Developing or building anything new involves a long and complex process and requires real attention to detail. Whether it’s the construction of a new skyscraper or the design of a new mobile app, the steps from initial conception and those first sketches right through to the final build and finishing touches all require meticulous attention to detail.
Now, for any good developer, designer or architect, creating that fantastic "thing" — be it an app, new building, or product — is the ultimate goal. How they achieve this is down to a whole host of significant factors. An area that has undoubted importance along the way is prototyping.
The word prototype or "prototypon" derives from ancient Greek, and means “primitive form”. And that’s exactly what it is. Google’s definition, “a first or preliminary version of a device or vehicle which others forms are developed” takes the point further. A prototype is a very simple means of showcasing to stakeholders what a final design may look like by painting a picture of something that is tangible - not just a static wireframe or idea in a colleagues head. Let’s take a look at some of the advantages of prototyping.
Four key benefits of prototyping
1. Save Money
You could argue that prototyping will increase the overall cost of a project. At first view, you’d be correct. However, it’s far less expensive to resolve and rectify any problems with a new design in the early stages of development than it is towards the end of a project. Imagine missing the prototyping phase when building some new software, being a week from a ‘go-live’ date and finding out there’s a problem with the UX or user journey. A project can grind to a halt, resources, in the form of money (and time!) are needed to fix the issue, all of which is made more complicated by the fact so much work has been done to date. As Benjamin Franklin said “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. Don’t let that be you.
2. Get Instant Feedback
As with any product, the end goal is making something that is appealing to end users. A big part of what we do at Infragistics is helping developers build new apps and designs with some great UI dev tools and components. By creating a prototype during the design process and putting it in front of your target audience you can get feedback on what they like, dislike, would change, would add and so on. In addition, when a prototype is in the hands of a user you don’t always know what the product will do or how they’ll use it. With a prototype, you do.
It’s far easier for people to make a decision by actually seeing something! Tools like Indigo Studio are great when it comes to designing animated UI prototypes. Remember, companies pay millions of dollars on market research to hear from users - a prototype is a simple way to showcase your offering and receive feedback that is instant and actionable.
3. Test to Your Heart’s Content
A piece of software or new product that has been through prototyping will, 9 times out of 10, have a much more desirable design quality and be far closer to the needs of the user, compared to a product that hasn’t. How do you get to that point? Testing. A prototype should be seen as a ‘working document’, it will always evolve and change. Very rarely will the first prototype be the finished article.
It’s human nature. We test ourselves over and over to make sure we know that critical bit of information when it comes to an exam. The development of any product is similar. You want the best outcome, so it will go through a number of stages. By testing - looking at areas such as cognitive habits - you can continue working towards a product that will finally meet the brief and is optimized for end users.
4. Make the Most of Your Time
The time spent developing a product can be all-consuming. Thinking about every little detail is certainly a good skill to have and desirable when it comes to micromanaging. However it shouldn’t become a detrimental factor. You want to work in the most efficient way possible and maximize your time. By creating a scalable, lightweight and functional prototype during the design process, it will eliminate a number of ‘what-ifs’ and any confusion when it comes to coding, and focus attention on other areas of a product's development.
A Picture Paints a Thousand Words
Building a product that rocks can be one of the most satisfying and rewarding feelings. Seeing your vision come to fruition and in the hands of a user, or making a mark in the world of architecture makes all the hard work, time and effort worthwhile Prototyping plays a pivotal role in both the design process and to the overall product development. Get it right, and the life of your treasured design will help others for years to come.