During the early stages of software development, many people will struggle to get an idea of what their software will actually look like upon release. That’s where prototypes come in. Software developers can use prototypes to show clients how a piece of software will flow.
The more primitive version of a prototype involves storyboarding. This involves creating drawings that, when put together, show how a software user will navigate through the software. These are fine for simple projects where there is not too much space for error.
More complex projects require in-depth prototypes. Interactive prototypes can help. Think of them as a bare bones version of the software. Clients can use interactive prototypes on their desktops or mobile devices to navigate through the intended software. None or little of the functionality will be built in. Instead, the prototype offers a more tangible way of seeing how the software will operate upon release.
There are many reasons to use an interactive prototype.
The Flow Experience
A paper storyboard falls down when a software has a lot of different pages. Imagine a website. You can easily see how people will navigate through a five-page website on paper. It’s much harder to figure out what they’ll do on a huge eCommerce store that has many categories.
Interactive prototypes allow you to demonstrate how the navigational system of a software or website will work in practice. This gives you an idea of the flow. Further, it allows you to spot any navigational issues early in the process.
Interactive prototypes offer more information to clients. This, in turn, means they can provide much more valuable feedback about the project. They don’t have to try and visualise how the software will work in their heads. Instead, it is right there in front of them.
You cannot underestimate the value of this. An interactive prototype can ensure a client is on board from the very beginning of the process. This means you have a greater chance of satisfying the customer’s needs with the software.
Interactive prototypes may seem like time-consuming endeavours. That’s true if you compare the time taken to prepare them to that required for a paper prototype. The time saved comes in later.
For one, an interactive prototype provides software developers with a base from which to work. Essentially, the majority of the design work gets completed with an interactive prototype. Beyond that, these types of prototypes help developers and clients find minor design issues before they have the chance to cause major problems later on.
Software development is often frustrating for clients. They provide their requirements and have little to really get excited about until there’s a near-finished product in their hands.
Interactive prototypes offer something of a bridge between the requirements stage and the completed article. They offer a tangible asset that gets clients excited about the work the developers are doing. Further, clients can use them as tools to show key stakeholders how a software will work. This makes interactive prototypes valuable for ensuring everybody within a company understands the goals of a software development project.