Prototyping is Good for User Experience

By Summer Zhang

Prototype may aptly be defined as an original and working model of a new object and it can also be a new form of the existing product. It is designed such that it may serve as a standard to be referred later. Prototype can take a number of different forms such as it can be a very initial form of a brainstormed idea or it may be a full-scale model of the final product. Additionally, in  both the cases, the purpose of developing a prototype are same, which is to have a firm understanding about the product and also to weight different alternatives about it (Curtis & Vertelney, 1990). 

There are a number of different ways to categorize a prototype. Following are some of the aspects that are considerer while making classification of diverse prototype forms.

  • Prototype can be categorized based on the features, that is, determining what number of features is likely to have in any particular product.
  • They can also be classified based on their functionality.
  • Interaction can also serve as one important parameter, that is, to determine the level of similarity of  interaction with the prototype and with the actual product.

In addition to this, a low fidelity prototype is the one which is considered to be comprising on at least one of the parameters discussed above. Quite often, it has been observed that they have somewhat restricted functionality or interaction as compared to the high fidelity prototypes.  On the other hand, high fidelity prototypes are the one that are found to be completely fluent in terms of functionality, interactivity, design and features. This type of prototypes is often used in the exploration and in gaining an understanding of the final feel of the actual product (Farnum, 2002)

There are a number of different advantages associated with prototyping. Some of these are briefly discussed in the following lines. First, a working prototype of the actual product aims to reduce the risks and production cost that are associated to it. This is due to the reason that by making a prototype it may be estimated as to what are the approached that should do not work out and that are needed to be eliminated while designing the final product. Second, by making a prototype of the actual product, it may be assured that the technical errors that might come in the designing of the actual problem are reduced efficiently. All the foreseen and as well as unforeseen errors can be minimized and can be eliminated completely. In addition, quite a many times, it has been observed that the engineers that are involved in the designing of any particular product have a number of different opinion and concerns regarding the workability and efficiency of the product. Through prototyping, various models of the same product can be formed and the efficiency of the resultant models can be compared to choose the best one as the final product (Hix & Hartson, 1993)

It has been observed that despite of a number of different benefits of prototyping, there are certain pitfalls that are associated with the entire prototyping process. It may not be correct to term them as disadvantages rather they are just certain aspects that are needed to be avoided while making planning of careful prototyping.

  • All the personnel that are involved in the prototyping process must be taken on board so as to avoid any sort of misunderstandings amidst the designing phase.
  • One of the hurdles to the effective formation of prototypes may be that the management principles that are established already might not incorporate prototyping.
  • Dubious prototypes, that is, the ones that cannot be implemented because sufficient resources that are required to materialize the design are not available.
  • There might also be certain complications related to the trap of over design.

It has been observed that prototyping can be done at different phases in the entire design cycle of the product. It depends on the purpose of the prototype. High fidelity prototyped are the ones that are usually sued in the latter half of the production cycle for the purpose of testing and checking the usability of the designed product. On the contrary, low fidelity prototypes are the ones that are used in the initial stages of the design cycle of the products. Additionally, these prototypes make representations that are considered to be deviated from the final GUI.

These are actually the drawings that include the overall look of the interface. Through designing the interface, the design team may get the idea about the shared representation. These interface drawings can be made readily if the engineers are efficient and self-motivated and also they can be drawn hardly with any costs. They are also found to be effective in communicating ideas and opinions within the group. Moreover, it is important that the drawings are made as soon as the tasks demand the supporting interface for it.

Storyboard are considered to be a comprehensive series of sketches that are needed for knowing how should a user progress through some particular project. It has also been observed that a number of different scenarios are associated with it and therefore, they are often used with them. Moreover, a storyboard is different from that of the static drawings in a way that the former has more details involved in it. An effective storyboard is the one that has all the feedback that is needed to be received by the user. This include different audio clues, visible presentation and tactile formations.

Flipbooks are found to be an organized bundle of individual images that give the feel of movement when they are flipped speedily. It is important that flipbooks are made first, that is, before the formation of other type of animations. More aptly, they should be made before the different graphical layouts such as slides of powerpoint and different types of flash mockups.

Additionally, it has also been observed that a number of different types of prototypes are formed on paper. Diverse types of interactions and reactions are found to be created on paper so that they may be applied for formal simulation later. In order to be certain about the that interaction associated to the prototype, it is necessary that they are built in the early phase of the design style (Muller, 1991).

In conclusion, from the above discussion, it is evident that the process of prototyping is extremely useful and in order to design a product that is free of operational errors and that is also fluent in terms of productivity, it is important that before designing the final product, effective prototypes of the original design are made. Due to this, the overall operational costs of the products can also be fairly reduced if keen consideration is given on the type of prototype that is suitable for any particular designing phase.

References

Curtis, G., and Vertelney, L., (1990), Storyboards and Sketch Prototypes for Rapid Interface Visualization. CHI Tutorial Material

Farnum, C., (2002), What an IA Should Know About Prototypes for User Testing

Hix D., and Hartson, H., R., (1993), Developing User Interfaces, chapter 9 – Rapid Prototyping of Interaction Design, Wiley Professional Computing, New York, NY, USA

Maulsb, D., Greenberg, S., and Mander, R., (1993), Prototyping an Intelligent Agent through Wizard of Oz. In Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, ACM Press.

Muller, M. J., (1991), Pictive – An Exploration in Participatory Design. In Proceedings of the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, ACM Press.

Verplank, W., Fulton, J., Black, A. and Moggridge, W. (1993), Observation and invention: The use of scenarios in interaction design, ACM Press.