Prototyping - Features

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Prototyping potential new features front loads effort and reduces churn later in the process, where change is more expensive. This element allows for higher quality products, a more agile design and development process, easier experimentation, and a product that more accurately addresses user needs and business drivers.

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Related Mindset:

Experience

Segment:

Program

Inputs:

The input for Prototyping Features is decomposed features, and other high-level assets like wireframes or initial designs.

Outputs:

The output of Prototyping Features on the Program level is a testable deliverable that can test the implementation of a feature and generate alterations to improve the effectiveness of that feature.

Building a prototype enables proactive validation of features for less effort and cost than building production-ready products.

Prototypes should have the lowest degree of fidelity possible to accomplish the needs of the test. Prototypes created at the Feature level should focus on more specific interactions and solving problems that are part of an existing system.

At the Program level, prototypes are built to explore smaller interactions within a larger system. These prototypes should allow (potential) users to solve problems that have already been established. A successful prototype test answers questions. Does the proposed solution solve the question established at the beginning of the test?

  • Interactive prototypes: The most life-like prototypes are the easiest to test because users can interact with and experience them. These prototypes are easiest to qualitatively evaluate because you can observe users with the proposed solution and evaluate its success or shortcomings. If set up correctly, interactive prototypes also allow for quantitative testing via comparison, such as A/B tests.
  • Paper prototypes: A low-fidelity version of the fully interactive prototype, paper prototypes allow one to quickly understand a feature‚Äôs viability. Paper prototypes are created by sketching the solution on paper or whiteboards and then walking a user through the experience. This type of prototyping provides the team with a high-level understanding of the viability of a solution. It will not inform the details required for the complete solution.

Prototypes built around features should always be shared/tested/shown internally as well as externally. By sharing prototypes internally, concepts that are overly complex and costly to produce can be discussed. Development problems can be identified early in the process and allow for a more streamlined production workflow.

Common Pitfalls

Even in organizations that embrace prototyping, there are challenges that can occur in the implementation which cause a derivation from the ideal implementation:

  • Not communicating to whole teams: A Feature level prototype that is challenging to implement will serve to frustrate users and internal team members. This pitfall can be alleviated by communicating with developers, product managers, and internal stakeholders on the concept prior to user testing
  • Not giving proper time to test prototypes: Prototypes are a valuable tool for testing potential answers to questions and solutions to new features. To create prototypes that allow for valuable feedback, time needs to be allocated to the production and testing of the potential solutions. Be sure to build in time in the production cycle to allow for the creation of the prototypes, the organization of users to test, the collection of the feedback data, the analysis of the data, and the presentation of the results to the extended team.

Tools

Prototyping tools will vary based on what problem you are trying to solve.

Prototype tools are frequently updated, so be sure to utilize the most recent tooling to have the latest in workflow and interactive features. These are popular prototyping tools used today: