The fourth step in the design thinking process is prototype. Prototyping is a way to see if we have to go on with the idea or not. It allows us to create an early, inexpensive, and scaled-down version of the product to reveal any problems with the current design. By tackling issues in this early stage, we will save time, money, and effort.
The most important part of prototyping is not to think. Sometimes we overthink the problem, and we don’t come up with the simple ideas. We have to start building plans and allow us to make mistakes. We have to remind ourselves that an idea is never invented at one time. By accepting that we can fail, we will gain insights, which we can use to improve our idea. We have to make as many variations as possible so that we can select and reject ideas. In a designing team, every individual has to develop their prototypes. Everyone has other perspectives, and by discussing the prototypes, we can learn from each other.
We have to keep in mind the purpose of the product, as well as the users’ needs and behavior. Sometimes we add too many features to a product that the product becomes too complex. Making a product simple is the key to success. Learn from making prototypes and revisit previous stages. Look back at the earlier stages, like empathy, to see if you are helping the user.
We can divide prototyping methods into two categories: low- and high-fidelity prototyping. Low fidelity has fewer features and only the essential functions. They are used to show the general idea through storyboarding, sketching, and card sorting. It is quick and inexpensive; it gives the producer an overall view in which he still can make changes. The total opposite is high-fidelity prototyping, in which we refine every detail. This takes a lot more time and effort, but the stakeholders can better judge the idea and give feedback. However, making changes in those prototypes is hard because everything is already expanded. We, as designers, prefer using the low-fidelity method in the earlier stages and the high-fidelity prototyping later.
“If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a prototype is worth a thousand meetings.” – Saying at IDEO. Making prototypes allows us to bring more concepts or theories to life and explore their impact before choosing one or two of them. Often design teams want one or two ideas to develop instead of going through the design thinking process. This is mostly because of limits of time or money. Using the low-fidelity method gives us the chance to develop more ideas and choosing the right one.
Prototyping is not only about designing new products; it helps us as designers think in other ways. We learn from other team members’ ideas, and in the next project, we can use this way of thinking. Besides, prototyping can inspire others and ourselves. The process is exciting, and we will learn a lot. We have to be comfortable with the fact that we are going to fail. We have to release and move on, this will speed up the process, and the final product will become better.