Benefits of prototyping
Prototypes provide a concrete representation of a concept or design, allowing for an early visualisation of the final product. This offers numerous advantages, including the opportunity for design teams to utilise the prototype for user testing and feedback collection. This invaluable input aids in identifying usability issues and gaining insights for refinement. Additionally, prototyping proves highly effective in visualising complex systems or products, simplifying intricate processes, and enhancing their comprehensibility, which, in turn, facilitates improvements.
Better user experience
A prevalent issue in digital product design is the tendency for design teams to emphasise a product’s visual aesthetics over its functionality, particularly in the initial design phases when the product’s fundamental elements are still taking shape. However, prototyping naturally guides design teams away from this compartmentalised thinking, fostering a more holistic approach that centres on user interaction. This shift occurs because, during the prototyping phase, design teams are encouraged to incorporate interactive elements, leading them to consider how users will engage with the product. The outcome is a product in which considerations about its usage inform the entire design process, resulting in an improved user experience and greater accessibility for all users.
Cost savings and efficiency gains
Prototyping empowers design teams to detect and tackle necessary changes early in the product development process, a cost-effective approach compared to later-stage adjustments. Additionally, it expedites the product development cycle by facilitating swift testing and enhancement of concepts and designs. Consequently, this acceleration reduces time-to-market, as teams can focus less on deliberation and more on using prototypes to explore different paths and refine their product.
Consequences of not prototyping
Potentially missed features
As mentioned earlier, prototyping compels designers to engage with a basic version of a product concept, making it easier to identify potentially overlooked features and functionalities for inclusion. Failing to prototype raises the risk of design teams advancing a product through development without realising the absence of a critical element. When this realisation occurs later in the process, it results in a more advanced development stage and incurs additional time and cost for rectification.
Considering that 16% of the global population lives with some form of disability, it’s imperative to recognise that your product will be used by individuals who depend on it to meet accessibility standards. Neglecting these standards not only risks alienating users but also opens the door to potential legal issues. Prototyping and directly testing user experiences with a diverse range of individuals are indispensable for a product’s success. Without this approach, design teams may struggle to conduct essential accessibility testing, encompassing critical factors like colour contrast, keyboard navigation, and text resizing, all of which are vital for ensuring accessibility across a variety of use cases and scenarios.
Not knowing device constraints
Whether you’re crafting designs for a smartphone, tablet, or television, direct interaction with a product on a physical screen equips design teams to engage with it from a user’s perspective, conduct thorough feature testing, and gain insights into its behaviour. Testing a prototype on the intended devices also facilitates the discovery of any inherent constraints. Without the prototyping process, these limitations might remain hidden until a user’s actual interaction, potentially impeding their overall experience.