Prototyping is common in the startup world, but how does one do it with institutions and established companies? Emma Pinkerton, director of UX Consulting, explained how Bright Starr does it. She was one of three presenters that included Hans van de Bruggen, product designer at Cureatr and founder of Swipe Tools as well as Steven Cohn, founder and CEO of Validately.
Prototype is currently underserved in big companies for many reasons Pinkerton pointed out. “Enterprise environments are typically not agile environments; documentation is (preferred) versus visual communication and more significantly, politics often trumps usability.”
But some companies are also realizing the importance of prototyping or at least agile development as in paving the way for clearer communication, speeding up design processes and more important perhaps, saving the company time and money.
Even with these realizations, though, bad habits are hard to break. But Pinkerton thinks the key is to educate them on the process and make sure all decision makers are involved from day one.
Pinkerton shared use cases, showing an Axure prototype for a particular client. “We don’t share any PDFs or JPEGs until final sign off. If possible, we just share an Axure URL that is constantly being updated and published.”
With big companies, it’s common to have many changes on a project and Pinkerton thinks you should be able to prototype on the fly. Still, she cautions how the importance of defining the boundaries of the prototype. It shouldn’t be considered a design, for one.
From enterprise prototyping, next speaker Hans Van De Bruggen refreshed our minds about what design is really about as it also relates to prototyping. “Design is a process, not an end result. People do not design designs.”
Quoting Jeff Atwood, he says, “Prototypes are designed to be thrown away.”
Van De Bruggen thinks one must have a lower expectation of prototypes when developing from it, only in the sense that it is not the finished product after all but a guide. He went even further to say that “it should not be about creating usable code.”
The process of design for him is the process of “Thoroughly Thinking Through” something, stressing how good design “saves time, shortens the feedback loop and communicates more clearly.”
Cureatr is a mobile healthcare coordinating solution with over $5 million in funding. Van De Bruggen previously worked at Linkedin and Atlassian.
Steven Cohn of Validately spoke last about the importance of validating demand with a prototype using his own tool, a demand validation test.
Talking more about how products fail, one reason it happens is when you start making tradeoff decisions. He advised testers to look at the problem solution versus solution space and to have respondents use your prototype in a natural environment and then ask them cost questions.