(Guest writer: Thomas James)
Prototyping is essential in any product development workflow. By prototyping websites or apps, you can save time by having a real, workable product in days and weeks, not months. This brings several benefits, such as more extensive user testing before release and more time to refine the product.
I hesitate to call these shortcuts because they’re simply parts of a designer’s workflow; however, they do allow you to save a lot of time not doing the more tedious aspects of prototyping and spend more time on the important design details that ensure that your product has a higher chance of success in the long run.
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1. Use ready-made component and icon libraries
Using ready-made components helps in speeding up your workflow. Buttons, tables, lists, drop-down menus, and more are all easy to find and easy to use in a prototype. Drag and drop it onto your artboard, set your interaction, and your component is ready to use within minutes.
Furthermore, there can be content-rich components ready to use, such as panels or frames. These all combine to help you reduce time creating individual components.
By dragging and dropping components instead of creating them, you can spend more time on the interactions and in creating your product as lifelike as possible.
In the below example, I used a ready-made tab, linked to 3 panels deciding on a product’s color. This took me less than 5 minutes to get a usable page up and running for testing. This saves a massive amount of time in getting a usable prototype up and running in only a few minutes.
For prototyping, I use Mockplus, primarily because of the massive built-in library of ready-to-use components and icons, helping me save huge amounts of time from the outset. By having components and icons ready to use, you can save tremendous amounts of time while prototyping.
2. Use templates
Use ready-made templates (or UI kits) for faster implementation, ensuring you spend less time creating small design details and spend more time creating a more finished product.
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By using templates or UI kits, you can have a usable app in a matter of hours, simply place images and rename components before starting the prototyping. Then you can begin testing out your product.
The shown UI kit is IOTask. Ready-made templates and UI kits allow you to use the components and guidelines to create a stunning website or app in your own design. The components and guidelines will help save time in creating in-depth graphics and interactive assets.
By simply having to customize a template, your team can spend more time testing it out rather than creating buttons and navigational assets from scratch. There are many free or premium ready-made UI kits, icons, and other UI components based on different themes like restaurant, fashion, or real estate.
Another way of speeding up this process is by using ready-made platform kits. Adobe XD has many ready-made platforms with which you can copy and customize them for your own use. The advantage of these are they are platform-specific so you can create a native-looking app in no time (for apps such as iOS or Android apps).
If you want to ensure your components look and act like a native iPhone or Android app, the components in the platform kit can be ideal. Just copy and use as you need, saving your time and resources.
Thus, by having UI templates and kits, you can spend more time creating a lifelike app rather than spending hours and days creating small design details such as components or icons.
3. Test within your team from the outset
Being able to create an app or website that both creates usability and achieves business goals is difficult. By having an early prototype and having a team to test this out with can help mitigate any doubts – how the public will perceive the product, how people will use it and if there are any potential problems in the navigation.
You can test it out through both qualitative (vocal or written descriptive feedback) and qualitative (testing out with data, such as timings).
By sharing the product with stakeholders and team members, you can get wider feedback immediately, as well as regular, consistent feedback as you further iterate your prototypes and developed product.
Share as much as you can as early as you can. In my experience, I have been using Mockplus, and it’s as simple as sharing a Google Doc. Just share the link, set rights, and let my team get on with testing.
4. Organize artboards for faster architecture implementation
An overall architecture that is user-friendly is difficult to maintain as your product becomes more complex. There are two ways in which creating storyboards turns out to be pretty useful:
Creating a page overview
It allows you to create an overview of the pages with links to one another. This has the added benefit of being able to limit your choices when going in and out of pages, thereby limiting the user to stay as close to the path that you decide – allowing designers to effectively create strict architecture.
Checking page links
By seeing how pages are linked, you can test out your navigation and find inefficiencies.
Furthermore, if you find any issues when testing, you can work to reduce these errors by finding out exactly where testers are getting sidetracked and fixing them.
5. Create a Resource Hub
Being able to effectively store and share your resources with developers is an important part of keeping the implementation flow going without any roadblocks.
Keeping assets, Product Requirements Document (PRD), and design systems in one place helps facilitate faster implementation of design details and ensure far less back and forth with designers and PMs.
You don’t need to waste time communicating tiny details – put everything the developer needs in a document and resource hub, with references linked directly to the prototypes.
Additional items might include a code repository for specific components or design details.
Using these five methods of work in your prototyping will save hours and days of working on prototypes. It isn’t the be-all and end-all of prototyping, but it is going to help save you time creating the prototypes, testing out the prototypes, testing out the navigation, and ensuring any implementation goes smoothly.
Prototyping is all about creating a lifelike app or website. Spending time on the smaller design details reduces your time on iterating and testing, and trying to refine the app. Something that looks good might not test well amongst your team and may have fundamental issues.
With ready-made components along with templates and platform kits, you can design prototypes and native, realistic apps and don’t have to slowly design every detail pixel by pixel. As a result, you can test more, ensure the user navigation is optimized and create a fast designer-dev handoff.
(This guest post is written by Thomas James for Hongkiat.com. Thomas is a London-based designer and product ops specialist working with product design teams. With several years of experience working in e-commerce UX and later working in product design. Thomas helps create successful products by optimizing design workflows between designers, product managers, and developers to ensure business and design interests are aligned.)