The Importance of Prototyping

Shaun Russell By Shaun Russell

According to a recent Google Survey of software developers, 58.6% currently don’t incorporate a prototyping phase for their development process. Back in 2012, that was us. Our process was simple: Craig would write up a proposal document, flanked by a few initial screenshots by me. This worked well enough to a point, but later on in development we would find functionality that wouldn't work, possible features that had been missed or the developer couldn’t follow the order or structure. This resulted in wasted time, missed opportunities and sad faces all round.

Not only that but we were finding that clients were skimming through the majority of text that Craig so painstakingly committed to the page and spent most of their time musing on the images.

So why waste time telling the client about what we can do, if we can show them?

Enter InVision

InVision is a prototyping tool. Initially intended for websites, it was soon hijacked by app designers who needed a better way to explain ideas and concepts to both clients and developers. A result of which, inVision have created a bunch of new features specifically for the prototyping of apps including the ability to view the working prototype on either phones or tablets, incorporating gestures and transitions.

Easy-to-use, my mum could create a simple prototype. It works via setting up various ‘hotspots’ that link a series of images together. As simple as that. The collaboration tools, such as whiteboards and LiveShare come in handy and the ability to allow comments is great, depending of course on who is doing the commenting.

To summarise, prototyping has become integral to our design process.

But prototyping takes too much time…

Yes, this initial process takes a bit longer but as a result we have won more work. Not only that, but with the prototype in place we establish a level of trust and confidence with the client at an early stage; a vital commodity on any project.

Any issues with the design that the client may have are pinpointed early on and more importantly, before anything is built in code. It’s always easier to make changes before something is built, than after.

The prototype also becomes a referral point. If a developer has any questions, the prototype is there to act as a guide. If a client starts to hint at adding features or making changes, running that scope creep gauntlet, we can point them to the prototype and renegotiate.

Quite simply, a prototype sparks a stronger dialogue between ourselves and the client that may not have occurred with simple stills and a text document.

Eden hearts prototypes

Needless to say, the introduction of prototyping to our development process has been a truly positive one. If you’re reading this and contemplating a new approach, then I strongly recommend considering adding a prototyping phase to your development process. More work and happier clients - what more could you ask for?

So, according to a recent Google Survey of software developers, 58.6% do not think that prototyping is an indispensable part of their development process. In 2014, that’s not us.

Do you agree with my views on prototyping or disagree, having had a nasty experience? Then share your thoughts and insight in the comments below.


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