Understanding Prototyping

Prototyping is the process of creating a model or a product that you are working on and planning of releasing it in the market or for public use.

Benefits of the process

There are plenty of benefits that come with prototyping. Some of these benefits include:

Inspiration: It’s one thing to have an idea of how a product will look like, and a unique thing seeing and even touching it. When you create a model, you create a physical product that people can see and feel. This is inspiring to investors that might be unsure of the progression of the project. When they get to see the prototype, they are encouraged, and they might even put in more money.

The model is also encouraging to the creators. When they see a representative of the product they have been working hard on, they are encouraged to continuing to work on and make it better.

User research: Using a prototype you can quickly research the experience of the users. If it’s an app, you can give it to a few users and ask for their feedback. This is crucial as it allows you to fix any hiccups that might have passed your eyes.

A clear vision: When you are starting a project, you may have a vision of it, but it might not be obvious. When you have a model in place and its working as the final product, you have a clearer vision of how you want it. This makes you work harder to produce a better version.

Types of Prototyping

As you might have guessed, there are many types of prototyping. Some of the most common are:

Basic: The basic version is a home built effort. You make the model from simple materials that might be lying around the house. Since the materials used aren’t the best, the design isn’t beautiful to look at.

Advanced: Advanced prototyping results to a better-looking model. From its name, this type of design is done with the help of a professional. In most cases, the model is made in a plastic, machine, or any other kind of shop.

Manufacturing: The manufacturing model is a complex one and looks exactly like the final product. Everything from the size, shape, and functionality is like that of the projected final product.

Conclusion

This is what you need to know about prototyping. When creating a model of anything, you should do it properly. This calls for you to use the services of a professional and use high-quality products.

The Prototyping Process and Clients

When I was a account manager for an interactive agency, I got as much project feedback from my clients as I could. However, after facing consistent rework and headaches, we made prototyping part of our standard process. As a result, I also learned to educate the clients by reviewing four main points about the prototyping process. I’ve recently learned that many agencies don’t clarify this process for their clients, frequently resulting in confusion and misunderstandings. Depending on the needs of the interactive project, you’ll often have to review the prototype with your client. If your clients are not as technically savvy as you, they may need clarification on the following points about creating a website / web application prototype:

1. Why a wireframe and/or prototype is necessary
2. How to use the prototype
3. What is expected from them as the client
4. What are the next steps after the prototype

If you find yourself in a situation like the one I just described, I’d like make it easier for you to explain to your clients the prototyping process. Below are some common scenarios and answers to the topics (mere suggestions from personal experiences). Feel free to add your own tactics and experiences in the comments area below.

1. Why a wireframe or prototype is necessary

Client: “I’m on a tight budget and deadline, so I don’t understand why this extra step is necessary. We already talked about my needs for the site/application. Can’t you just take my ideas and build what I need?”

Response: Yes, we could actually start building the site/application for you. But because you ARE on a tight budget and deadline, it’s best that we begin with the layout of the sitemap and pages to ensure we’re going in the right direction. We need to make the most of your investment by making sure that 1) We truly understand your needs, 2) We provide you with a proper solution to meet those needs, and 3) You and your end-users will be satisfied with the final product. A good comparison is that of a house. Not only would we need blueprints to create the foundation to know where to build the walls, but we’d also need to know if it is important for you to have the garage next to the kitchen. And what if you decide you want 12′ high walls instead of 10′? You need to determine these things prior to building the house. Trying to move walls, redirecting a driveway, and tearing down construction once you’ve already started building is much more costly than if properly planned from the start. One “small” change can have a ripple effect throughout the whole structure. Well, it’s the same with a website/web application. Making changes later in the process is much more costly because valuable development work has been done, and altering it is much more difficult than changing a drag-and-drop prototype.

2. How to use the prototype

Client: “What do I do with this thing? It’s just a grouping of boxes and lines and certainly does not look like a website. I also don’t like gray. Where’s the color? And I don’t know what “lorem ipsum” means; my site/application should be written in English.”

