The Five Types of Prototypes

1 Oct 2007 - 8:40am
6 years ago
11 replies
7596 reads
Todd Warfel
2003

So, this whole discussion about making clickable wireframes got me
thinking about something. As I'm working through my book,
interviewing a number of people from different backgrounds, I've come
across 5 different types, or purposes perhaps, for prototype:

1. As a common communication platform–using them to get everyone on
the same page, avoiding misinterpretation of ideas, using them as a
method to show and tell.
2. Work through a design–for designers and developers, prototypes act
as a way to work through your design solution, giving you the ability
to evaluate a few different options, tweak them, and come up with the
best one.
3. Sell your idea internally–using them to sell your design solution
to internal stake holders like senior management, other designers, or
the engineering team.
4. Gauge technical feasibility–designers want to do X, but can
engineering do it? Do we have the resources? Is it worth the effort?
5. As a marketing tool–while similar to number 3, this is for an
external audience.

This isn't to say that one prototype couldn't serve all these
different purposes, but these are different purposes that prototypes
do serve. The other thing I've noticed is that these purposes are
universal to both hi-fi and lo-fi prototypes.

Thoughts? Any purpose that I'm blatantly missing here?

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
President, Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

Comments

1 Oct 2007 - 11:08am
lois lewis
2007

Todd,
We practice User-centered design where I work so as an extension of
#2 we use prototypes to do formative usability testing. We test
different low-fidelity working prototypes with users to include user
input into the design process.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the improved ixda.org
http://beta.ixda.org/discuss?post=20959

1 Oct 2007 - 4:08pm
dmitryn
2004

What about prototypes as design documentation? This might be implicit
in 1), but I see it as slightly different from general-purpose
communication.

Dmitry

On 10/1/07, Todd Zaki Warfel <lists at toddwarfel.com> wrote:
> So, this whole discussion about making clickable wireframes got me
> thinking about something. As I'm working through my book,
> interviewing a number of people from different backgrounds, I've come
> across 5 different types, or purposes perhaps, for prototype:
>
> 1. As a common communication platform–using them to get everyone on
> the same page, avoiding misinterpretation of ideas, using them as a
> method to show and tell.
> 2. Work through a design–for designers and developers, prototypes act
> as a way to work through your design solution, giving you the ability
> to evaluate a few different options, tweak them, and come up with the
> best one.
> 3. Sell your idea internally–using them to sell your design solution
> to internal stake holders like senior management, other designers, or
> the engineering team.
> 4. Gauge technical feasibility–designers want to do X, but can
> engineering do it? Do we have the resources? Is it worth the effort?
> 5. As a marketing tool–while similar to number 3, this is for an
> external audience.
>
> This isn't to say that one prototype couldn't serve all these
> different purposes, but these are different purposes that prototypes
> do serve. The other thing I've noticed is that these purposes are
> universal to both hi-fi and lo-fi prototypes.
>
> Thoughts? Any purpose that I'm blatantly missing here?
>
> Cheers!
>
> Todd Zaki Warfel
> President, Design Researcher
> Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
> ----------------------------------
> Contact Info
> Voice: (215) 825-7423
> Email: todd at messagefirst.com
> AIM: twarfel at mac.com
> Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
> ----------------------------------
> In theory, theory and practice are the same.
> In practice, they are not.
>
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
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>

1 Oct 2007 - 5:05pm
Cindy Alvarez
2004

On 10/1/07, Dmitry Nekrasovski <mail.dmitry at gmail.com> wrote:
> What about prototypes as design documentation? This might be implicit
> in 1), but I see it as slightly different from general-purpose
> communication.

Yes - my company uses prototypes for all 5 of the above plus this one.

We do B2B web applications, and our customers have increasingly
demanded that their product documentation be at the "wireframe" level
of detail. The reason is that their Legal departments are starting
to insist that they review every piece of text on every screen coming
from a 3rd party provider -- difficult to capture for an interactive
app.

After some painful sessions with manually assembling detailed
interaction notes for customers, my team updated our Visio templates
with "internal" and "customer-facing" layers so that we'll be able to
easily turn off internal notes, PDF the whole thing, and send it over.

