“If a picture is worth a thousand words, a good prototype is worth a thousand meetings.”
A prototyping tool acts as a platform that encourages better collaboration through iterative design and feedback.Through the process of design and using prototyping tools you are able to quickly establish a visual overview of initial concepts & thoughts.
These can then be further developed into more established and refined products, interfaces,.. Prototypes are of great assistance when reviewing content. it helps raise understanding, get a fuller grasp of flows or interactions, foresee potential barriers or issues through discussion and ultimately should improve you to come up with further solutions.
Currently, there are countless prototyping tools available on the market. Choosing the most suitable tool for you is the key to bringing your ideas to life and will help foster better collaboration and understanding. Every tool is uniquely designed and has its own key features to stand out from the rest. But how do you identify what might be suitable for you when considering precise features that increase the efficiency and quality of your design?
The “FACE U C” methodology
The “FACE U C” methodology proposed by UXArmy suggests that designers should evaluate the tools based on certain criteria. This methodology also helps designers demonstrate the key strengths of each tool better.
Fidelity: A prototype is not the final product, it is categorised into different levels of fidelity: Low, Medium and High. The difference is the degree of details and functionality of the design, content and interactivity of a prototype.
Low fidelity validates the functionality and layout of elements rather than focusing on the visual appearance of the product. When the designers and clients have a solid agreement and understanding of the product, they can then further validate the design using mid-fidelity prototypes. Towards the end, designers will gather all the insights from user testing results to design high- fidelity prototype. Hi-fidelity prototypes appear and function close to the final product but not the actual product. The importance of knowing which fidelity to use at different stages is key to save effort and reduce risks.
Adaptability: helps check how closely the tool works with the design process and its compatibility with other design tools. For example, if you use Adobe Photoshop to create your design, it would be more efficient to choose a prototyping tool that can adapt to other software files directly as well.
Adaptability also refers to the learning curve of the amount of time and effort for designers and clients to ascertaining the tool.
Collaborating Easiness: Collaboration is a vital factor in good design. With more complex projects, multiple designers work collaboratively. Meanwhile, designers need to constantly communicate with developers, clients, users and stakeholders. Checking the tool’s suitability for teamwork is very important. You need to ensure the tool enables the ability for multiple designers to work on the same project and be in sync with each other.
Understanding: As every tool is distinguished with its unique features, it would be time-consuming to fully comprehend a new prototyping tool. Understanding and choosing a tool that saves a designers time and increases output simultaneously is key.
Cost: Cost is one of the deciding factors for anything we purchase. If we understand and evaluate all the above merits of the prototyping tools, we can find the most suitable tool that matches our requirements. The next question you should ask yourself, is whether the tool is worth the price? Or if you are willing to invest in a tool when the price goes slightly beyond your budget?
Top prototyping tools in the market
“InVision is indispensable, be it for quick concepting, creating a believable prototype for studies, or for building out interactive specifications.” - Chad Thornton, AirBnB
It is famous for its cloud-based platform. Users can collaborate, research and test their ideas on InVision. InVision has a rich template library for users to select from. It is also beginner-friendly.
A browser based interface design application that has a desktop version which runs on both Windows and Mac OS. One significant feature of Figma is that even if you lose connectivity, it is still possible to work on a document that is already open.. Figma features live, real time collaboration and encourages users to build their own libraries of reusable components, which can be further shared with the team.
A professional vector graphic based design program native to Mac . Create Prototype, collaborate and turn your ideas into products. With a powerful vector editor, built-in prototyping, responsive components and more, Sketch makes it easier than ever for designers to transform ideation into realisation.
Principle is best for hi-fi prototypes. The tool makes it easy to design animated and interactive user interfaces. This tool helps improve the shortening design-development cycle, as it lets users quickly test their ideas out before investing valuable time. When the final design is decided, Principle prototypes will communicate ideas to the engineering team.
Framer X is one of the world’s most advanced interactive design tools on the market. It has a set of functions that allow users to design hi-fi products. Features allows more than just page transitions, Framer X allows users to choose from the motion effect menu to create everything from swipe-able lists to iOS date pickers to 3D card transitions.
Developed and used by Facebook, Origami Studio’s goal is to support designers to build and quickly test the UI interactions and flows. Unlike other prototyping tools, it doesn’t support drag & drop feature. However, users can copy elements from other design tools and paste native layers into Origami Studio. Then adjust, or add behaviour and animate any layer property immediately.
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