Prototyping is an integral part of design thinking and product design as a whole. A prototype is essentially a model of a proposed solution, created for the purpose of validating (or invalidating) ideas before spending time and resources bringing a product to market.
At Checkmate Digital, we rely on prototyping, which happens on day three of our design sprint, process, to get validation from our clients on the functionality and flow of a digital product as quickly as possible. But we’re always testing out new ways of doing things—and that includes how we approach prototyping. We’ve learned that our most successful prototypes come as a result of these three components:
In the past we’ve tried different prototyping tools, but found they made it difficult to produce prototypes quickly and collaboratively. Recently we switched to Figma, an interactive prototyping solution that allows us to design, prototype, and collaborate in real time. Real-time prototyping helps us validate ideas quickly, and assists with version control of design files.
For example, if we had a design flow that we liked in the past, using Figma we can revert back to those old designs and pick up right where we left off. And because the tool works in real time, we never have to worry about files being out of date or overwriting each other’s work—we can always be sure we’re working in the latest and greatest version of the design.
Lately we've been incorporating more motion in our prototypes to make them more interactive and help us get client buy-in on a design. Motion is movement that adds functionality and fluidity to the design. Take a loading screen for example: How is content loaded onto the screen? When the screen loads and the content pops up, how does it look? Another example is typing on a messaging application: how does it look when you hit the send button? Do little dots pop up as the other person is typing?
These details make the prototype more interactive and help it to function like a real product. Adding motion into our prototypes enhances the user experience (UX) and helps clients better envision how the end product will look and function.
When we present a high-fidelity prototype to a client, we typically explain all the design decisions we made, as well as why we made them. Then we'll ask questions to see if there is any feedback on the prototype. However, for many of our clients, it's hard to come up with critiques on the spot.
As a result, we’ve refined our process to look like this:
Offering this additional time also helps clients be more precise with their feedback, which gives us the validation we need to move forward. We’ve also tried allowing a couple of days for clients to leave feedback, but in many cases they forget to make comments or wait until the last minute to do so. Because design thinking is all about getting validation on ideas quickly, delays like this are obviously not ideal. Collecting feedback in real time is a more effective approach.
Designing prototypes and then putting them in front of targeted users enables us to test against assumptions and uncover user insights that can be used to improve the design. These learnings provide our clients with a clear understanding of what their target users want and where they should go next. Have an idea that you’d love to explore? Let’s talk about how we can use our design sprint process to turn it into an interactive prototype tested by target users.