24 September 2012
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The value of prototyping

“Fail sooner to succeed faster” is a motto at Informaat, emphasizing the importance we put on prototyping within our methodology. Distinct from mockups, prototypes help define a problem by exploring possible solutions.

Jared Spool of User Interface Engineering recently proposed this division between mockups and prototypes, and shared learnings  gleaned through recent research. As he defines them:

A mockup shows us a possible solution. It asks the question, ‘What do you think of this direction for our design?’ Whether the mockup is a sketch or a fully-rendered interactive experience, it’s looking at whether the ideas contained would be a good solution.

Prototypes are different from mockups. They don’t focus on the solution, but on understanding the problem. They ask the question, ‘What happens when we try this?’ Maybe we learn it’s the right idea, but more likely we learn something about the problem we didn’t know before.

He also goes on to identify four different phases of prototyping activities, meant to extract the most value:

  • Planning – Determining what the aim of the prototyping is
  • Implementation – Building the prototype itself
  • Measurement – Gathering information from the prototype in use, whether quantitative or qualitative
  • Learning – Capturing just what was learnt, and determining how it affects the next iteration or project step

Lastly, Jared notes that prototypes offer a shared understanding of the project space in a way that no static or textual documentation could possibly provide. As we’ve learned – whether a prototype is detailed enough to deliver production-ready code or assets, or whether it’s a proof-of-concept to get stakeholder buy-in – prototypes play an important role in any design project.

Source: “Exploring the Problem Space Through Prototyping” (Jared Spool, UIE)

Customer experience (75), Prototyping (2)

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