Avoid wasting time in the design process by building your designs and testing and validating them with prototypes. Read on to find out how!
More and more of us are jumping on the Prototyping band wagon because we know that it’s fast becoming one of the essential tools for defining problems, building solutions and improving the user experience of our products and services. Creating a successful website or mobile application is not limited to designing attractive landing pages, or building a responsive design website: it requires identifying the problem and visualizing and defining the solution. We all know the feeling of investing too much time in tackling a problem, and understand the frustration of making unnecessary mistakes. Let’s see how prototyping can help us to translate our ideas into meaningful solutions to improve UX.
Prototyping it right and put the user first
So, you know all the content on your site – after all your wrote it – and you know exactly where to find it—because you mapped out the user flow with a prototype beforehand. You know your site by heart, and you’ll never get lost. Great! But is the user – a total stranger to your website – going to be able to navigate it? As always, your design should be user-centered, i.e. centered around the user. Each design decision should be determined by the needs of the end-users, and then revised through re-building, testing and learning. Remember that not everyone will have landed on your website from the homepage, and it’s important to explain to them what your site is about, and what to do when they get there.
Prototyping can help you answer fundamental questions like:
- how could this system work?
- how could the user interact with this interface?
User-centered innovation is more than just including users in the prototyping process and making decisions based on what we think they might need. With any project, without properly defining goals we waste time and resources. For instance, we need to make navigation enjoyable as well as useful. Prototyping allows you to help refine your design, such as leaving hints like breadcrumbs to help the user find their way around. With breadcrumb navigation, users can keep track of their current location within a website or app, link back to the parent pages of the current selection, or to previous pages to get to their current location.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it: a great prototyping motto!
Maybe you’ve got a unique idea for a navigation model, direction or structure. Perhaps it’s going to be a breakthrough, but maybe, just maybe, it’ll be a big flop. There’s a reason that most of today’s sites have two or three columns – the main one the biggest – and a large header with the navigation at the top: it’s become a standard, and everyone is used to this structure. If you must create something different, it has to be great. Standards exist for a reason, so let’s ensure that the things we design and build are enjoyable and usable, rather than just producing something for the sake of it.
One of the first areas where prototyping can benefit a project is in the initial brainstorming and concept phase: you know what your key design challenges are, but not necessarily what the design solutions are. Sketching on paper before working up to the initial wireframe screen can be a great way to wrap your head around the initial plans. But don’t spend too long on that! Make sure you work the interaction into your designs early enough for to give your clients and users a life-like replica to test it out before coding.
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Avoid blind spots with prototypes
Think the user is going look at – and enjoy – that beautiful, glossy banner in the center of the page? Oops! Sorry, they won’t. Sometimes designers and clients become so attached to the initial design components that they’re convinced they’re on the right path: this kind of thinking happens more often than it should. But innovation doesn’t happen like this. Prototyping throughout the project cycle can help you solve design problems noted from user testing or to generate ideas for new features. What’s more, testing at the prototyping phase can uncover some of the Dos and Don’ts at the early stages of the design process, and help you even out the kinks.
As you create things, think about the relations you’re building between previously unconnected points and increase the range of possibilities that a user can comprehend. Constantly testing and innovating (‘release early, release often’) allows you to get the best intelligence from your prospective users as they become more familiar with the world of opportunities in front of them. Being able to test your website or mobile app before coding means that you can save time as well as properly understand the audience you’re targeting. Usability testing tools that are integrated into your prototyping tool make it even easier to perform user research, without having to jump to another software. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Prototyping for effective collaboration
In any project, transparency and cooperation are fundamental in order to boost productivity and efficiency. Prototyping can be an excellent way to achieve effective collaboration across multiple teams because it stems from a process of bringing people together, discussing a problem and moving towards solutions. But what’s collaboration without features that the user will love? User experience can bring your product’s features to life.
Prototyping leads to innovation. It allows you to involve the end user in the design process, and it helps to increase communication between the teams working on the product. Choose a tool that allows you to customize and personalize your designs, whilst creating a unified team at the same time. Create custom UI assets that will really allow you to get creative, as well as bring the whole team together on one collaborative platform.
If user experience is important to your design – which it should be – you need to include prototyping in the process. Download Justinmind today and check out all the tools you need to identify your project’s problems, define solutions and improve user experience in one comprehensive prototyping platform.