UX Prototyping has come a long way over recent years. Traditionally, planning or prototyping for websites was done with mock-ups or wireframes. Both will give you a good roadmap, but neither are interactive as more advanced methods that exist today.
Prototyping itself isn’t a new concept. Inventors almost always create a prototype before the final product is launched. This gives the inventor, and testers, a chance to try the product in rough form and see what works and what doesn’t. They can then refine it until it’s ready for wide release. The same can be said for UX design.
By creating a prototype of a web page, application, or desktop software, you can find out if the user experience you’re trying to design will actually work in the real world. What you may find is that button placement is frustrating, color schemes don’t gel, and the process to navigate to the end goal is too convoluted. Great ideas in boardrooms don’t always translate to great experiences.
Prototypes Can Be Simple or Complex
There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to prototyping UX. Most of the time how you prototype something will come down to cost and time. Creating a wireframe is cheaper and quicker than building a working prototype of a website.
At the same time, you can learn a lot more from a working version of the site than you can a wireframe. However, a wireframe is still useful in the sense that you can at least visualize the user experience before putting it to code. This can reveal problems in flow and complexity you may not have considered before.
Here are the most common forms for creating UX prototypes.
Hand Drawn Sketches
The first form of prototyping was to simply draw your thoughts out on paper. It made perfect sense to get your thoughts on paper first, as computers didn’t have complex tools for drawing prototypes in the early days of the web in the 90’s.
Paper is a great way to visualize things, but revising things or trying to make them interactive was pretty annoying or impossible. This method is used today for jotting down quick things – or showing flow on a whiteboard, but software is the preferred method.