Stage 4 of Design Thinking: Prototyping
Updated: Feb 22
Design thinking consists of series of steps, and there are five crucial phases in this approach. So far, we've discussed the empathize phase and ways to get to know your target audience; the define phase, which looks at how to write a relevant problem statement; and the ideate phase, which looks at several approaches for creating new ideas.
Prototyping is the fourth and a critical stage of design thinking. Prototyping is one of the finest approaches to acquiring insights into a Design Thinking process. This approach entails creating a prototype that is early, affordable, and scaled back to identify any issues with the present design. Designers may evaluate the viability of the current design, bring their thoughts to life, and look into how a sample of people perceive a product via prototyping.
Prototypes are frequently used in the final, testing step of a Design Thinking process to identify how people interact with the prototype, disclose new issue solutions, or assess whether the established solutions were effective. The findings of these tests are then utilized to redefine one or more of the problems identified earlier in the project and to develop a more comprehensive knowledge of the issues that consumers may encounter while engaging with the products in the intended setting.
Why Use Prototypes?
Prototyping is a crucial phase in the design thinking process. Putting the user at the center of the process necessitates testing your designs on actual people—and prototypes allow you to do it without investing a lot of time and money.
Prototypes help you to:
Learn directly how your users will interact with and respond to the product you're creating. Seeing an early version of the product in action demonstrates whether or not it will operate in the real world.
Identify any usability concerns or design defects. If a concept or design is certain to fail, you'd better find out early on. Prototypes allow you to fail quickly and inexpensively; they will show a flawed or ineffective strategy before you have committed too much time or money.
Make well-informed design choices. Can't determine where to put a button on your app's home screen? Are you torn between two alternative website layouts? Prototype a few different variations and see whatever works best.
For example, when building software, a design team may create a series of paper prototypes which the user may progressively work through to illustrate to the design team or assessors how they may approach specific tasks or challenges. When creating physical gadgets, such as computer mouse, designers may employ a variety of materials to test the core technology behind the product. Because of advancements in 3D printing technology, making prototypes is now typically a more quick and low-cost procedure, allowing designers to give stakeholders accurate and testable/useable duplicate models before agreeing on a specific design.
What are the different types of prototyping?
Prototypes are of different kinds, and they vary in their form, fidelity, interactivity, and life cycle.
Is it a hand-drawn or computerized prototype? Is it intended for mobile or desktop use?
How refined and comprehensive is the prototype? When discussing prototypes, the words high-fidelity and low fidelity are frequently used.
How useful is the prototype? Is it clickable or interactable, or is it view-only?
Is the prototype a fast, throwaway version that will be replaced by a newer, better one? Or is it a more durable construction that can be created and modified before becoming the final product?
Low-fidelity prototyping employs rudimentary models or samples of the object under test. For example, the model might be unfinished and use only a few of the elements that would be accessible in the final design, or it could be built with materials that are not meant for the completed piece, such as wood, paper, or metal for a plastic product. Low-fidelity prototypes might be either low-cost and simple models, or merely narratives or illustrations of them.
‘Wizard of Oz’
Sketching (however Bill Buxton, a pioneer of human-computer interface, thinks sketching is not a form of prototyping).
Pros of Low-fidelity prototypes
Fast and low-cost.
It is feasible to make real-time adjustments and test fresh iterations.
Allows the designer to get a bird's-eye view of the product with little time and effort, rather than focusing on smaller aspects all through the slow, incremental modifications.
We can develop basic versions of goods to test consumers or gather the opinions of stakeholders, regardless of skill or experience.
Promotes and supports design thinking.
Cons of Low Fidelity
A fundamental absence of reality. The applicability of results obtained by testing using simple early editions of a product may contain errors due to the basic and sometimes rough character of low-fi prototypes.
Low-fi prototypes may not be acceptable for your target consumers, based on your product.
Example: If you are creating an application that is constrained by several contextual and circumstantial constraints (i.e., physical characteristics of your user base, such as users with disabilities), basic editions that do not portray the essence, appearance, or feel of the final product may be of limited utility, showing little of the ultimate customer experience.
Such prototypes frequently deprive the user of control since they must typically engage in basic ways or just tell an evaluator, demonstrate, or write a step-by-step explanation of how they would use the final product.
High-fidelity prototypes resemble the final product in appearance and operation.
For example, a wooden block, a 3D plastic model with movable elements (enabling users to handle and interact with a gadget in the same way as the final design) is high-tech in comparison. Similarly, an early version of a software system created with a design application such as Sketch or Adobe Illustrator is superior to a paper prototype.
Pros of High-fidelity prototypes
Engaging the stakeholders can immediately see their vision come to life and assess how well it fits their goals, wants, and requirements.
Evaluators will be able to obtain feedback with a top standard of validity and applicability through the testing phase with high-fi prototypes. The more similar the prototype is to the final product, the more confident the design team will be in how people will respond to, engage with, and interpret the design.
Cons of High-fidelity prototypes
They usually take significantly longer to make than low-tech prototypes.
When evaluating prototypes, test users are more likely to focus on and remark on surface qualities than content.
Designers are frequently hesitant to make modifications after spending countless hours creating an accurate model of how a product will appear and operate.
Software prototypes may offer test users an inaccurate idea of how terrific the final product will be.
Guidelines for using prototypes
It is important to realize that prototypes are intended to be rapid and easy evaluations of design concepts. Here are some guidelines to aid you throughout the prototyping stage:
Simply start work.
Design Thinking has an action bias, which indicates that if you are unsure about what you are seeking to accomplish, your best chance is to just do something. Making a prototype can assist you in thinking about your concept tangibly and may provide you with ideas for ways to enhance it.
Don't waste your time.
Prototyping is all about pace; the greater you spend constructing your prototype, the more emotionally invested you might become in your concept, making it difficult to assess objectively. Do not waste your time thinking and apply your ideas practically.
Keep in mind what you're testing for.
A primary testing problem should be present in all prototypes. Do not lose sight of that subject, but do not become so engrossed in it that you lose sight of other things you may gain.
Have a clear notion of what you want your prototype to deliver. In other words, what would you like to find out when you assess your prototype?
Create with the user in mind.
Compare the prototype to your predicted user behaviors and needs. Then, refine your ideas by learning from the gaps between expectations and realities. Make sure to keep your issue description and user requirements in mind at all times!
Consider the stage of the design process, as well as the time and resources required, before creating a prototype. Low-fidelity prototypes are appropriate in the early phases, but as you come closer to releasing your product, you'll want to upgrade to high-fidelity prototypes.
Use the right tools
Spend some time experimenting using some of the most popular industry software if you're a novice to digital prototyping. Before you begin prototyping, find software that suits your demands in terms of functionality and features and become acquainted with the interface. It will make prototyping much simpler when the time arrives!
Prototyping may be a quick and efficient approach to bringing your/your client's ideas to life. A sample of your target users or evaluators may then be watched and tested, and their feedback can be utilized to make adjustments during a design iteration. Prototyping approaches are broadly defined as either low-fi or high-fi. In the former, rudimentary copies are created, sometimes using whatever materials are available, and may be tested instantly. High-fi approaches, on the other hand, are often closer to the final product in terms of appearance, feel, and mode of interaction. While hi-fi prototypes can assist the design team in acquiring useful insights into how the product will be perceived when distributed, producing hi-fi prototypes can be time-consuming and costly.
However, there are limitations to each of these major types of testing methodologies, which must be considered when selecting how to enhance your design within the time and financial constraints.
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