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Prototype Testing

A prototype is a 'model' of the web design to test early in the process. It usually includes a mock up of a draft home page and of several pages (or different types of pages) below the home page.
At the earliest stages of design we can produce (or help your team to produce) wireframes that are the outline structure of the design. These can either be turned into a prototype as they are, or can be given to a graphic designer to create more realistic prototypes that look and behave much like the finished product.

Cost Effective Web Development Model

Prototype is necessary to collect enough information architecture, navigation, and page design to implement usability testing. They allow you to see how well the site structure that you are developing meets users' needs and users' ways of working before you invest too much time, cost, and effort in building the site. It can cost 200 times more to make a change after launch than to make the same change in the initial stages of designing.

In detail

There are three forms of prototyping to consider, and each has its benefits and uses:

Low-fidelity prototyping

The simplest, easiest and cheapest form of prototyping is low-fidelity. This is where basic elements of the design are printed out and used in paper form for testing and evaluation. Low-fidelity prototypes have simple blocks and text instead of images and controls, and a finger is used in place of a mouse to navigate through pages.

Medium-fidelity prototyping

Medium-fidelity prototypes are usually software-based (on a computer screen instead of printed paper) but still use basic design blocks rather than realistic images.

High-fidelity prototyping

High-fidelity prototypes are the most complex form of prototype and are usually made to look as real as possible. Realistic design and controls are used (or simulated), so that the user believes they are dealing with a real working interface. However this is on the surface only, and behind the scenes there is little or no code to support the prototype - for this reason high-fidelity prototypes are often referred to as 'smoke and mirror' prototypes.

Money Making Techniques for Websites

Low-fidelity prototypes are extremely cost effective to use and can quickly be changed and improved, lending themselves to multiple iterations in design. However they are harder for users to accept as 'real' in usability tests and lack complex interactivity. They are also harder to manage for larger scale designs.

Medium-fidelity prototypes are still cheap and quick to build and modify, but have the added benefit of being on a computer so that higher levels of interactivity are possible. Users can make use of a keyboard and mouse to use the prototype, and larger scale prototypes are much easier to support.

High-fidelity prototypes have the benefit of offering the highest level of interactivity and realism during tests and evaluations. This means that users react in the most natural way, and the highest level of usability issues are uncovered. However, high-fidelity prototypes do take longer to produce and build.

The ideal prototype can be changed easily based on the results of usability testing. In addition to being cheap, fast and accessible to non-programmers, these rudimentary techniques can yield a maximum of feedback on design ideas at a minimal cost.

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Last modified on 22 September 2004

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