Whether you are dealing with a long, rather repetitive design process or a fast-paced prototyping project, understanding the various prototyping forms and, more importantly, what each does for your product is super beneficial

Prototypes have and will continue to be the user experience designer’s best friends. There are so many benefits to designers, clients, users, and pretty much anyone involved that you can read more about here.

In order to reap these fantastic benefits, you have to do it right. This means that you need to know what to expect from each prototype form and which one is best for your goals.

But first, let’s start with a bit of general knowledge.

WHAT ARE WEB AND MOBILE APP PROTOTYPES?

Prototypes are a close representation of what a product’s final output would look like, usually without the use of code. They include the majority of the final user-interface design and interaction that will be present in the finalized product.

They’re a great technique for developing any digital product because they allow us to experiment and test assumptions without worrying about them turning into costly mistakes later on. Prototypes are also a great method to get everyone on the same page about functionality, interaction, and UI design.

Now, let’s get into the different forms of prototypes and what each one can do for you.

Paper Prototypes

Paper prototyping is a quick and simple method of showing a product concept using nothing more than a pen and paper. It’s also the most cost-effective way to prototype.

You can draw out the primary screen layout and fundamental features and forms using paper prototyping. You can make multiple sheets of paper to represent the various screens.

You can sit down with users and give them tasks to do while assuming that what they are seeing on paper is a real app or website with paper prototypes. If it’s a website, they can use a pen as a mouse, and if it’s a mobile app, they can use their finger. When users press a button, the sheet is replaced with the next screen that the button will take them to.

When Is Paper Prototyping Best?

It’s probably easy for you to understand paper prototypes’ limitations in things like testing high-fidelity graphics, usability, and gut reactions. In addition, even some elements like navigation and information architecture seem out of bounds. So, if you are looking for a complex prototyping solution, this is not the way to go.

With all that in mind, paper prototyping is ideal for early concept development. It’s significantly better suited for experimenting with new ideas than more elaborate digital prototypes because of its speed, ease, and simplicity, not to mention automatic documentation. If you are in the early stages and still trying to figure out the main concepts of your product, paper prototyping is a great start.

Paper prototypes are suitable for:

  • Brainstorming meetings and sessions
  • Early, light usability testing

Paper prototypes become less effective as you progress through the design process. The more you understand your goals and the message you’re communicating through your product, the more complex the solution your product will need.

Low-fidelity Prototypes

A low-fidelity prototype is essentially a stripped-down version of the final product. It usually includes the following:

  • Element outlines
  • Screen layouts
  • Basic clickability and navigation
  • Spacing, positioning, and sizing of elements

The purpose of keeping things simple at this stage is to concentrate the focus on the most basic screen layouts, information architecture (IA), and navigation. This makes it easier to visualize the product’s essential operation without being distracted by unnecessary details. Before any advanced interaction or UI design is introduced, it’s also useful for early user testing and securing critical stakeholder buy-in.

When Is Low-fidelity Prototyping Best?

Low-fidelity prototypes can be your savior when you have many ideas but aren’t sure how to execute them. Low-fidelity prototypes are great when you have many options that you need to test quickly and cheaply.

If you need quick feedback on a concept idea or flow and value communication with your team and clients, low-fidelity prototypes are the way to go.

High-fidelity Prototypes

You should be close to having designed everything but the completed product with a high-fidelity prototype. All of the layouts, spacing, element positioning, and navigation of the low-fi prototype will be present in high-fidelity prototypes, but with many more details.

High-fidelity prototypes can usually be identified from the following aspects:

Advanced UI design

  • Interaction
  • Data visualization
  • Real content

A few examples are page scrolling, mouse over micro-interactions for a website prototype, or an icon-changing color when tapped on a smartphone prototype. Onscreen navigation between dynamic tabs and in accordion menus, as well as parallax scrolling, are examples of other interactions.

High-fidelity prototypes will also include more advanced elements, colors, unique fonts, high-resolution photos, and real content. They’re also more likely to demonstrate data visualization’s capability, which we’ll go over in more detail later.

When Is High-fidelity Prototyping Best?

The best time to use high-fidelity prototypes is when:

  • You have visual designs of the product
  • There is a clear idea about interactive elements and can prototype them
  • You want to test UI elements, color scheme, or copy details
  • You want to test transitions and animations on users and their behavior

The main objective of interactive prototypes is to use them in usability testing so that target users can validate the product. It is critical to test your product before releasing it to the market in order to anticipate any problems or failures. You can get the best feedback with a prototype that’s as close to the final product will be in terms of detail and functionality.

FINDING THE RIGHT FIDELITY

One of the most common prototyping errors is prototyping at the improper quality. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, unfortunately. Instead, you should assess it based on each case separately.

Low-fidelity prototypes may not be the best choice for speed and flexibility. However, they are a good option if you’re currently working with client feedback and want to collect more data on specific areas.

WHY DOES ALL OF THIS MATTER?

Prototyping helps you to test whether your design (or revisions) operate as planned before releasing them into the wild and into the hands of your users.

You want to make sure that a product functions as planned before releasing it to the public. For example, can it solve the user’s problem in the way it was intended? Is it simple to use and understand? Ideally, you’ll figure out these details before spending time and money on the final product.

At New target, we work with Adobe XD to make our interactive prototyping and overall design process the best it can be. We ensure that we reach success with all of our clients by providing the best experience for theirs. No matter where you are in the design process, we can help. Contact us today!

With offices in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles, Ca., New Target provides digital strategy, digital marketing, web design, web development, branding, website hosting, and creative services for prominent nonprofits, companies, and government.