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Method

A method used to communicate, test and iterate an idea.

What is prototyping?

Prototyping is a process that transforms an idea into something tangible that can be shared, tested and critiqued. Prototypes are either refined or discarded based on their performance and suitability. To avoid unnecessary work, designers begin by making low-fidelity (basic) prototypes. These include enough detail to communicate and test the core of an idea, but no more. Low-fidelity prototypes are used to inform strategic decisions around a solution. 

When the core concepts of an idea are tested, designers move on to produce high-fidelity prototypes. These prototypes allow usability, user experience, visual design and content to be tested. High fidelity prototypes are used to test a solution right before build and implementation.

Purpose

  • To make tangible the core concept of a proposed solution.
  • To test and refine some of the high-level elements or components of the idea.
  • To understand whether a proposed solution solves the problems identified.

What you get

  • A tool to use to test the core concepts of an idea.
  • A tool with which to conduct user testing.
  • A starting point for ‘high-fidelity’ prototyping.

Strengths

  • Helps confirm that a solution is desirable or viable.
  • Helps align sponsors and stakeholders around a direction.
  • Helps engage implementation teams around feasibility.

Weaknesses

  • Doesn’t contain detailed information, interactions or designs.
  • Only confirms that a solution might work, not that it will.

Tips

Designers should introduce test participants and stakeholders to a low-fidelity prototype by explaining that the prototype is incomplete and only intended to test core concepts. 

Teams should make low-fidelity prototypes look unfinished (by using black and white instead of colour, for example). However, they should use realistic and accurate content.

Toolkits and resources

Reviewed 29 April 2020

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