screen interface (for instance a medical device, an automated teller machine, a check-in kiosk, etc.), you need a prototype as a tool that helps communicate concepts, collaborate, generate ideas and test them early on. In case you are not sure why to make an effort and spend time and money creating a prototype, check out the following arguments that will hopefully help you make a right decision.
Here are a few examples of business situations in which you can use a prototype if you are a startup founder or a business leader, whose goal is to introduce a digital transformation in your company (for instance Head of Innovation, Digital Innovation Director, Head of Digital Lab):
In a startup or medium-sized enterprise
- If you have an idea for your startup and want to attract investors.
- If you already have all the resources to launch your product but want to prove or disprove your assumptions to be reassured that you are on a good track before building a real thing.
- If you want to find out what your customers think about a feature that you are planning to implement in your existing product.
In a corporate environment:
- If you want to get a buy-in from boards of directors in your company to start off a new project.
- If you have an idea for an internal digital app but want to gather the feedback from employees who are in a target group of this app.
- If you want to launch a new website for your company and want to recognize needs, goals and mental models of people who are going to use it.
A prototype is a representation of a product. As a model, it allows you to experience design before a product is built. These days, prototypes can actually work and look almost as real digital products thanks to the constantly evolving screen design tools made especially for prototyping like Sketch, Invision, Axure, Adobe XD and UXPin.
During the design process of a digital product, it is possible to use prototypes that are less or more realistic representations of a product. If a prototype is very simple as a hand-sketched wireframe, it is called “low fidelity” prototype. If a prototype is so realistic that it is actually only one step below the final product, it is called “high fidelity”. There are also prototypes which level of fidelity is somewhere between low and high fidelity—these are called “medium fidelity” prototypes.
The decision which kind of a prototype would be the best for your business project depends on a stage of a design process and its goals. It is important to choose a level of fidelity that would be most effective at achieving goals that are set for a prototype. For example, if you have only a general vision of your product, it would probably be a good idea to start off a design process with low-fi prototypes to help visualize a concept. On the other hand, if you already have a requirement document for your product, it would be better to create a prototype that is highly functional but basic in terms of visual—this type of prototype will allow all team members to focus on how the product should work before polishing the visual aspects of it.
The most important value of prototyping is that it lets you experience designs early on. Incorporating prototyping into the design process allows you to see problems at the beginning of a process. It also lets you spot mistakes and make design changes during the prototyping phase before you build a real thing—it is much more effective and cheaper than doing so in the development phase. Thanks to the prototyping you can:
- Communicate design concepts better If you visualize design concepts, you reduce the risk of misinterpretation. All types of prototypes (from low to high fidelity) on all stages of a project let you combine both showing and telling when you want to explain your ideas to other people.
- Collaborate effectively When all stakeholders focus on the visualization of an idea, they are all on the same page so they can constructively discuss design concepts and identify flaws. The best prototyping tools come with collaboration features which are easy to learn and use and are very helpful when giving feedback. That leads to improving a design.
- Generate a lot of ideas A prototyping process gives you a possibility to experiment. In order to find the best solution for a problem, you need to get ideas out of your head and make them tangible. Obviously, the first solution is not always the best and sometimes you must go through less brilliant ideas to find what will work best for your product. Visualizing ideas will help you see the potential advantages and disadvantages of each idea.
- Test ideas A prototype can be tested with users recruited from a target group of your product. It is a great way to get the most valuable insights from people that are your potential future customers. To get the best outcomes from user testing your prototype should look real so the participants’ response would be real. Conducting user testing at an early stage of a design process lets you identify problems and fix them before a product is launched.
Who can lead you through a prototyping process? To achieve best results of a prototyping process, we recommend the collaboration with a multidisciplinary team consisting of: UX Designer, UX Researcher, Graphic Designer, Developer and a Project Manager:
- UX Designer would help you define requirements, advise the steps of the design process and design a prototype (low, mid or high fidelity depending on your goals).
- UX Researcher would test a prototype, present the results of the research and give you recommendations for the design.
- Graphic Designer would be responsible for creating all visual aspects of a prototype (colors, fonts, images, animations).
- Developer would verify which ideas would be possible to implement and how long it will take to build your product after finishing a prototyping process.
Polidea as a development studio, together with Utilo—its UX & UI design studio—can be fully engaged in designing your product from the early stage of prototyping to the launch and maintaining a product. The advantage of this approach is that the entire Polidea + Utilo team involved in building your product understands it well and takes care of its quality.
Senior UX Designer