Cindy

http://www.cindyalvarez.com

1 Oct 2007 - 7:13pm
Todd Warfel
2003

Are you referring to wireframes, or a prototype here? What does legal
use to go through?

On Oct 1, 2007, at 6:05 PM, Cindy Alvarez wrote:

> We do B2B web applications, and our customers have increasingly
> demanded that their product documentation be at the "wireframe" level
> of detail. The reason is that their Legal departments are starting
> to insist that they review every piece of text on every screen coming
> from a 3rd party provider -- difficult to capture for an interactive
> app.

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
President, Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

1 Oct 2007 - 7:31pm
Cindy Alvarez
2004

Actual wireframes - we might show a "canonical" screen, and use the
callouts to show what other text may appear under different
conditions.

A working prototype would better illustrate the core user experience,
but would be very difficult for someone with a checklist to go through
and make sure they had reviewed every bit of text.
It's not uncommon for a customer to come back to us and say "Legal is
fine with the normal text, but these 2 error messages out of a
possible 10 they want to reword during the design consulting phase".

Cindy

--
http://www.cindyalvarez.com

On 10/1/07, Todd Zaki Warfel <lists at toddwarfel.com> wrote:
> Are you referring to wireframes, or a prototype here? What does legal use to
> go through?
>
>
> On Oct 1, 2007, at 6:05 PM, Cindy Alvarez wrote:
>
>
> We do B2B web applications, and our customers have increasingly
>
> demanded that their product documentation be at the "wireframe" level
>
> of detail. The reason is that their Legal departments are starting
>
> to insist that they review every piece of text on every screen coming
>
> from a 3rd party provider -- difficult to capture for an interactive
>
> app.
>
>
> Cheers!
>
> Todd Zaki Warfel
> President, Design Researcher
> Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
> ----------------------------------
> Contact Info
> Voice: (215) 825-7423
> Email: todd at messagefirst.com
> AIM: twarfel at mac.com
> Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
> ----------------------------------
> In theory, theory and practice are the same.
> In practice, they are not.
>
>
>

1 Oct 2007 - 7:41pm
Chris Noessel
2005

Sadly, I have had in the past to use prototypes to show someone how
bad a proposed suggestion would be. This might be #2, but the
intention of it was just to illustrate in a concrete way a bad idea
that sounded fine in the abstract.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the improved ixda.org
http://beta.ixda.org/discuss?post=20959

2 Oct 2007 - 9:02am
Baruch Sachs
2007

I increasingly have to do this. As prototyping gets quicker and easier it
really does save a lot of time to quickly prototype the ideas people have
and show them in use. It fleshes out the wheat from the chaff very
effectively. Much better than having meetings and discussions about whether
or not something will work.

On Mon, 1 Oct 2007 17:41:18, Chris W Noessel <chrisnoessel at hotmail.com>
wrote:
>
> Sadly, I have had in the past to use prototypes to show someone how
> bad a proposed suggestion would be. This might be #2, but the
> intention of it was just to illustrate in a concrete way a bad idea
> that sounded fine in the abstract.
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the improved ixda.org
> http://beta.ixda.org/discuss?post=20959
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
> Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> Questions .................. list at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org
>

2 Oct 2007 - 8:14am
Rob Tannen
2006

Related to this discussion of prototypes, there's an upcoming article in
Applied Ergonomics comparing the differences between 2D and 3D
prototypes when designing 3D products - I summarized it here:

http://humanfactors.typepad.com/idsa/2007/10/2d-vs-3d-protot.html

-Rob Tannen

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of
Dmitry Nekrasovski
Sent: Monday, October 01, 2007 5:09 PM
To: Todd Zaki Warfel
Cc: IxDA Discuss
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] The Five Types of Prototypes

What about prototypes as design documentation? This might be implicit
in 1), but I see it as slightly different from general-purpose
communication.

Dmitry

2 Oct 2007 - 9:25am
Todd Warfel
2003

Or at least gives you something concrete to talk around and keep you
ground rather than speak in hypotheticals.

