Prototyping User Experience (UX) topic overview/definition


Prototyping: Concept Definition

Prototyping is the making of a representation of a solution to a design problem in such a way that a user can experience it. Prototypes are not meant to function but rather to let users interact with them so as to provide feedback. Prototyping is a crucial part of iterative design processes, design thinking, and user-centered design.

Prototypes can be categorized as high- and low-fidelity prototypes. High-fidelity prototypes are highly realistic in their appearance and interactions (e.g., a mock-up done in Illustrator), whereas low-fidelity prototypes are sketch-like objects with an unfinished quality about them (e.g., sketches of an app drawn on paper).

Typically, low-fidelity prototypes are used early in product development, while high-fidelity prototypes only start coming into play in later stages. Although high-fidelity prototypes may seem more desirable as a means of communicating designs to prospective clients, they have some important and costly drawbacks when used too early in the process. Introducing high-fidelity prototypes too early means more time spent making them, thus postponing testing; they also discourage iterations due to the effort that goes into their construction. Perhaps worse than that, they can also cause a premature commitment to design decisions. Conversely, low-fidelity prototypes—for all their roughness—offer a wealth of leeway and flexibility, also helping designers to avoid building on assumptions.

Sometimes, highly complex interactive solutions require a lot of resources simply to create a prototype that users can test. For such cases, designers can opt for the use of “Wizard of Oz” prototypes. Such prototypes present the user interface to the user—but rather than having a computer generate responses to user input, a real-life person behind the scenes acts as a computer and mimics the computer’s responses. This faking of the interaction allows even complex products to be tested early in the design process.

For your convenience, we’ve collected all UX literature that deals with Prototyping. Here’s the full list: