Design is a constantly evolving process for creative problem-solving. It helps to bring together solutions that are human-centered, viable, and feasible. Design thinking enables this problem-solving in five phases, i.e - Empathy, Define, Ideation, Prototyping, and Testing. Prototyping is the fourth phase of design thinking. Prototyping helps to understand the user through the implementation of experimental ideas and designs.
Prototyping is considered a vital process in design thinking. It is the experimental stage in which design teams look to implement test designs on users before reaching the final testing stage. It helps find solutions to problems already discussed by design teams during Conception and Ideation. By putting a mock version of a concept in front of users, designers can receive quick feedback that enables them to validate those concepts.
What is Prototyping?
Prototyping is the process of transferring ideas and experiments from your head to the physical world. A prototype can be a wall of post-it notes, a role-playing exercise, a space, an object, an interface, or even a storyboard. The resolution of your prototype should be proportional to your project's progress. Keeping your prototypes rough and brief during early explorations lets you learn quickly and study a variety of options. Prototypes are most successful when they can be experienced and interacted with by people, i.e. - the design team, the user, and others. What you learn from those interactions can help you develop greater empathy and develop effective solutions.
Why do we need to use Prototyping?
Constructing a prototype is one of the steps that come before releasing the final product. Prototyping a product has several advantages, such as -
- Prototyping allows for the application of an idea by understanding which aspects of it are hard or impossible to implement. Making a prototype helps reveal previously unknown technical and financial constraints.
- Prototypes help to test the usability of a site by looking into the overall navigation. It helps understand the accessibility of the site and check on the placement of visual accents. The data obtained from the prototype allows designers to make quick changes to the idea.
- Prototypes help in presenting ideas and concepts to users in a more concrete way, through the collection of opinions, recommendations, and testimonials.
- Prototypes help in the reduction of risks, as it directly affects the most crucial components of a project, i.e. the resource, time, and budget. It helps in figuring out hidden shortcomings and functional gaps.
- Opinions from potential users help to improve on the existing idea till the conception of the ideal product. Creating several prototypes before the launch of a large-scale product helps save extra costs of reprogramming the production line.
- Prototypes work in simulating the final product, by attracting potential users into investing in it. It helps in testing the correctness of a design and identifying design errors before it reaches the final stage.
- Exposure to prototypes aids in the unification of all the ideas and allows stakeholders to see the product from a new perspective. It enables them to see it materialize and provide focused feedback on the desired details.
Prototyping Is Divided Into Two Categories
- Low-fidelity prototypes usually involve the use of basic models or examples of a product that’s being tested. These consist of recounts or visualizations of models that are made cheaply or easily and are usually paper-based. Examples of low-fidelity prototypes include - storyboarding, sketching, Wizard of Oz, and card sorting.
- High-fidelity prototypes operate when the product is close to completion. These prototypes allow for realistic user interactions and are usually computer-based. High-fidelity prototypes are usually considered more effective in collecting authentic user performance data and in demonstrating actual products to stakeholders.
How do Feedbacks from Prototypes benefit the Design Thinking Process?
After the crafting of an experimental model of the proposed design, designers try to understand its usability through user feedback. This feedback helps to further develop the design and make it more user-focused. Through prototyping, you can achieve the following benefits -
- Provides a foundation from which ideations towards improvement can be drawn.
- Quick implementation of changes to avoid commitment towards a single ideal version.
- Feedback from users on prototypes helps design teams understand where changes are needed.
- Helps improve time-to-market by reducing the number of errors to fix prior to the release of the product.
- Getting an insight into the most minute requirements of the user thus helps to understand the problem and accessibility issues better.
What does Prototyping help us achieve?
Prototyping has traditionally been thought of as a technique to test functionality. However, it is used for a variety of reasons, including the following (non-exclusive) categories:
- Gain empathy - Even in the pre-solution phase of your project, prototyping can help you develop a better knowledge of the design space and your user.
- Explore - Construct in order to think and create a variety of solution-centric possibilities.
- User testing and refinement - Create prototypes (and the context) to test and refine solutions with users.
- Inspire others (coworkers, clients, consumers, and investors) by demonstrating your vision.
Prototyping helps us to learn and solve conflicts through the elimination of ambiguity and miscommunication. It assists in Ideation and enables the testing of a number of ideas without the investment of excess money, time and effort. Prototyping helps to identify a variable to investigate and break down a complex problem into smaller, testable portions.
Prototypes take us a step closer to the final product
Prototypes help to build a design from conception. A design that users and stakeholders are able to use and understand. It helps with finding a solution to a design problem that may not have been considered before. A design with a prototype helps the designer figure out usability challenges and fix them with ease. By understanding the audience and their goals, designers are able to narrow down on the details that might require a re-working before it moves onto the testing stage, thus helping to save money, time, and effort.
Once prototyping a design is done, designers look to test the completed product. It is the final stage of the 5-stage model of Design Thinking. Results that are achieved during the testing stage help designers understand how users might react to the solution provided. Even though it is the final stage, alterations, and changes to the product can still be made to ensure usability.
More often than not, you tend to make decisions based on assumptions and biases. As a result, despite putting a lot of effort into brainstorming and formulation, it fails to connect with users. Prototyping prevents this from happening. Prototyping allows you to test your assumptions by knowing the consumer and improving on current ideas when used regularly. It enables you to take a more human-centered approach to problem-solving and to work toward bringing your ideas to life.