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3C – 3 reasons to prototype and the webdesign mastery

Marcin Treder
By Marcin Treder on 28th February, 2011
Prototyping, though often confused with magic, is just a simple tool to reach satisfying level of:

  • 1. Creativity (prototyping as a „brainstorming tool”)
  • 2. Certainity (prototyping as a „testing tool”)
  • 3. Clarity (prototyping as a project documentation)

It’s also known as 3c – 3 reasons to prototype.

Nothing more, nothing less. When we’re struggling to create best possible product, prototyping is an irreplaceable ingredient.

In most projects, only old fashioned developers/grumpy managers with non-product and non-business oriented minds may claim that immediate coding and releasing products is a good enough method to use in the professional and highly competitive world of the Internet.

Though in some cases (small, start-up like projects) speed of development is highly accurate even if your user experience sucks ass, I would recommend befriending the universal rule „real people will use this product, not some abstract „users” ” and at least try to apply it to every project.

If you won’t create a usable, engaging and satisfying product, be sure – your competition will do it, destroying your plans of early retirement on Hawaii beach.

I’m prototyping new products every day using a variety of methods including paper prototyping, whiteboard sketching, html and Axure. My motto would be: never, never, never stop improving your workflow.

Recently, engaged in my favorite activity of simplifying things I gazed on Axure with a growing feeling of anxiety. Why the hell me and lots of my UX-friends are spending so much time creating Axure prototypes? Code is a mess, it looks shitty (disturbing, though in most cases it should look bad! As we shouldn’t spend too much time prototyping) and it certainly doesn’t gain co-workers respect.

I calmed myself down with reminiscence of huge and complicated projects that I was designing in the past. Overgrown badasses with dozens of complicated pages and states in need of user testing. Without paper prototyping and Axure I could never succeed on them. The whole project, worth hell-a-lot of money, could end up in limbo.

Usually, though we create minor stuff. Simple websites, small new functionalities, not too complicated apps. Baring in mind three rules of prototyping (creativity, certainty, clarity) I thought that today it’s easy to apply great webdesign in just 4 simple steps:

  • 1. Paper prototype with your teammates (if you have any). It will clear your ideas, boost creativity and let you test variety of designs quickly.
  • 2. Use html, css and jquery to create working prototype. It should still need some polishing but must be ready for 3. further testing.
  • 4. Polish the design.
  • 5. Add needed coding, which you smartly left behind earlier and test working product with people before launch.

Yes. No Axure, Balsamiq, Omnigraffle, Visio in the process. Why? Today with easy to use javascripts plugins and layout designed in css (remember table days?;-)) in not too complicated projects you’re simplifying your workflow giving yourself more time for some Zombie-killing world-saving activities.

Why (think about 3 reasons to prototype mentioned in the beginning) should you prototype in Axure? Creativity? Paper prototyping with friends is way more efficient. Certainty? User testing is included in 3 out of 4 steps. Clarity? You got me here, but as I said – it applies to not-too-complicated projects where paper prototypes will work.

Is this the future of prototyping? In some cases yes. In some cases no. You’ve got your own brain – think about it and find your own way to success. I thought it’s worth mentioning.

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