Once completed your user research, the second stage in the product development process is product design. The 2 steps are:
- Prototyping (Low & High Fidelity)
1. Brainstorming & Idea Generation
At this stage, you and a partner start the creative process by reviewing the written description of your customer’s desired outcome and ideating potential alternative solutions to your customer’s problem.
Stanford’s d.school Brainstorming Method is an excellent reference on this topic and proposes the following for maximizing your brainstorm session:
- Go for Quantity > Quality
- Build on the ideas of others
- Defer Judgement
If you want to learn more about User-Centered Design, check out Stanford’s d.school Crash Course Playbook!
2. Low-Fidelity Prototyping (Sketches & Wireframes)
At this stage, you want to develop rough sketches in order to visually describe your ideas. The purpose of this phase is to convey an idea, not a finished product. The goal is to be able to share this with your peers or target customers in order to receive very early stage feedback.
The sketches can be done using pen and paper or using free/cheap online software tools. The reason you want to LoFi Prototype your ideas is because:
- They allow you to convey high-level, conceptual functionality
- They are quick, cheap and easy to build.
- They allow for multiple iterations of feedback
A couple tools you can use for making quick and easy wireframes are:
A low-fidelity prototype should look as simple as this:
Some excellent references on Low Fidelity Prototyping:
- Smashing Magazine’s Skeptic’s Guide To Low-Fidelity Prototyping
- UX Pin’s Guide to Prototyping
- The Beginners’ Guide to UX Prototyping
- A Guide to Low Fidelity Prototyping
- Prototyping, Usability.Gov
- Mashable’s Top 10 Free Wireframing Tools
- Concerning Fidelity and Design
The transition for low fidelity prototyping to high-fidelity prototyping should happen in the following way:
3. High-Fidelity Prototyping (Mockups & Designs)
At this stage, you want to develop more refined versions of your solutions, using more sophisticated methods. The goal of high fidelity prototypes is to allow you to dig deeper into the user experience and overall workflow of your functionality.
Your high-fidelity prototypes should be interactive and highlight the transition between states based on the behavior of your user. They represent the final stage before the product is actually coded up by a software engineer and released to a user. A useful way to arrange multiple high-fidelity prototypes is using storyboards.
A couple inexpensive tools you can use at this stage include:
High-fidelity prototypes should look and feel like finished products, but lack some of the back-end functionality.
Putting it all together
The transition from sketch, to low-fidelity to high-fidelity prototypes should feel something like this…
The main thing to takeaway is to start simple and iterate, adding more and more detail along the way. Leverage your user’s feedback to guide your design decisions.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and are well on your way to becoming a skilled product designer. In the next post, I’ll cover the basics of a software development process!