April 17, 2013
Prototyping is a method used by designers to acquire feedback from users about future designs. It is an essential element of an iterative design approach, where designs are created, evaluated, and refined until the desired performance or usability is achieved. Prototyping can occur at a number of points in the design process, at varying levels of "fidelity" - from the simplest sketches to the most detailed renderings nearly at the level of of what a final interface would look like.
Paper-based prototyping is the quickest way to get feedback on your preliminary design to help confirm whether you are headed in the right direction. Paper prototypes are used to communicate ideas between designers, developers, users in the first stages of the user-centered design process. They are also used as a usability testing technique to observe the human interaction with user interfaces even before interfaces are designed and developed.
Horizontal prototyping and Vertical prototyping:
Prototypes may be horisontal or vertical. A horisontal prototype have a very broad range of the intended future features, but only very little of the actual functionality of the features is implemented. It focuses on user interaction more than low-level system functionality, such as database access.
A vertical prototype only has very few features, but are almost fully implemented. It is useful for obtaining detailed requirements for a given function.
Lo-Fi vs. Hi-Fi Prototyping:
Fidelity is the degree of closeness to the depth, breadth and finish of the intended product. Opinions vary a great deal on how much a prototype should resemble the final version of your design.
Low-fidelity (lo-fi) prototyping is characterised by a quick and easy translation of high-level design concepts into tangible and testable artefacts. The advantages of low-fidelity prototypes are the speed at which they can be put together and therefore the low cost involved.
On the other hand, high-fidelity (hi-fi) prototypes are characterised by a high-tech representation of the design concepts, resulting in partial to complete functionality. The advantages of high-tech prototyping is that users can truly interact with the system.