March 2013

Rapid Prototyping as part of user-centred design

A Rapid Prototype is a functional Website model with working navigation, images, graphics, text and even Meta information for Search Engines like Google. Prototypes offer many advantages over Wireframes, which are static non-functional outlines of Web pages.

Why Develop a Rapid Prototype?

Here are 10 good reasons why Rapid Prototypes provide a logical route for planning, scoping, accurately costing and building a Website:

  1. A prototype can be built in a fraction of the time it takes to build Web pages from a static Wireframe
  2. Prototypes allow you to test different page layouts and quickly agree on the most effective version
  3. Prototyping throws up details that are often “assumed” in Wireframing, and allows teams to remove these potentially costly assumptions in favour of agreed functional requirements
  4. Prototypes have working navigation so UX (User Experience) teams can test versions and agree on the most customer friendly navigation routes and interactive elements
  5. Prototypes confirm functional requirements in great detail and make it easy to favour or dismiss CMS platforms based on technical merit. Great if you’ve got a designer who claims he can build your multi-template, interactive booking Website with integrated checkout and sophisticated client area in WordPress!
  6. Some Prototyping programs print a detailed technical specification and this allows you to secure design & build quotes on an accurate like-for-like basis with zero assumption or potentially fatal interpretation
  7. Changes to designs are quick to establish in a Rapid Prototype so you can remove potentially costly reworks down the line
  8. Unlike Wireframes, which can scare people off because you have to think quite hard about how the concept will work in a real site, Rapid Prototypes are customer friendly, even for the most technophobic of clients
  9. Most Prototype programs are Web based so multiple team members can access the content, add notes or directions, then monitor the results
  10. Prototyping at the front end of a project will guarantee to save you time and money down the line

Prototyping typically goes through 4 stages, and this is duplicated when creating Responsive Design versions of the main Website that are intended for Smart Phones:

 

Sketch Designs

Some experienced UX Designers will plan the main pages of a Website as a hand drawn sketch first.

These people are experienced enough to get layouts on paper, backed up by supporting materials such as audience profiling, persona creation, focus groups, hypercard stacking and experience maps.

Rapid Prototyping - Initial Sketch Designs

 

Low-Fi Version

The Low-Fi (Low-Fidelity) version of the Prototype has the navigation set up and templates for the main pages. These pages are usually made up of grey blocks and subtle notes to indicate what is going where.

The Low-Fi version will be created in full scale, with working navigation, and will cater for the requirements of Responsive Design if specified.

Straight away, client and agency team members can begin collaborating.

Rapid Prototyping - Low-Fi Version

 

Med-Fi Version

The Low-Fi version is duplicated in a flash and we now start to add graphical elements using stencils and widgets.

Complex features such as pop-up interactions can be added so clients can start to get a real feel for how design and functional elements will play out.

Rapid Prototyping - Med-Fi

 

Hi-Fi Version

The Hi-Fi (High Fidelity) version is as real as the proposed Website.

Hi-Fi Prototypes include design compositions, real images, buttons, graphics, real text and even the information you need for SEO. They can also include custom components made with HTML, CSS or JavaScript.

Ideas are shared and discussed, feedback can be pinpointed and incorporated, buy-in can be approved from stakeholders and the best news of all is that everything is available from a single login protected repository, so there’s no trying to keep track of Email threads and attachments across several different locations.

Rapid Prototyping - Hi-Fi

Below: Comparison between Med-Fi and Hi-Fi version of a smart phone plan

Rapid Prototyping - Med-Fi to Hi-Fi for Smart Phone

 

So Why Bother With Rapid Prototyping? Isn’t This Just Adding To the Cost?

Unless you are planning a very simple Website with basic functionality, Rapid Prototyping can save you a fortune and even protect your project from potential failure in a number of areas.

  • Prototyping represents about 15%-20% of project cost but here are 5 top ways in which Rapid Prototyping will save you time, stress and money in the end:
  • A specification derived from a Rapid Prototype will help you rule out a CMS platform that might not be powerful enough or scalable enough to manage your life cycle requirements
  • Use the specification as part of your RFP (Request for Proposal) and benchmark vendor quotes accurately – none of this one price of £5k, one of £20k and one of £50k, all for supposedly the same service. Help your vendors quote on known factors with assumption taken out of the equation
  • Helps you agree on changes before the system goes to production, so you can cut out Feature Creep and Change Requests. These beauties drive more projects into financial dispute and relationship breakdown than any other event
  • Speeds up the planning and development process so you actually save money overall
  • Removes the headache and stress that is commonplace in projects that don’t use Rapid Prototyping.

 

About the author:

Philip Allen is the Studio Director at D. and a UX and Drupal Design Consultant. He works hands-on with every project that comes through the agency and champions the case for discovering the truth behind the way users need to interact with Websites.

If you’d like to talk to Phil, get in touch via the Contact Us page or give him a ring on UK: 0844 544 9553 or INTL: +44 (1) 202 546762.

 

Social Media Dimensions - Facebook

Facebook image dimensions. Prepare your profile image, cover photo and more with this handy quick start guide to get your account looking professional.

If you’re setting up social media, you’ll want to know what sizes all your profile pictures, banners and photos need to be for a professional polished presentation and to ensure you have a great looking social network to bolster both your company web presence.

Below we take a look at how the various zones on a Facebook profile can be used for both personal and company purposes.

Personal Facebook

Personal Facebook Example

Company Facebook

Facebook is a great way to promote your business and it’s completely free. A dedicated account can be set up solely for your business and you can use the various image areas creatively to really push your brand, products & services and connect with your audience.

Facebook is a great way to directly engage customers & fans alike. It allows people to publically ‘like’ aspects of your page, which in turn, generates a positive impact on others.

A Facebook page is not designed to replace a company website but it can work in parallel with it. Use it to promote products & services, relay news & events, and volunteer bonus insights into the way you work for a transparent and trusting relationship.

Perhaps product/service tutorials or video diaries or help guides will help customers make decisions. You don’t have to give away all your trade secrets but it’s a great platform for informal education. It’s entirely up to you but give your audience a reason to keep coming back. Every step of the way you can direct people back to your main website and funnel people to your specific goals and calls to action.

 

Company Facebook Example

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