Experts Blog

Prototyping – more than just a design method

  • Katja Dreher

Why do we need a prototype? Many IT decision-makers in companies ask themselves this question. At Unic, we use the prototyping method. We do not design and develop in the blue, but put the user at the centre of our concepts. In this way, we develop user interfaces that are goal-oriented and easy to use.

We use a prototype to check whether the concept ideas, the first design drafts and the navigation concept are successful. Are we on the right track? Do the users understand our concept? These are the questions we keep asking ourselves during a design process. A prototype helps.

What is the difference between a prototype and prototyping?​

Prototype

A prototype is a representative model. It simulates a final application. It makes it possible to experience a design solution before it is developed. There are functional and non-functional prototypes that are used depending on the project:

  • Paper prototype: We create it with paper and pencil.
  • Wireframe prototype: It is a kind of framework in grayscale. Without design yet, but with a higher level of detail. Functional elements and modules are illustrated in it.
  • Design prototype: It has a high level of detail. It brings the look and feel of the design to life.

Prototyping

Prototyping is a design method that uses similar types of prototypes. It makes visual ideas apparent in the shortest possible time and makes the interaction concept tangible. So it's not «just» about what the application could look like in the future, but how the user interacts with it. The prototype allows us to efficiently validate with users whether they can find their way around the developed user interface and where they have difficulties.

Ein Prototyp für einen Online-Shop entsteht
Ein Prototyp für einen Online-Shop entsteht

Prototypes for ideation, testing and feedback

Prototypes are suitable for conveying concept ideas, testing hypotheses efficiently and obtaining user feedback in real time.(1) We proceed iteratively. In other words, we approach a possible solution in a process that has gone through several times. In this way, we make concept ideas tangible. Depending on the goal and project progress, different prototype types can be used (see the different prototypes above).

Ein Prototyp für einen Online-Shop wird getestet
Ein Prototyp für einen Online-Shop wird getestet

Check the technical feasibility of the concept

Prototyping is more than just a design method: it is suitable for talking to internal decision-makers. The development team can also check whether the concept is technically feasible. The prototype is therefore in front of the actual programming work. Agile development processes can thus be supported efficiently.

The optimal user experience, and saving time and money

Our customers, including SBB AG and Post AG, appreciate our user-centered approach. Not only because we strive for the optimal user experience (UX), but because we help them to save valuable time, development costs and effort. See for yourself:

  • We are constantly developing the new sbb.ch website on the basis of prototypes. See SBB Reference.
  • We also work with prototyping for Swiss Post. See Post Reference.

Sources:

(1) Warfel T. Z.: Prototyping: A Practicioner’s Guide, Rosenfeld Media, New York, 2009.

This is how we work: Our design methods

#usercentereddesign #unicuxwerkzeugkasten

In a number of different articles we introduce you to how we work at Unic. A good design and the perfect user experience are our goal.

More articles on design methods:

Embracing Change With Human-centered Design

What does it take for Human-Centered Design (HCD) to work? That it does not just pay lip service? We have consistently carried out the optimization of post.ch in a user-centered manner. With prototypes and common principles.

Design by Committee

Espen Brunborg proved at the Front Conference 2019 very skillfully that a solution designed to please everyone may please no-one in the end. He did this by creating an almost proverbial pink hippo for drunk pirates. Intrigued? Then read more.