White Paper: Prototyping

What is prototyping?

A prototype is an early sample, model, or release of a product built to test a concept or process. It is generally used to evaluate a new design based on its intended goal.

There are various types of prototyping in different forms and focus.

Prototyping Across different sectors


Software, website and apps


Architecture


Industrial Design


Electronics Design

Why is it important to prototype?

To Understand

When tackling a new idea, it is easy to get stuck. Therefore, a great way to understand the problem and discover the best way to approach it, is to explore the problem through prototypes.

By sketching many different variations of an interface, wearable, or other product, you can quickly understand the direction the work is taking you, and also to discuss the ideas with your team. Prototypes, at this stage, gives the freedom to think through all the different ways to solve the problem, discover new problems that might surface and help to refine the ideas through feedbacks.

As long as you intend to improve your ideas, these sketches are both ideation and prototype.

To Test and Improve

Testing and improving are the main reason to prototype. After addressing the problem, iterative prototyping can be done to dig into specific parts of the design. Each prototype will address a specific assumption or design element, to test with users to either support or disprove the assumption.

It should be the cheap as these prototypes are fast and disposable. After gaining insights from testing a prototype, one should feel comfortable using only part of the prototype moving forward, or even tossing out the prototype and making a new one for the next assumption. This process is similar to the scientific method in building small experiments to test hypotheses along the way. Each test is unique for the hypothesis in testing, but different because user testing has a qualitative emphasis as opposed to being based purely on empirical data.

To Communicate

Another use for prototypes is to communicate with the team, investors, stakeholders, or end users – showing an idea through an artifact than to merely talk about it. By having a prototype, no matter what fidelity level, one is able to pinpoint a part on the prototype rather than using imagination. Solely by speaking, each person will create their own different image in their mind, and it will be difficult to align all those hidden expectations. Prototype enables everyone to be on the same page and direction, minimising miscommunication through the process.

To Advocate

Lastly, prototypes can advocate a design or direction. The process of prototyping and user testing delivers valuable insights and user quotes that support a specific direction for the product. By sharing these results with management and product owners, you can advocate for a better user experience, and therefore a more sellable product.

At the end of the day, the better the user experience is overall, the more marketable and useful your end product will be to your user.

Benefits of prototyping

  • Reduce risk
    • Each iteration is tested and validateda

  • Find major problems faster, and be able to fix them early on.
    • Each iteration of a prototype tests something new, and incorporates it into the next, better model.

  • Inexpensive and easy way to validate your product.
    • Instead of waiting to get feedback from users after purchasing the final version, incremental feedback can be obtained along the way.
    • It’s cheaper to make changes earlier in the process rather than later. This saves time and money for the entire process, even if it feels like it is wasting time to make a prototype.

  • Putting the end user at the center of the process.
    • Know what the pain points are and create a product that solves that specific user’s problem.
    • Test assumptions and making sure the idea is serving the whole ideal audience.

  • Engage the various stakeholders & provide
    • Stakeholders can provide feedback and provide insights from different angles
    • Gather support from investors

Often times, there is no need to engage all the stakeholders in the design process as it will slows down the process. Engage the correct stakeholders in different phases of the process, to gain valuable feedback for the prototypes.

CONCLUSION

Prototyping is a core skill for all designers, and it’s the best way to improve the product with user-centric design leading the way. Without an early prototype of the product or a design, there is no way to understand if this design will work with the audience.

Do not wait for the perfect design or timing to start testing an idea, design or product. Start testing once there is an initial design to validate and gather feedback to improve on it.