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Using Prototyping as Part of the Design Process

Prototyping is an important step that allows designers to work out their ideas and get feedback prior to coding. Using any of the dozen or more tools available, it is possible for even non-technical users to easily create clickable design wireframe mockups. From grey-box wireframes to high-fidelity prototypes and documenting decisions, there is a lot that can be accomplished with prototypes.

The prototyping process involves:

  1. Defining goals with target groups and setting a deadline
  2. Designing a navigation flow
  3. Mocking up each step in different fidelities (from low to high)
  4. Creating a prototype or using tools which do this automatically
  5. Showing the prototype to user groups for testing
  6. Running enhancement cycles to ensure quality

It is important to clearly define your goals and be reasonable in your time estimates. At NXC, we have found that when it comes to designing the navigation flows for a site or application, it’s likely to require several iterations with the team and / or client. Collaboration at each step ensures that the project is headed in the right direction before moving to actual design.

PrototypingOne very important step is mocking up the navigation flow using high-fidelity designs. This is where the designer’s talent comes into play. These designs are then used to create an interactive prototype. Tools like PhotoShare, UXPin or InVision make this easy to do. An editor can simply create images from design files and drag them from a computer directly to the canvas or Page Tree.

To create the prototype, simply add hyperlinks, navigation and / or functional components over the images. Finally, share the clickable mockup with a sample of end users, and conduct user testing. Depending on the size and complexity of the project, several variations of this process may be necessary.

Because successful website and application projects are contingent upon good communication between stakeholders during each step in the development process, bringing design together with the prototype is becoming a popular workflow. Of course, not everyone follows these steps to create a prototype as part of the design process. However, if the website or application design has a big impact on functionality or if the design and interaction flows need to be tested with end users, creating clickable comps is a great way to iron out additional wrinkles before handing off the requirements to the development team.

Some of the best tools NXC uses to create prototypes include:

Got tips on how you use design comps in your process? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

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