When developing a product or service you can incur in serious costs and very large hours of work. And then you finally discover that the market wants a different taste of your product... That is a really expensive lesson to learn. But what if you had built a prototype and came to the same conclusions, that would have been much cheaper and less time consuming process.
What is prototyping?
Prototyping is the process of accelerating the procedure of tuning the product or service in a cheap and fast way, and is indispensable to do product testing. Prototyping can help us identify and solve design problems very early on.
When you prototype, what you need to ask yourself is what do you want to test. Depending on it, you can use one of these two types of prototypes:
- Low Fidelity Prototyping, which is focused on interactivity,
- High Fidelity Prototyping, which is focused on visual design.
Low Fidelity Prototyping - pros and cons
When we think about this type of prototype, the best and most basic example we can give you is a paper sketch, but there are also others, like wireframes, storyboards. When it comes to advantages, Low Fidelity Prototyping has these six:
- Anyone can do it,
- Focused on Data and Content,
- Collaborative process / Social Interaction,
- No technical restrictions,
- Faster method,
- Low cost.
But, like in everything, there are some disadvantages:
- Not detailed oriented,
- Comprehensive paper prototypes are difficult,
- Collaboration implies physical proximity.
High Fidelity Prototyping - pros and cons
High fidelity prototyping are meant to test details, like design details, specific wording. HTML/CSS/JS, Illustrator and Powerpoint are three of the most well-know methods to do these kind of prototype. High fidelity Prototyping, has the following advantages:
- Focus on detail,
- Near real experiment,
- They are precise.
But, like in everything, there are some disadvantages:
- It creates the expectation that the project is near finished,
- Requires high level of skill,
- Time consuming.
Prototyping tools are meant to facilitate the making of a prototype and can be very valuable in speeding up the process.There are three types of prototyping tools:
- Paper Resources.
In the following paragraphs we will give examples of each kind so you can find the one that fits your purpose better.
Here we give you some examples of Local Tools:
- Flow - Powerpoint, Keynote - High Fidelity Prototyping Tools
- Images - Gimp, Illustrator, Photoshop - Hight Fidelity Prototyping Tools
- Wiretypes - MS Visio, OmniGraffle- Low Fidelity Prototyping Tools
- Adobe Fireworks - High Fidelity Prototyping Tool
- Axure- Low Fidelity Prototyping Tool
- Balsamiq: mockups and wireframes - Low Fidelity Protoyping Tool
- Justinmind - Low Fidelity Prototyping Tool
- Antetype- High Fidelity Prototyping Tool
- Top end & comprehensive: iRise- Low Fidelity Prototyping Tool
There are also many online tools available for you to prototype:
- moqups.com- Hight Fidelity Prototyping Tool
- Fluid: focused on Mobiles and tablets - Low Fidelity Prototyping Tool
- HotGloo: Good for responsive design, with base templates - Low Fidelity Prototyping Tool
- Notism: Tool for collaboration - High Fidelity Prototyping Tool
- Protoshare: bootstrap built in templates - High Fidelity Prototyping Tool
- UXpin: Lots of collaboration and goes from mockups - High Fidelity PrototypingTool
- Invision: Wireframe collaboration with good pricing - Low Fidelity Prototyping Tool
- Proto.io: Mobile in mind, lots of templates - High Fidelity Prototyping Tool
Paper prototype resources
Last but not least, we provide you a list with some good paper prototype resources, all of these are low fidelity prototypes:
- UiStencils.com: Ui resources
- Sneakpeakit: Canvas and sheets (free)
- appssketchbook.com: sketchbooks
- Pixeden: Wireframe stencil with UI elements and Icons
- Webalys: Symbols in ilustrator
- Dessky: Webdesign and wireframming kit
- Medialoot: UI elements
Prototyping testing accelerates the iteration process involved in fine tuning a Product or Service. Because prototyping is more agile than developing the product itself, it allows you to change quickly, test and get results and keep testing it until you have achieved a product that is valued and by your customer.
Facilitator, tester and observer
In order to do proper group testing and improve the quality of the feedback , you need three people:
- The Facilitator - someone that sets goals for the testing sessions, explains how the process works and guides the users through the tests,
- The Tester - should be someone that represents your target audience and will test your product,
- The Observer - someone that is a part of the evaluation process and that, during the process will observe, report and take notes. He should not intervene in the test in any point in time and should remain silent and intervene as litle as possible in the process.
You may feel inclined to do 2 or 3 of the roles mentioned above. If you do so, know that you will be affecting the quality of the test.
Prototyping in services
Some say that services cannot be prototyped at all. But that is not true. Services may have several components that cannot be tested, but you can test deliverables, processes and sometimes experiences:
- Reports - From report templates, bill of services, flowcharts, excel files, every single paper or file you exchange with your customer is deemed to be prototyped, tested and tuned.
- Processed - From IVR, to automatic emails, to a sales process, all can be tested, prototyped and fine tuned.
- Experiences - One of the best way to test your service is by creating an experience as a prototype, for example, create a space where it really seems you’re having dinner at a restaurant, with waiters, background music, cosy furniture, etc.
Prototyping services can require a bit more imagination, but they are definitely testable.
In conclusion, prototyping is essential to save some time when it comes to create a product or service. You should never forget that there are two types of prototype: Low and High Fidelity. Each of them has its pros and cons, so you should chose the one that fits your startup’s prototyping stage better. Make sure to use some kind of ,prototyping tool. they can help you a ton. The last part, is the testing off course. And for that you need a facilitator, a tester and an observer. And if you are building a service, do not stress, you can do it.