The user knows best
As UX Designers and developers, we have opinions and we have a lot of answers but we don’t always know what’s best for the user. Sure UXers have a ton of experience in this arena and apply best practices and guidelines. Yet, ultimately it’s the user who tells us how great a UI design truly is. This is where rapid prototyping comes in more than “useful.”
Prototypes range from static paper sketches to interactive digital simulations that look and function like the final system. In the context of UX, prototypes are used to pinpoint issues in an interactive system and validate the user experience as a whole — how it’s received by the user groups. But that is not all, there are other notable advantages to prototyping:
- Tests and validates proposed functionality and design prior to development
- Helps the entire team experiment with multiple approaches and ideas
- Facilitates discussion through visual representations and UI interactions
- Decreases risk and avoids missed requirements
- Speeds up overall system implementation
- Encourages higher user satisfaction
- Exposes the design and development team to potential future system enhancements
3 Steps until it’s just right
Prototyping is a three-step iterative process. Let’s take a quick look at what those are:
- Prototype — A visual representation of an interactive system designed with UX best practices and standards.
- Review — The prototype is reviewed by users and their feedback is evaluated by the internal and external team.
- Refine — Dependent on review findings, the areas that require revision or our attention are refined, further defined or elucidated on.
Here, at MxD, we generally rely on either wireframes or html prototypes to breathe life into our projects. This of course also depends on the needs, schedule and scope of the project. Based on the project and client needs, we may recommend to prototype pertinent sections. A good rule of thumb is to prototype approximately 20% of the most pertinent functionality. Prototyping the entire system pretty much defeats its main purpose. That’s where we like to apply usability testing.
There are a number of tools we like to use for interactive prototypes to get the users’ hands on a realistic experience.
Wireframes/Visual Design Comps — Adobe Acrobat PDFs come in handy using wireframes or visual design comps for prototyping. For example, a multi-page PDF featuring primary screens is all we really need to reveal what the final product looks like and what the navigation experience is like from page to page.
There are a ton of different ways to conduct, approach and create prototypes that we didn’t list here or possibly don’t even know of. At the end of the day. prototyping allows us to become better UXers, designers and developers and create the ideal for both our clients and their target audiences.