While the term “prototype” is often used by itself to represent your basic prototypes, there are actually several subcategories that prototypes can fall into, depending on both the industry you’re referring to and the type of subcategory. From rapid prototypes to mockups and wireframes, here are three types of prototypes and when to use them.
Why a Prototype?
Why do designers use prototypes in the first place? Prototyping allows you to test your designs for functionality and aesthetic value before the final release of the product. Using a prototype, you can determine whether or not your design is ready for implementation or if it’s in need of further changes.
Prototyping also allows the team to determine both the cost of further prototyping and the production of the final product. With a good prototype, you’ll be able to better plan your budget for the final release, and gain valuable insight into the usefulness of your software, website, or app from a user perspective.
Remember that a prototype is usually the last step before the introduction of your final design, and therefore must be relatively free of errors/bugs before it’s presented to stakeholders or potential users. If your users identify any issues, be sure to address them quickly!
1. Rapid Prototypes
When you’ve got a deadline to meet, rapid prototyping is exactly what your team needs to meet it with a working demonstration of the product. With lower costs, rapid prototyping can help mitigate the cost of prototyping and create a working design in a short time frame.
Rapid prototypes allow designers to explore concepts quickly and see them brought to life with greater efficiency. This technique is especially useful in the areas of manufacturing, where creating a working prototype can become costly in both time and money.
In terms of UX in web or app design, rapid prototyping allows for an interactive approach to the development process, providing a mockup of the project before it’s put into production. This can be presented to stakeholders or even tested on prospective users to get a better idea of what changes or improvements should be made.
For a successful rapid prototype, the team must understand the requirements of the project. This can be achieved by using wireframe software to provide a solid foundation from which to create prototypes, uniting the team under one blueprint and streamlining the overall design process for everyone.
Wireframes usually lead to prototypes, but for the purpose of this article, we’re going to list a wireframe as a type of prototype. In terms of prototyping, a good wireframe can act as a blueprint and early prototype for design projects; containing the elements of the final design as well as conceptual ideas.
Wireframes are probably the most beneficial tools a design team can have in their arsenal. A good wireframe can mean the difference between a well-planned (and therefore efficient) project and one that feels more “thrown together” so to speak. Wireframes allow the designers to explore conceptual ideas and create a prototype of how the final product is supposed to look and feel.
The best wireframe software is complete with conceptual, wireframe, and prototyping tools, taking designs from blueprint to working prototype within one software program. Wireframes create an opportunity for clients and team members alike to provide feedback on your design, allowing for more effective prototypes and final products.
There are many wireframe tools available on the web, and with cloud-based software, you can be sure your designs are stored safely and can be easily shared with both clients and your design team. In fact, many wireframe tools allow for simultaneous user edits, allowing the team to complete projects quicker and more efficiently within the same software.
If you’ve never used a wireframe for your designs, here’s a quick guide on creating one. You don’t need an overly complex wireframe or high-end tools to create an effective wireframe; it’s simply a blueprint and can be created and edited with nothing more than a pen and paper.
A mock-up is a visual representation of the final product; giving clients and users an idea of how your design will look upon completion. The mock-up will have no features and serve no function other than to show potential users or stakeholders the aesthetics of the project.
If you’re looking for a quick way to show off the design or even give your developers something to work with, a mock-up is a quick way to do so. Mock-ups can also be used to promote your product before its final launch, gathering feedback from potential users in order to better tailor the aesthetics of your design to meet their preferences. They’re the ones who will be using the software, after all.
While functionality should be your main concern for creating designs, don’t forget the aesthetics! How users see your software is also important in terms of usability, as a pleasing aesthetic design can attract new users and looks great in advertisements and marketing campaigns.
Prototyping can take your conceptual designs to the next level, allowing for user testing and a functioning product to present to your stakeholders before your final product is released. Be sure to fix any mistakes in your prototypes, and use your prototypes to identify issues in the design process for a more streamlined experience the next time around.