When it comes to designing user interfaces for mobile apps, websites, or any other IT products, the user experience (UX) should be the focus. But how do you know if the navigation, page organization, or content display format you’re designing is usable?

For this purpose, prototypes are used. Prototypes are the means to measure product design effectiveness. They allow you to:

  • Evaluate interactions in the product interface.
  • Find out how the product can be perceived by the user.
  • Understand and develop your final product cost effectively

Analytics should be at the heart of all prototyping activities. You can’t create a high fidelity prototype without collecting data that gives a clear understanding of who your visitor is and what they want. If your analytics system isn’t set up properly, you can’t determine the visitor’s journey and you’re likely to waste time.

Why is designing a prototype a necessity?

A prototype is a simulation of the final product. It is an interactive mockup that can have any degree of accuracy. The main purpose of prototyping is to test how consistent the user journey is, and to identify obstacles that may arise during a user’s interaction with the finished product.

Prototypes not only allow you to test the usability of the product before you start writing code, they also lead to unexpected discoveries and new ideas that may (or may not) take the product to the next level. If you avoid the development of a prototype, be prepared for the following:

  • The project will be doomed to lose most of the conversions.
  • Some ideas will not be tested, or it will cost much more.
  • It will be much harder for UX team members to reach a mutual understanding with the target audience and agree on the functionality of the final product.

The prototyping stage will accelerate the development of the project, allowing time to identify and eliminate all the weak points in usability. So it’s highly ill advised to skip this phase.

5 UX tips when designing your first prototype

Building an interactive prototype should start with processing visitor data. Only then will you get an effective product design with a high conversion rate. Here are 5 UX tips that will help you when designing your first prototype.

1. Research the important points of the visitor journey

Try to understand the entire path a customer takes before making a purchase. Research is one of the most important steps because it identifies the problems that need to be solved. Without it, you can’t pinpoint the flaws that prevent your visitors from making the purchase.

2. Focus on the sales funnel

When creating a digital prototype that aims to deliver high conversions, it’s important to define the sales funnel through which customers come to you. Depending on that, the details of the product can change such as texts, frames, icons, etc. For example if the bulk of your visitors originate from PPC, you should make your prototype concise. It should interest visitors, enable them to achieve their goals, and motivate them to buy.

3. Create core archetypes

It’s impossible to define the behavior of all future users, but you can create core archetypes. First, identify two groups: those who know about your company and those who are new to you. When creating a digital prototype, build on what both groups need. A high fidelity prototype requires real demographic and psychographic data (gender, age, income, location, purchase history, and so on). Based on this, identify the main archetypes. For each type of visitor, identify the content viewed, the source of the visit, and the number of interactions before purchase.

4. Don’t forget about user testing

Test the forms, navigation, and feedback first. Then bring in real visitors to determine there are any barriers to conversion. Once you’re confident you’ve created a user-friendly interactive prototype, you can compare it to your competitors. Hire a focus group to determine where the user experience is better.

5. Post-launch optimization

Post-launch optimization plays an important role in the success of the finished product. Using A/B testing, you can identify critical customer journey points, track the results, and optimize them. User testing can take several months, but it’s well worth the effort. After all, it’s a real way to increase conversion rates.

What tools do most UI/UX designers use?

If you are going to design your first prototype, you should try Adobe XD.

It’s one of the most popular applications for UI/UX prototype development – an intuitive tool for designing, prototyping, sharing content between users, and designing interactions through digital technologies. Adobe XD provides everything you need to design websites, mobile apps, voice interfaces, game interfaces, HTML email templates, and more, with the capability to work out every element to the smallest detail. With it, you can:

  • Design all kinds of interactions and create interactive prototypes that look and feel like the real thing.
  • Accelerate your workflow with innovative features such as content-aware layout, adaptive resizing, repeating grid, and automatic 2D animation.
  • Use other Adobe apps, share design systems in Creative Cloud Libraries, access resources through Adobe Stock, and more.

Among other UI/UX tools are Sketch, Figma, InVision Studio, Proto.io, Origami, and Zeplin. Despite these apps being great tools, they can be difficult for newbies. They have the functionality that is used mostly by experienced UI/UX designers and then is being adopted by the frontend development team.

 Common mistakes when designing a prototype

Even some of the most seasoned designers make oversights in their design process – here are some common mistakes newbies make when designing their first prototype:

  • Commitment to one idea. The main advantage of prototyping over product design development is simplicity. That’s why we recommend not limiting yourself to one version of the layout. You can only make a design perfect (or as close as possible!) if you create and refine versions of the prototype.
  • Lack of understanding of the project goals and objectives. UX designers must clearly understand the goals of the customer – they need to know what the target audience is aiming to achieve. Without this foundation, the design process is unfocused and ineffective.
  • Too high or, conversely, low detail. The prototype may represent just a sketch or look like a virtually finished project with a dynamic user interface. Each of these options has its advantages and disadvantages, but the main difference between them is the amount of time spent. If there is limited time to complete the layout, it’s better to choose the intermediate option, in which the elements will be depicted graphically, but still offer a level of interaction. When choosing the level of detail, consider the complexity of the project and the needs of the client.
  • Incorrect placement of elements on the page. In the process of determining where elements should be located, it is important to keep in mind the logic of the user. Here, it is not worth experimenting. For example, the main menu should be located strictly at the top of the screen. Otherwise, if the menu is located in an unexpected place, the website risks losing some conversions. Consider also that the user should be able to place an order or contact a representative of the company from any part of the page. The CTA buttons should fit the purpose: to make a purchase, to download something, to register on the website, etc.

Recommendation for designing your first prototype

The principles are fundamental. In them, you will find the concept of Jobs-to-be-Done, elements of atomic design, the connection with the psychology of perception.

  • First screen. Make sure you have the necessities – an attractive headline, helpful text under the headline, and two action buttons (the main one to order, the auxiliary one to explore). In the headline make sure your products USP is clear, and the text under the headline should instruct the user on how the prototype works.
  • Navigation and script. Check the smoothness of the script and the achievability of the business goals. A high fidelity prototype is good for usability testing on a target audience.
  • Text and Imagery. Especially when it comes to testing with potential customers, the more realistic the text and photos you use in your prototype, the better. If you’ve not determine the exact voice of your brand, you can temporarily borrow them from competitors.
  • Components and habits. In prototypes, try not to invent new controls, use popular and familiar icons.
  • Harmony and flair. Edit compositions and stories at the prototype level, otherwise you will have to go back and redo them in later phases of product design.
  • Notes in the margins. These are notably handy when you’re working with paper prototypes. Try not to keep design information and observations in your memory. Save it more often on paper.

Remember that the prototype is not the final product – instead, keep in mind that prototyping is an integral part of the UX design process. If providing a good user experience with the product is the ultimate goal of your project, then you must have a prototype.