Design process -time to create prototypes
I know many people wonder why they should create prototypes. When you are designing a new website, you probably have a lot of great ideas. Or you don’t have any ideas… I know that happens too, of course. But for now I think we settle with the case that you have a lot of ideas. I guess that you also want to test your design ideas, in different stages of your work. My recommendation is that you create prototypes, in every phases of the design process.
If you decided to design a website you have products or ideas that you like to share with the world or future customers. Right? If that’s the case, your ideas should mainly build on your customers needs.
Your entire site should be based on these customers (users) needs.
I know that millions of people struggle everyday with bad usability. It happens on websites and in other systems. On this site I mainly target my content to people that design or develop websites or systems. My target group is people interested in how to make IT more usable and how to improve the User Experience.
How to create a prototype?
My opinion is that it’s not about creating one prototype before you begin coding. Prototypes should or can be done several times during the process. The purpose is to test your ideas. Begin with sketching your idea on a paper. You can create a “fake flow” just by changing the sketch when you simulate “pushing” a button for example. That way you will find out, in an early stage, if some functionality is missing or if the flow you are testing works. If it doesn’t, you have to generate new ideas, iterate and create new sketches and prototypes.
Here you can see an example:
I recommend that you also create digital sketches and prototypes. You might need to test interaction of some kind or evaluate the look and feel of the user interface.
Here is an example of a rapid digital prototype i have made to test user interaction: Art_App, It’s in Swedish, but I hope you understand the purpose.
How much time does it take to create prototypes?
To create a paper prototype like the one in the video above takes a few hours. The digital prototype I made is rather small with limited number of pages. It took me about 2 hours to create including the sketches.
If you iterate through the design process and create different prototypes for different purposes it will take some extra time. I will assure you that this time is well invested.
Why should I create prototypes?
Like I mentioned, there are some good reasons for creating prototypes before starting to code or publish your site:
- Testing flow between views or pages
- Testing navigation
- Testing functionality, small parts like a calendar function, a web shop checkout or the whole site
- Testing interaction, between users or between the site/app and the user
- Evaluate look and feel of the site/app
The most important take away is that you should create prototypes to test your ideas and to test different kind of solutions. It’s an easy way to get on the right track and design a great User Experience.
If you really want to find out if you meet your users needs you have to test with people in your target audience, “real” users. I will say that this is important during the whole design process. You can test using prototypes. The first thing you need to do is to decide what you are going to test and then which people you need to involve. My experience is that at some point it might be developers that need to test to confirm that your design is possible to develop. At another point it might be users that test a specific functionality on the site, that can also be done with a prototype.
I ask you to remember that it’s important to chose the right people for the test, as well as what need to be in the prototype. If you manage that, the testing will give you great feedback and value for you and your customers.