3 things to Know About Prototyping

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Prototyping

Designing something new can be a challenging task whether it’s a mobile app or a website. There are a number of things that need to be taken into consideration to make the project successful. The prototyping process is one of those things every designer needs to take seriously. Here are three things you should know.

What Is Prototyping?

A prototype is an unfinished version of the product you plan on putting out. Prototypes are used by designers in just about every industry. Prototypes are used to test design concepts and collect feedback on those concepts. Think of a prototype as a car going through a car wash. Just as when a car goes into the car wash it’s dirty but comes out clean, a prototype starts off rough but gets better as the process goes on.

Prototyping is important in the design process because it allows designers to experiment with features and ideas before releasing a final product. This saves time and money in the long run. No one wants to release a buggy, unfinished product. Going through the prototyping process greatly reduces the chance of that happening. It’s a cheaper way to address and make changes to a product before putting out the final product.

Types of Prototypes

There are two different types of prototypes; low-fidelity and high-fidelity. Both of these prototypes play a big role in the design process.

  • Low-fidelity: These prototypes are more simple and are usually done on paper. Low-fidelity prototypes are usually done at the beginning of the prototype process because they are quick to make and receive feedback from. While low-fidelity prototypes may not be very detailed, they are quick to build off of due to their simple nature. Wireframing, sketching, and stenciling are three widely used low-fidelity prototypes.
  • High-fidelity: High-fidelity prototypes are computer-based prototypes that are more realistic than their low-fidelity counterparts. They tend to closely resemble the final product in form and function. As a result, these prototypes cost more to produce. High-fidelity prototypes are usually made near the end of the prototyping stage when enough feedback is collected.

Many designers use a combination of both low and high-fidelity prototypes to get the most out of the process. They’ll start off with low-fidelity prototypes and will slowly work their way up to the computer to make a high-fidelity prototype when ready. Ultimately, you have to decide which is best for your project.

The Prototyping Cycle

The prototyping cycle consists of three stages; prototyping, reviewing, and refining. You make the prototype, receive feedback and data, and make changes as needed. The cycle is quick and simple because it’s supposed to be. You don’t have to spend too much time on a prototype, as they’re meant to be disposable. At the same time, you’re supposed to build off of your prototypes. Use what you’ve learned from previous prototypes to make the next one better.

Design experts from Adobe mention that The golden rule of prototyping — and developing any new idea — is to fail early and fail inexpensively. You’re very likely not going to be able to jump into full production off of one prototype alone. And that’s ok. The prototyping cycle is meant to be done over and over again until enough research and data is collected to make a final product.

The prototyping stage is a crucial part of the design process. The process is low-cost and very versatile in terms of what you can do. As a result, it’s a great way to test design concepts before going into full development.