You know the saying “fail fast”? It’s a mentality that sums up why forward-looking companies today are shifting to a prototyping approach for creating products.
There’s plenty of practical reasons prototyping is cited as a superior way of working. Among them: the chance to test an array of ideas ahead of launch; being more collaborative with outside partners throughout the span of a project; and reaching a final product in a faster, more cost-effective way.
But I believe a less talked about — and even more important — advantage of using prototyping is that it allows risk-averse organizations to learn to take risks. And you can’t innovate without taking risks and making big bets.
At Work & Co, we committed to building prototypes over giving presentations since our inception three years ago. We won’t rely on a presentation when we can deliver a working example of an app or website instead. Time and again, clients have expressed that our prototyping approach enabled them to walk further out of their comfort zone –and do it more frequently, more confidently.
It’s the difference between an improved product and launching a truly fresh, breakthrough one. Here’s four ways to use prototyping to your advantage:
1. Communicating a new idea. When you’re designing something completely new, a lot can be lost in the description versus the reality. When possible it’s always best to put a product into someone’s hands so they can really experience it. Whether presenting to a client or to your company’s board, a prototype is the most effective way to communicate the vision. When Work & Co began working with Virgin America on its site redesign, we never relied on big reveals or slick presentations. Instead, we showed prototypes as early as the second week to the CEO.
2. Sweating the details. When it comes to the subtle details that really bring the brand to life in a product, a flat image can’t convey emotion — such as the sense of appreciation for the snappiness of a scroll or feeling the delight from an animation require high-fidelity prototypes. For Virgin America’s new mobile app, this meant prototyping ways to bring personality to each screen through animation.
3. Understanding a range of user reactions. While designing a global hospitality brand’s mobile presence, they tasked us to create an ownable UI. We felt pretty confident that the direction we were most excited about was going to work, but for a brand launching a product for a global audience, “pretty confident” is not enough. Would guests understand how to use it? So we created prototypes for user testing across 5 countries, in 5 languages. When it worked across every single market, we knew we had created something that was unique and would work for everyone.
4. Seamless transitions between design and development. Our engineers sit side-by-side with designers to work on technical prototypes to test different architectures or frameworks against the desired experience. But in some cases, we still have to make handoffs to internal technology teams for implementation or maintenance. When we’re introducing new UI paradigms or micro-interactions, a static style guide simply doesn’t cut it. Similar to how prototypes communicate the vision for the product to key stakeholders, prototypes can ensure that vision is brought to life. Detailed design prototypes show development teams exactly how it should function, leaving nothing to chance.
At Work & Co we always strive to push boundaries, design new paradigms, and innovate beyond existing standards for websites, mobile apps, and the digital platforms. Prototypes are great for trying out the “impossible-to-get-approved” idea that’s never been attempted. You don’t have to wait for the big reveal from your agency to make a major decision on which path to take. And you can eliminate the jitters that go with launching your product only to hope it will work.
The companies we partner with are focused on creating breakthrough digital products. Prototyping gives the confidence to do and it helps the uncover more innovative, riskier ideas.