On Oct 2, 2007, at 10:02 AM, Baruch Sachs wrote:

> Much better than having meetings and discussions about whether or
> not something will work.

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
President, Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

2 Oct 2007 - 3:17pm
jrrogan
2005

Prototypes seem to be important for the entire Software Development Life
Cycle, which kind of maps to your 5 utilities of Prototypes.

I've always thought of the utility of protoytpes in a SDLC frame of mind:

1. Concrete example of requirements, facilitating gathering/flushing out
details/buy in
2. Artifact of requirement/design deltas, (versioning/iteration/changing
requirements)
3. Engineering Level of Effort measurement and negotiations artifact, (I've
worked at a place which "counted screens" as per engineering hours of
effort, no kidding)
4. QA artifact
5. Base line Software Artifact

>
> 1. As a common communication platform–using them to get everyone on
> the same page, avoiding misinterpretation of ideas, using them as a
> method to show and tell.
> 2. Work through a design–for designers and developers, prototypes act
> as a way to work through your design solution, giving you the ability
> to evaluate a few different options, tweak them, and come up with the
> best one.
> 3. Sell your idea internally–using them to sell your design solution
> to internal stake holders like senior management, other designers, or
> the engineering team.
> 4. Gauge technical feasibility–designers want to do X, but can
> engineering do it? Do we have the resources? Is it worth the effort?
> 5. As a marketing tool–while similar to number 3, this is for an
> external audience.
>
>

4 Oct 2007 - 2:33pm
Joe Lamantia
2007

Todd

On Oct 1, 2007, at 9:40 AM, Todd Zaki Warfel wrote:

> So, this whole discussion about making clickable wireframes got me
> thinking about something. As I'm working through my book,
> interviewing a number of people from different backgrounds, I've come
> across 5 different types, or purposes perhaps, for prototype:
>
> 1. As a common communication platform–using them to get everyone on
> the same page, avoiding misinterpretation of ideas, using them as a
> method to show and tell.

I call this a Vision prototype

> 2. Work through a design–for designers and developers, prototypes act
> as a way to work through your design solution, giving you the ability
> to evaluate a few different options, tweak them, and come up with the
> best one.

This is a Conceptual prototype

> 3. Sell your idea internally–using them to sell your design solution
> to internal stake holders like senior management, other designers, or
> the engineering team.

This is a Consensus prototype

> 4. Gauge technical feasibility–designers want to do X, but can
> engineering do it? Do we have the resources? Is it worth the effort?

This is a Technical prototype

> 5. As a marketing tool–while similar to number 3, this is for an
> external audience.

This is a Demo (grin)...

>
> This isn't to say that one prototype couldn't serve all these
> different purposes, but these are different purposes that prototypes
> do serve. The other thing I've noticed is that these purposes are
> universal to both hi-fi and lo-fi prototypes.
>
> Thoughts? Any purpose that I'm blatantly missing here?
>

I think you're spot on. The question of how many of the above
purposes any single prototype serves is driven more by budget,
timeline, and design / development methodology.

With an infinite amount of time and money, who wouldn't at least
consider doing both hi-fi and lo-fi versions of each of the five
types of prototype? Maybe you'd get bored by the whole exercise.
But you'd know a great deal about your proposed design concept...

In practice, the very important decisions on which combinations of
kinds of prototypes at what level of detail to execute are often
largely political, rather than a question of how and where insight
into the design itself is most valuable for the designers.

Cheers,
Joe Lamantia

> Cheers!
>
> Todd Zaki Warfel
> President, Design Researcher
> Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
> ----------------------------------
> Contact Info
> Voice: (215) 825-7423
> Email: todd at messagefirst.com
> AIM: twarfel at mac.com
> Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
> ----------------------------------
> In theory, theory and practice are the same.
> In practice, they are not.
>
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://beta.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://beta.ixda.org/help
> Unsubscribe ................ http://beta.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> Questions .................. list at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://beta.ixda.org

joe at joelamantia.com | www.joelamantia.com

"I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not
reason
and compare, my purpose is to create."

William Blake -- Jerusalem

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