Part of the process of UX design is – or in our opinion should be – the creation of wireframes and/or a prototype to model a new user experience.
The primary uses of such prototypes are to show to business stakeholders what their new site or product will look like, how it will be structured and what the content and functionality of key pages will be; and to conduct usability testing with the prototype, with real potential users, to make sure that assumptions made during the design process – about what content areas or pages should be called, about a user’s mental model of how a site should work, about what content should be on a page and where – are actually valid.
“Valiate early, validate often” is a key tenet of good UX practise. At FutureDream we prefer clickable prototypes for such validation – in our opinion they simulate as closely as possible the final product (usually a web site or piece of software) – which after all is the point of the exercise. We’ve never been sure how interaction design decisions can be validated with static wireframes.
Our tool of choice for prototyping is Axure. We are of course biased because it’s what we know – we’ve used it almost every single working day since 2008 across many different versions. Using Axure we find it very quick and easy to create a prototype for demonstration or for usability testing. If the design hypothesis turns out to be wrong it can just be modified or recreated for the next round of testing – but with lessons learned and without too much investment of time and effort.
Some of the things we like about it:
- Responsive prototypes – build one prototype that can display on a desktop or (specified) mobile device
- Masters – reuse the same widgets across a prototype, but with raised events so they can do different things in different places
- Style sheets – ensure consistent styling across a prototype
- Interaction design – what we think of as ‘HTML lite’: onClick, onLoad, onMouseOver etc interactions
- Conditional If/Else logic – depending on an action the user has performed or the value of a variable, do a specific action
- Global variables – pass state between pages (eg logged-in status, user’s name etc)
…and much else. An Axure prototype isn’t as good as live code, but for most practical design purposes (presentation to management, usability testing etc) it can be virtually indistinguishable.
Axure doesn’t offer accreditation per se, but as we have been talking to them for so long (>10 years) with suggestions for features and support with issues, they have very kindly added us to the trainer page on their web site.
The ‘Dr Diary’ app from the BMA – designed in Axure and extensively tested in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales with NHS Consultants. Being heavily used at the moment (August 2020) to track increased workloads as a result of the covid pandemic.
Prototyping can be a standalone activity, separate from other aspects of research, design etc.
So if you’re redesigning your web site and want to know how it will work, how the pages will flow, if you want to conduct usability testing on it before the devs actually build it in real code, you need a prototype.
FutureDream can build a prototype for you – or we can give you the training to build your own.