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A prototype will help you test ideas without building them.
In the days before digital, agencies and clients used to make animatics to test TV script ideas. These were the prototypes of the day.
In our agile age, and with the array tools available, ideas of any description can be prototyped. Whether a desktop or mobile app it’s a fast and cost-effective way to test assumptions, validate a hypothesis or road test flows.
What is a prototype?
Reduce risk and test effectiveness
A prototype is a quick and cheap way to simulate a product experience in order to reduce risks. Prototypes can be really close to the final product with all of the features that will be included when the product is launched. This helps refine flows and experience without building the product.
Rapid prototyping refers to techniques used to simulate the part of the experience or the whole experience of using the software. In most cases, these techniques involve no coding in order to optimize speed and minimize cost. The goal is still to reduce risks — in this case, having to do with the product’s efficiency and effectiveness.
Why is this useful?
Proof of concept and testing
A prototype provides great value when testing the experience when using a product. Different testers will provide important input on areas to refine and the value they get out of the experience. Effectiveness and efficiency are the key while refining a prototype.
Once a prototype is finished it can also help the idea creators to explain their concept. Nothing is better than showing exactly how the product will work and look like.
How do you start?
What problem are you solving?
Before we even start working on any prototype we first need to understand the problem you are trying to solve. Are you trying to solve a pain point? Are you trying to add more value to an everyday experience? Every prototype needs to have an intention as a starting point. We will then go into deeper questions such as who is this product for? When will it be used? How often?
All these questions will help solve the case for to build a foundation.
The core functionality
Determining the main features
Once we have a better idea of the background, we can start thinking of the main features the prototype should have. The team will all have different ideas on how to approach this features so we encourage a collaborative effort to get the best ideas out. We would then identify the key flows we want the prototype to have. This flows will help design the product in a more efficient.
Building the prototype
Focus on the core
We always recommend keeping focused on our intention a prototype should not deviate from that. After the flows where selected we will flush out the entire experience for those flows. This keeps the exercise contained and focused. If we want to test a key flow, we design for that experience and forget about the secondary sections such as login or admin features. On other occasions we might only want to test the functionality of the admin section.
It all depends on what we want to accomplish.
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