// 7 mins read
When I first started designing for web, the online landscape looked much different. Websites served as simple brochures, people searched for what they love on Yahoo, and our favorite bands lived on Myspace. I was a wide-eyed designer who knew just enough HTML to place a tacky GIF animation on a Geocities page.
The web landscape has changed dramatically. Leading companies now invest in their web presence more than ever, and design challenges become increasingly complex as websites must adapt for mobile, tablet and desktop. As a professional web design agency, it’s our job to keep our clients ahead of such a rapidly evolving scene. Adapting to new challenges is part of our job, which is why we introduced prototyping to our design process.
Here, I highlight three reasons that every web designer should include prototyping as part of their design process:
1: Clear Communication = Better Collaboration
One of the biggest challenges for any design project centers on making sure every stakeholder is aligned in their expectations for the work. That’s why it’s important to communicate frequently and clearly with everyone involved. The prototyping phase is critical because it breaks design in half, separating the user experience phase from the aesthetic treatment of the website.
Adding the prototyping step to the process benefits communication in a few ways:
- Allows designers to show instead of tell early on in the project
- Synchronizes the designers and internal development team on functional expectations
- Allows the client to weigh in on both the usability and the aesthetic in two separate conversations
- Minimizes wasted time by discussing ideas earlier in the process
- Allows the team to pivot on an idea without backtracking
2: Testing Usability First Makes a More User-Friendly Site
You wouldn’t pick your living room furniture before you choose a home – the same logic applies for web. Web design without prototyping is like building a house without plans. Prototyping critically distinguishes user experience design from user interface design. Both elements are crucial to the end product, but separating these disciplines allows us to focus on how people use the site before focusing on how it looks.
We often equate our prototyping phase to a set of blueprints. The prototype allows us to understand and test how people will interact with your website without the distraction of color and style choices. It also allows the team to prototype animation and interactive elements that often get overlooked in the design process. Once all parties agree on an optimal user experience, we can move onto the branding and styling.
As Rahul Varshney, Co-creator of Foster.fm puts it:
“User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) are some of the most confused and misused terms in our field. A UI without UX is like a painter slapping paint onto canvas without thought; while UX without UI is like the frame of a sculpture with no paper mache on it. A great product experience starts with UX followed by UI. Both are essential for the product’s success.”
3: Mobile Prototyping is Absolutely Necessary
The majority of web traffic is now through mobile phones and devices. Mobile devices lead to a huge variety of user interaction scenarios that should be accounted for. This means that web designers must utilize processes that appropriately value these devices. Our prototyping phase allows us (and our clients) to interact with a simulated mobile framework of the website using Invision. In other words, we test for mobile devices and for desktop computers separately to create a great experience on both.
Testing the mobile prototype experience allows us to:
- Understand how people will interact with the content on mobile
- Anticipate what type of content should (and should not) be prioritized on mobile
- Assess site speed and loading times before diving into the full design
We always prototype our web projects and encourage every web professional to add this step to their process. Although prototyping may take more time, the benefits greatly outweigh the cost. Opening up the project to better collaboration, more intelligent user experience, and a mobile-friendly design make up a few of the many advantages around prototyping your website designs first.
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