What do a museum building and an app or website have in common? Very simple: In the beginning there is a vision. This is realized step by step with prototyping. In this blog post, I will tell you how this works.
Without an idea there is no campaign, no product, no service. But many visions fail early on. The challenge is to make this vision tangible and understandable. This is a challenge even for the most renowned specialists in the world. For example for the architect and designer Frank Gehry. He was commissioned by billionaire Bernard Arnault to create an "extraordinary place for art and culture". Using prototyping, Gehry developed the "glass cloud" - the building of the Fondation Louis Vuitton. What does this have to do with the digital world? Here too, prototypes are essential for the development of products and services.
In general, prototyping is understood as the approach to a product or service. In this method, the desired properties of the product are checked with low-cost, inexpensive advance copies. The method has its roots mainly in architecture and industry.
Prototypes turn abstract thoughts into concrete, presentable concepts. In short: prototyping is the way to create ideas you can touch. The effort is comparatively low and the advantages are obvious. If you don't have to explain your ideas for a long time, decisions can be made more quickly and misunderstandings can be avoided. Any change requests from the client can be implemented at an early stage. This saves time and money, which are usually tight in projects. Since prototypes in the digital field are created in cooperation with the client, a better working relationship with the customer is often a positive side effect.
Before the actual prototyping begins, some preliminary work is necessary. First of all, the team needs all available details of the project:
If the vision is very unspecific, interviews with various people on the client side - e.g. customer advisors, marketing managers, etc. - provide information about the actual goals. This is how the important issues of a digital solution crystallize. A prototype can be created for each topic.
All the information collected in advance flows into a storyboard containing 15 to 20 pictures. The storyboard forms possible screens and touchpoints as well as the context of the service or product.
Ideally, 5-8 people form the core team. This should critically analyze the prototype from three perspectives - namely business, user and technology. The team needs the following key roles in any case:
As with other projects, the same applies in the digital context: the prototypes become more and more accurate during the process with regard to their similarity to the final product. This includes aspects such as font, color scheme and other branding details. This similarity is also known as fidelity. A distinction is made between the following stages:
Low-fidelity includes the so-called solution sketch. This is the first prototype. It is supposed to tell a story and is often first recorded on paper. Each participant creates his own Solution Sketch, which is kept relatively simple. The team then comes together to decide on the prototypes. Everyone has the chance to look at all the prototypes in peace and quiet. The participants mark questions and aspects that they find particularly exciting. These highlights are very helpful in finding solutions: The best aspects can be easily transferred to the next stage or the next prototype. All steps and necessary screens are recorded in a new storyboard.
Before creating the next prototype, the team decides on suitable tools (e.g. Figma or Sketch, more examples follow below). Another element of the mid-fidelity stage is the time boxing: Resources and planned content are based on the time still available. Afterwards, the next prototype is built together on the PC. Then the user test and/or stakeholder presentation can be carried out. During the user test, cameras record the facial expressionsof the test subjects - and thus reveal their emotions. It is best if other team members evaluate them live in a separate room. Ultimately, all evaluations flow into a large matrix with test persons and screens. This is then analysed to identify potential for improvement.
In the final step, the participating designers adapt style guides and branding. Based on the results of the user tests, they revise the user interface. The final touches are also made to icons and animations.
For me it is clear: prototyping is a state of mind.
Would you like more tips and practical examples of prototyping? Then watch the recording of our webinar now: