Wireframes, documents, sketches… companies and programmers use different methods to convey the look & feel of a future website or app. But the “big picture” is hard to imagine with just a document or a mere sketch, and this often ends up in communication problems, delays or even the project being cancelled.
But this realm is changing quickly. Indeed, there are now new tools available that offer to create, visualize and simulate the final user interface of a future app without coding.
For a long time, web design and app creation used different ways to create and adjust requirements and design, trying to look as much as possible to the actual final design. At first, simple tools like pen and paper were enough to show a general idea of an app, using arrows and all type of diagrams to reflect interactions and the information architecture. But at the same time as apps were becoming more interactive, the systems to represent these future apps also grew in complexity.
From wireframe to prototype
With the help of Photoshop or even PowerPoint, some were able to create visual images with detailed specifications. These were the late mockups. And only then did they add interactivity.
However with the coming of the web 2.0, interactivity and data dynamism became an essential part of the design process. Content generated through database and RIA now requires more interactive wireframes and prototypes. From content to user actions and interactions (login, edit, delete), the user experience has to be thought thoroughly and the look and feel has to be as close to reality as possible. Moreover, apps and websites have to be thought and develop for a wide range of terminals, from PC, to Mac, iPhone and iPad… Mockups and static wireframes are not enough anymore.
Hence new applications appeared to help interaction designer to build the best user experience possible.
Advantages of prototypes
The benefits of using this kind of apps are pretty obvious as the scope of users grows steadily and offers get more sophisticated. Indeed, the benefits are many:
- Save time in the development process, simplifying the revision process and integrating final users in the process, thus ensuring the right use of the final product.
- Save money during the elaboration of the app up to 30%.
- Early detection of issues and limitations thus easing changes in requirements and specifications.
- Better definition of user requirements. This tools offer the possibility to carry out user tests using the interactive prototype as if it was the real thing.
- Better communication between all developers and non-IT literate Business professionals all along the production process so that everybody can work in-sync.
- Remote user tests to insure the best user experience before even developing the final app.
- Visualization of changes and keep track of the design evolution all along the production process.
- Match business rules with user experience.
A changing realm
According to a study by the Standish Group in 2009, only 32% of application development projects end successfully (on time, with the required features and without extra cost in the budget). The investigation also shows that 44% experience delays, extra cost or fewer features than planned. The other 24% are cancelled projects. These data shows the increasing importance of having well-planned project before hand.
Now innovation in the field of prototyping changes the way IT projects are carried out.