If you're designing a product or service, it's essential to put your ideas in front of users and get feedback as early as possible. Prototyping tools are a great way to do this. They allow you to test out your design in a low-fidelity, or rough, form before investing time and money into building the real thing. A quick mockup can help you get feedback from stakeholders faster than waiting for code or screens to be built from scratch. Prototyping tools also let you focus on what matters most: user experience (UX). Good UX can make all the difference between an engaging experience and one that leads users straight back out again for something easier—like their phone!
Choose the right prototyping tool
How do you know you've found the right tool? You'll know because it will be easy to use, easy to integrate into your existing workflow, easy to share with others, and easy to collaborate on.
Here are some questions that can help guide your evaluation:
- How difficult is it to learn how this tool works?
- Is there a learning curve associated with using this product? If so, how long does the learning curve last?
- Does this product integrate well with other tools I use (like my IDE)?
- Can I easily share prototypes and workflows online through my browser or mobile device—and do they look good across multiple platforms (iOS/Android/Windows Mobile/etc.)
Design your prototype first
Before you start building your prototype, it's important to sketch and wireframe first. We recommend going through this process with the following steps:
- Identify the problem/challenge—what do you want to learn from users? What do they need to do in order to resolve their problem or achieve their goal?
- Sketch out user flows—this can be done on paper or using a whiteboard, whichever works best for you or the team. Sketching is great because it allows everyone on the team (or even better, potential users!) to participate in identifying how best to solve a problem. It also helps clarify what needs fixing by revealing gaps between where people are now and where they would like to go.
- Using wireframes as guides during prototyping—while building prototypes based off of sketches can be fun and fast, having a clear idea of what needs testing before getting started is key!
Work on your prototype alone or with your team
You can work on a prototype alone or with your team. If you work with your team, you can share the prototype and discuss it. If you work alone, you can get feedback from others.
- Working alone will allow you to iterate faster because there are fewer people involved, but working in groups allows for more creativity and discussion. If you’re working alone, it can be hard to get the feedback that a prototype needs. You might need to create several versions before people start giving you good feedback. It’s also important to remember that no matter how many prototypes you make, your users will still have a hard time explaining what they want when it comes down to it.
A/B test your design's most important elements
As you continue to test different designs, you might find one version works better than another. But how do you know which of those two versions is actually the best?
A/B testing will tell you exactly that. A/B testing compares two versions of a single element on a page (like two different headlines or two different images) and lets you measure their results against each other. It's an especially useful tool when trying to figure out whether your design is working—and which parts are really driving people toward action.
You can usually set this up by using a tool; they provide easy ways to set up A/B tests without having any coding knowledge at all. Just make sure that in addition to the original control group (the original version), there's also another control group: if either variation only affects half of your audience, then it'll be impossible for you to tell which one worked better since half of your users still saw one version while the other half saw another!
Make sure your prototype has a simple UI design
Let's talk about the importance of user experience (UX) design. While you may be excited to show off your new and improved app, it's critical that you don't get so caught up that you lose sight of the end user: the people who will use it on a daily basis.
The best way to avoid this mistake is by making sure your prototypes have a simple UI design. Here are some tips:
- Don't use fancy fonts or animations; they're not necessary in a prototype and can actually make things difficult to read and understand
- Don't use too many colors; choose one or two neutral colors for buttons, labels and backgrounds
- Don't use too many buttons; keep all of your options within easy reach of each other
Iterate often during testing
Iteration is a crucial part of the product development process, and prototyping tools can help you do it more effectively. It’s important to test your prototypes with real users so that you can get feedback and make changes before going live with your final product.
Make sure that you test with people from all demographics: not just people who are familiar with your brand or product, but also those who don’t use it regularly, and even some who don’t know about it at all.
After testing the prototype, review user feedback carefully to determine what needs to be changed in order for the prototype to be successful.
Create prototypes of different fidelity levels
Low-fidelity prototypes are best for getting feedback early and can be created quickly. They show the basic structure and flow of the product, but don’t reflect the look and feel of your final product. These are great for getting initial feedback from users about what they want out of a new product, or for testing out new ideas with customers. High-fidelity prototypes have all the bells and whistles of your final product, including colors, fonts, animations and transitions. They can also include more complex interactions that are not possible with low-fidelity prototypes such as drag & drop or multi-step processes like checkout flows or registration forms.
While high fidelity prototypes take much longer to create than low fidelity ones because they require many more design iterations to get right (and even then may still end up needing some tweaks), they give you much better insights into how your users will interact with what you're building at launch day both in terms of functionality as well as usability issues like text size/color contrast ratio etc.
Using the right prototyping tool is only half the battle. The other half is how you use it.
Prototyping is a powerful tool in the design process, but it’s only effective if you use it correctly. A prototype can be as good, or even better than the final product—if you know how to use it properly. Here are some tips on making sure that all of your prototypes are ready for prime time:
- The right prototyping tool is only half the battle. The other half is how you use it. If you don’t have a good understanding of how users interact with different types of interfaces and tools, then there's no way that what you build will match their needs in any meaningful way.
- Prototype with a specific goal in mind before designing anything from scratch: there's no point investing time into making intricate mockups if they're not going towards something concrete like an MVP or proof-of-concept document that other stakeholders need access to during their daily workflow!
Prototyping tools can be an incredibly helpful tool for creating the best product possible. However, this is only true if you use them correctly. By following these tips, you'll be able to create prototypes that are easy to test and iterate on while still giving you all of the benefits of using a prototyping tool in the first place (like being able to share your ideas with others).