Prototyping – why bother?

By Geff Harper on April 4, 2018

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Is building a digital product really that different from building a physical one?  When it comes to prototyping, the answer is no.

There’s a reason architects build models.  Sometimes, when a client actually sees for the first time what they said they wanted, they realise it isn’t actually something they want.  Either that, or the intended users don’t like the experience you were so sure they would. Frank Lloyd Wright, the famous American architect once said:

It’s easier to use an eraser on the drafting board, than a sledgehammer at the construction site.”

Is digital design different?

So why should digital design be any different? To be honest, it shouldn’t, but unfortunately people just don’t put as much stock into the development of a digital project as they do a physical one. You’d have a hell of job selling a new house ‘off the plan’ to anyone if you couldn’t show them what it was going to look like.  Yet the number of people that will happily invest tens, or even hundreds, of thousands of dollars in a digital product they’ve never seen is staggering.

Digital prototypes, are generally interactive demos of a digital product. The key word here that really distinguishes digital product prototypes is ‘interactive’. It’s all about the user experience and interaction. If you can’t experience the journey your user is going on, or give them the opportunity to glance at what that journey will be like, how can you really know if it’s the right one?

The top 5 reasons to prototype

Here are the top 5 reasons you should always prototype a digital product before it goes into production:

  1. By involving the end-users in the prototyping and testing phase of a project, you’re able to get valuable user feedback early in the process. This helps to be able to iterate the product and iron out any potential issues prior to building.
  2. It lets you explore ideas more easily, which can often lead to subtle yet essential changes in direction.
  3. In the long term, it saves money and time by not having to make major and disruptive changes and ultimately ensures you’re going to build something people actually want.
  4. By being able to visualise the product early on, it makes it easier to get a head start on the marketing. You can more effectively articulate what the end-users can expect to get.
  5. Sometimes things get lost in translation and there can be a disconnect between what the development team believe the client wants and what the client actually wants. Prototyping enables any misunderstandings to be identified and sorted out early on in the process.

Prototyping is an integral part of the design process. Leaving it out makes no sense, and can result in a poor product with higher costs. If you want to know more about digital prototyping or need a hand designing a digital product, why not drop us a line.

Geff’s been in design for nearly 20 years, in digital for the last 10. Geff uses User-Centred Design principles to develop CX and UX that delivers for clients. He loves problem solving, leading design sprints and prototyping. Geff advocates strongly for user feedback and enjoys the challenge of creating solutions that positively impact user behaviour and interaction with technology.

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