What is prototyping?

Prototyping involves creating a design as the first version of a product through an agile approach. This design is used for early visualization and iterative optimization of a user interface and its interaction capabilities. This process involves all project stakeholders from usability experts, designers, developers, customers and users. It makes sense to design an initial prototype of the future solution at a very early stage. In the process, the design drafts should be evaluated repeatedly.

Why prototyping?

The prototype is a model of a later solution that can be experienced in advance. It should appear as authentic as possible and is created following the concept phase. A prototype should help to test the results of the idea development with the help of a concept for market acceptance. The goal is to get quick feedback from target groups along with new ideas for improving the concept.

Furthermore, prototyping shortens development times and helps project participants not to lose sight of the actual goal. Prototyping makes it possible to find out with comparably little effort whether a project is promising or not. This allows financial risks to be minimized and multiple concepts to be tested early on, rather than focusing all resources on a single approach.

It is not the technology that determines the appearance and functionality of an application, but the needs of the user at the moment of use. Prototyping summarizes the requirements for a digital product from the perspective of the user, the customer, the buyer, and visualizes the operation.

What is a good prototype?

A good prototype for websites is a visual representation or functional model of a website that is used to test the design, user experience, and functionality before actual site development begins. A good prototype should have the following characteristics:

  1. Clarity: The prototype should have a clear structure and hierarchy of content so that users can easily grasp the structure of the website. This includes the arrangement of navigation elements, texts, images and other visual elements.

  2. Usability: The prototype should be designed for usability and ease of use. This means that the navigation should be intuitive and easy to understand, and the most important functions of the website should be quickly accessible.

  3. Responsive design: A good prototype should be optimized for different devices and screen sizes. This means that the website works and is usable equally well on desktop computers, tablets and smartphones.

  4. Interactivity: depending on the type of website and the desired features, the prototype should include interactive elements that allow users to interact with and try out the site. These include, for example, forms, buttons, drop-down menus, and other interactive elements.

  5. Feedback opportunities: A good prototype should allow testers to provide feedback on the design, user experience, and features of the website. This can be achieved through comment functions, surveys or other feedback tools.

  6. Visual consistency: The prototype should have a consistent visual appearance that matches the brand's colors, fonts, and styles. This helps to create a consistent brand identity and improve the user experience.

  7. Flexibility: A good prototype should be able to accommodate changes and adaptations during the development process. This makes it easier to respond to user feedback and new requirements and to optimize the design and functions of the website accordingly.

A good prototype helps visualize ideas, identify problems early, and develop solutions before actual web development begins.

A good prototyping process is predominantly characterized by the fact that feedback loops are generated. There is an increased focus on communication, enabling the transfer of information between developers, users and clients. In this way, feedback can be obtained early on to correct and improve concepts in a way that results in a user-friendly application. A testable prototype increases project efficiency, reduces programming effort and keeps project participants motivated.

Prototyping, together with a subsequent usability testing, is an essential part of the Human-Centered Design-process.

Rapid Prototyping

The term rapid prototyping refers to various processes for making a model. What they all have in common is the goal of quickly arriving at an experiential prototype. There are different forms of prototyping. From simple sketches or scribbles and mockups to static wireframes, paper prototypes or interactive prototypes that have their origins in rapid prototyping.

Experimental prototyping

In experimental prototyping, a design with the basic functions is produced and checked with regard to its feasibility. The knowledge gained from this experiment is incorporated into actual product development. These prototypes should help to answer technical questions and to be able to check the feasibility of the entire project.

Explorative protoyping

Exploratory prototyping is used to give developers insight into the application domain and to discuss different approaches to the solution. A prototype is being developed for this purpose. Less concerned with its visual quality, exploratory prototyping is initially only about the functionality of the application.

Requirements for a product are often abstract and incomplete at the beginning of a project. Exploratory prototypes are intended to gather and refine insights and requirements for the design of later products and can help uncover problems early on.



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