Tips on Low Fidelity Prototype for UX

Well, some of you may know my lack of fondness for low fidelity prototype models. This is one case where I admit that’s my problem, not that model’s problem, but it doesn’t change the fact that I kind of see problems in it.

Disclaimer:

In truth, my criticism of the low fidelity prototype concept comes in how much obsession it garners in the field of UX, and how much time and effort is put into some of the prototypes people make at this phase. It’s like spending a million dollars on blue prints.

But, a proper use of this is helpful. Truth be told, I just skip it out of laziness and legitimate experience lets me, thus far, get away with it. Do as I say not as I do, ok?

A Quick Definition:

Well, the concept is pretty simple. It’s prototyping of things like GUI layouts, visual themes, navigation patterns through steps and clicks and series of interactions, and other such things.

It can actually be considered a bit of an umbrella term to include paper prototypes, flow charts of logic and navigation, and ugly early GUI mock ups and sketches. There are others, but those are the most common and ergo the ones that come to my mind writing this. see Graphical User Interface examples.

A Few Problems:

Well, like I said, it’s the overuse of these that can get to be an issue. First, in most forms, it uses a lot of symbolic representation of concepts, and people have a tendency to never agree on the symbols to represent things.

As a result, this fast form of putting ideas to data can become incomprehensible to more than a small handful of people at any given time. I’ve watched prototyping processes spend over half their energy dancing around this problem. I’ve seen instances, though, where these things were thought through ahead of time, and the process was over sooner.

Another problem is that low fidelity only works until you’ve weeded out the macroscopically obvious designs of things that are not going to work or are not desirable.

After this, you can’t continue to grade based on lo-fi prototype forms, because they don’t produce nor account for the billions of nuances in an actively applied design, which can go wrong or be unpredictable to the extreme.

So, walk away from that understanding that this needs to stop the moment you’re ready to try to launch even the earliest not-mute build of whatever you’re working on.

Paperless or Not:

The final point I’m coming to here is the debate about whether or not to be totally paperless in your early prototyping and design conceptual phases. A lot of people are apologists for sketching and prototyping with actual paper, sticky notes and dry marker boards. These have their uses I suppose, but do we really need those old analog approaches, even for lo-fi prototypes?

I think we don’t, because removing those from the equation, and inserting digital equivalents with little to no learning curve, will make the process much better on all fronts. No more location centrism is always an improvement, and lack of waste when mistakes are made and ideas bailed out on, is also very green and cost efficient.

So, while I may be bad example for my negligence in using low fidelity prototype models in my work, if you know how far they’re meant to go, and maybe get over the adherence to old materials, you can get a lot of lift out of this sort of thing.

bnr14

Megan Wilson
Megan Wilson is user experience specialist & editor of UX Motel. She is also the Quality Assurance and UX Specialist at WalkMe Megan.w(at)walkme.com
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