9 Important Benefits of UX Prototyping
In this article I will highlight what is the design thinking process and how to leverage prototyping to reduce project costs, improve functionality, user interation (UI), detect potential risks & issues and validate your ideas with real users.
The 5 stages of design thinking process
The Design Thinking Process is iterative, flexible and focused on collaboration between designers and users, with an emphasis on bringing ideas to life based on how real users think, feel and behave. Design thinking is both an ideology and a process that seeks to solve complex problems in a user-centric way. It focuses on achieving practical results and solutions that are:
- Technically feasible: They can be developed into functional products or processes;
- Economically viable: The business can afford to implement them;
- Desirable for the user: They meet a real human need.
The ideology behind design thinking states that, in order to come up with innovative solutions, one must adopt a designer’s mindset and approach the problem from the user’s perspective. At the same time, design thinking is all about getting hands-on; the aim is to turn your ideas into tangible, testable products or processes as quickly as possible.
- Empathise: Design thinking is all about finding solutions that respond to human needs and user feedback.
- Define: Re-framing and defining the problem in human-centric ways. Design thinking also encourages collaboration between heterogeneous, multidisciplinary teams which may not typically work together.
- Ideate: Design thinking is a solution-based framework, so the focus is on coming up with as many ideas and potential solutions as possible. Ideation is both a core design thinking principle and a step in the design thinking process. The ideation step is a designated judgment-free zone where participants are encouraged to focus on the quantity of ideas, rather than the quality.
- Prototype: Rather than talking about potential solutions, in design thinking you’ll turn them into tangible prototypes and test them in real-world contexts.
- Test: The testing phase enables you to see where your prototype works well and where it needs improving. Based on user feedback, you can make changes and improvements before you spend time and money developing and/or implementing your solution.
What is a prototype?
A prototype is an early draft of a design used to get rapid feedback on whether the intended design works well or needs to be updated in some areas. Prototypes can range anywhere from a low fidelity sketched prototype created on a sheet of paper, just like the example below, all the way through to a high fidelity interactive clickable design that closely represents the finished product. Whatever can visually communicate the intended design and function of something, whether that be a website, app or physical product, is a prototype.
A low fidelity sketched prototype
Let’s explore some of the benefits of this immensely useful practice.
Benefits of prototyping?
- Cost savings – By prototyping, you are limiting the expenses of development before you discover whether something works well or not. Imagine if you went ahead and built something without testing only to discover that people don’t like the solution or find it hard to use. By prototyping early, you could save thousands of dollars by testing a concept before it is built.
- Validate concepts – Prototypes allow you to test out a concept to solve a particular solution at an early stage of design and get early feedback. You may have a couple of solutions that you are thinking about employing. By prototyping and getting early feedback, you are able to confidently design a solution based on validated ideas.
- Testing usability – Prototypes are also great for testing whether your intended design is usable. By creating a clickable wireframe that displays a representation of the interface you are able to undertake usability testing to ensure people are able to complete the tasks you are testing and are able to interact with the proposed solution easily.
- Rapid – Low-fidelity prototypes in particular can be created, tested and updated rapidly in collaborative workshops with the input of team members.
- Team Alignment – Prototypes can help align a team’s understanding of a concept in a very short timeframe. Additionally, they are a very good communication tool for explaining a concept to stakeholders.
- Easy – Low fidelity prototypes can be produced easily by all team members to try and explain a concept or idea. We have found that most people can explain their ideas with pen and paper.
- Engaging – High fidelity prototypes in particular, allow the team, stakeholders and potential customers to get an accurate understanding of how the finished product will look, function and whether it is solving the original identified problem.
- Technical Feasibility – Prototypes give developers a good understanding of whether the solution is technically feasible with little time and effort.
- Scope Understanding – Prototypes allow project teams to understand the exact requirements and scope involved in the project or new feature.
Prototypes in action
Let’s take a look at a real world scenario. Let’s say you have an existing website and you wanted to add an entirely new feature where you wanted to filter by a new set of requirements. Before any polished design was undertaken, sketched wireframes could be created and tested to see if the team liked the idea or solution. Feedback would be gathered quickly and then depending on the results, the solution is designed in more detail, new ideas brainstormed or the idea may even be scrapped altogether.
And then before any development occurred, clickable wireframes could be designed and used to test whether people were able to use the new solution. Every step of this process is geared to save money and only design what people want and find useful. Makes sense right?
UX Strategy Workshop
UX workshops are intensive collaborative sessions used to solve user experience problems and bring clarity to projects. These workshops enable participants to come together for a concentrate on idea generation and hands-on activities that allow them to create a consensus on a plans and priorities for a project. Pivot your strategy today by booking a UX Workshop with our UX team lead.
Rod Blaxell, UX Lead, Speedwell