Sometimes prototyping can seem like a big investment of time, but I find it is always worth it.
In this article on User Experience Prototyping, Paul Boag, who has been in the field of user experience for over a decade, writes about the benefits of prototyping.
He identifies three key benefits of prototypes:
- they are inspiring, and allow people to understand what is being proposed, because they show stakeholders what it will look like;
- they ensure a common vision - it is much easier to agree to something and come away with a shared understanding of it if you have actually seen what it will look like;
- they are testable - you can actually do usability testing with them and fix any usability issues before you have spent a lot of money on development.
In my experience, users and stakeholders don't always know what features and functions are possible, so they find it hard to envisage what could be built. That's why a prototype can help them to understand the proposed functionality, and may give them ideas for more features.
When most people think of prototyping they are thinking about mocking up a user interface. There is no doubt that prototyping can help in this area. Organisations use prototyping to define and test experiences using all kinds of interfaces. Interfaces from mobile apps to enterprise systems.