Six Benefits of Interactive Prototypes

Creating a prototype that demonstrates functionality of an application in development can positively impact final design as well as the overall project. Here are six ways interactive prototypes can help your application initiative:

1. Bringing the user interface design to life.
While end users can view and comment on a paper-based version of an application, they will not be able to fully understand the nature of key interactions until the application is developed. Creating a clickable prototype is the next logical step in design and brings a design to life.

2. Allowing users to provide valuable feedback within the proper context.  
By using a prototype, data within the context of the entire application demonstrates scenarios in a form that users can understand. Since users see the appearance of a working application their feedback will be almost as valuable as having the fully-functional application. 

3. Helping reduce overall development time.
When prototype development is not part of the process, design changes found during development can affect code. Recoding an application during the development phase can take a great deal more time and effort and significantly impact the development schedule. In addition, recoding an application due to post production usability issues can be costly. Making multiple changes to a prototype is much simpler and provides timely user feedback—keeping the focus on coding the site/application versus worrying about rework due to pre- and post-production usability issues.

4. Acting as a useful reference tool for developers.
Prototypes can be used to illustrate functionality in a way that screen specifications cannot. For example, if developers need to understand how a specific widget or control is intended to work, they can use the prototype to answer functionality questions.

5. Confirming a common vision among users and stakeholders.
A prototype allows key stakeholders within the organization an opportunity to see the application design as it was intended to be used, including buttons and interactions working in a manner that is as close to the final product as possible. Most key stakeholders are not designers or developers. They are end users of applications and are used to seeing an application in its working state. When static, non-interactive prototypes are delivered to these key decision makers, more time is spent discussing and describing how a particular feature is going to work and less time on understanding the overall design. When key stakeholders have the ability to interact with the final application design, the buy in process and ongoing support is usually stronger.

6. Creating excitement within the organization
Prototypes can also be used as a powerful tool to communicate positive progress and reveal the next tangible step towards producing the application, creating excitement within the organization.

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