Response: You are correct. Right now, it doesn’t look much like a finished website/application. Let’s go back to the house planning we just discussed. The blueprints of a house look nothing like the actual house. However, when looking at the blueprints, you understand where the master bedroom is, where the windows and doors are, and how wide the hallways will be. We are doing the same thing with your website/application by starting with a simple wireframe of your website.

We need you to review the page and interact with the layout, navigation, graphics, interactive forms, copy placement, etc. Will this make sense to your users? Will this layout help achieve your goals? Does the flow of pages make sense to you? How you and your customers interact with the site is key to the success of the project. When we answer these questions, we can move into a more high-fidelity prototype so you completely understand the interactions we will create.

3. What is expected from the client

Client: “Okay, I understand the comparison to building a house. What else do you need from me? How do I know what to look at and when?”

Response: Once we’re ready to show you part of the prototype, you’ll receive an email with a link into the prototyping application we use, like ProtoShare. You have your own login to access your site/application. Click through the pages as if you were navigating through a real site. Because your time is valuable and we cannot always meet or personally discuss the pages or changes, you have the ability to access your prototype when it is convenient for you. On the prototype, you may also find annotations (our notes about decisions) or red pins that are discussion points. If you see something you want to comment on, or reply to, just click on the red pin; or create a new topic and drag out a red pin. We have access to all your feedback and if you have more detailed questions, or if we need clarification, we can schedule a time to talk. What’s important is that you are involved in the planning process upfront, ensuring that the project is done on time, on budget, and meets all goals.

4. What are the next steps

Client: “So what happens next?”

Response: (this will obviously vary from project to project and depends on your company’s process) Since we’ve reached agreement on an interactive prototype of your project, we’ll begin building your site/application. We may need to do some user testing. Because we engaged you early in the process, we have a clear understanding of your project’s unique requirements. And we should be able to deliver with a minimum of changes and rework, meeting your budget and deadline.

Advantages of App Prototyping Before Final Product

Prototypes are very important when it comes to performance of physical products before the final production. They greatly reduce project risk while at the same time increasing chances of getting better results. Application prototyping involves two ways. The main reason I like prototyping is because it has great benefits to my project since I am looking for the best methods and tools for my job. Secondly, I want to be sure that the new prototyping idea is really effective and that its benefits are real. In both cases, my aim is always to understand why prototypes are important in any project.

Increase confidence as you reduce risk

Using app prototype before the final product increases your confidence that you are getting a good product. It also lowers the risk of having an application that will not benefit you. Basically, major advantages of using app prototype before a final product include;

• It gives you knowledge of the project’s scope. This way, you no longer risk failing to meet the set deadlines. A prototype helps you visualize this better.

• With a good understanding of the project scope, you are able to come up with more accurate predictions within the timescale. You also reduce chances of cost overrun.

• You also get confidence knowing that you are capable of delivering within the set timescale and within the budget.

• Prototypes also allow you to revise your project until when you have a perfect product. You do your work until when you have all options for implementation open.

• Prototypes also make it possible to avoid establishing of development tools in places with possible resistance that may result from the spent effort and pressure of turning it to a final system. This is usually the case when underlying code is produced due to speedy availability instead of robustness.

• You also get a chance to discuss issues of how the final product can be implemented with developers. This can be done before writing the code making identifying of areas that may need further investigations possible. It also makes devising alternative approach possible.

• You can also catch inconsistencies and errors in a design before coming up with the final product. If there are special cases in the design, explore them in advance to know more about the life cycle of the project. This is very important because some people do this when it is too late.

• You also build confidence in the users and your client. This is because you are able to present a clear project’s vision. They also get a better understanding of what you are presenting to them.

• Prototypes also create a better understanding within the team. Members of your team get a better understanding of the terms used in the projects. They also know more about its specifications. With a better understanding of the project, members of your team can also contribute ideas that will lead to better results and rapid development.

Generally, there are many advantages of app prototyping before final product. Prototyping has always led to faster development and elimination of possible complications.