Customers of prototyping software, invision, reported a 57% increase in their product usage. At Dialexa, we understand the value of making prototypes and putting them in front of people which is why we aim to start with conceptual prototyping early on in our process.
I’ve sat in countless meetings over my career where our team was stuck and not sure how to move forward. To get over this hump a few of us would rally together and just build something; something that felt real, a prototype. This helped us thrive in environments with red tape, moving our projects from a state of paralysis to the next step. It was our secret sauce of getting small wins and executing on our big ideas.
At Dialexa we help our clients articulate their ideas in the form of beautiful tangible designs. We then apply practical user jobs and workflows to those designs creating clickable or animated prototypes. This helps our clients bring their ideas to life. Often, they take our prototypes to their leadership and conferences to generate excitement and buy-in. With conceptual prototypes we see big wins in these areas for our clients; alignment, clarity, risk mitigation, and support to move forward.
Moving Projects Forward with Conceptual Prototyping
If alignment in teams wasn’t hard enough, alignment across departments is even more daunting (which is where some of the most exciting innovation lies). In many projects, we find our stakeholders are misaligned — either they haven’t spent the time together to communicate the vision or they have different ideas of the details of that vision. Spending a day or two at the beginning of an engagement or project pivot is incredibly valuable to your team, it enables them to come together and head in the same direction. We can move faster once we are all on the same page.
Our Conceptual Prototyping method helps with gaining clarity on a project/product. When you begin prototyping the team must make decisions on the business rules and general content. This helps to uncover areas that can slow down or cost a lot to change in development. Since the risk of making a bad decision when prototyping is of relatively low consequence, we are enabled to move faster.
We’ve uncovered our blind spots in our concepts with conceptual prototyping. It gave the team clarity on what to work on next to move the needle forward in their organization. We’ve also uncovered big wins through Conceptual Prototypes. We could make design tweaks for improving usability then we were ready to start coding for a beta release. If your team is feeling stuck, making something tangible based on your hypothesis is a powerful tool to providing insight and validation into the value your product and can help define the best way to move forward.
Why Conceptual Prototyping is Needed
There’s a reason people pay for staging selling homes and invest thousands of dollars into building models and renders for new developments. People need to see something to get excited and invest the time, money, and energy into it. Some would say it’s because people lack the imagination, but I would argue it takes imagination and creativity to envision what life would be like if the prototype was a product in the world. What people need is guidance into the world of possibilities accompanied by an anchor in reality to begin to understand the vision and future you and your team are creating. I’ve seen several stakeholders react to a prototype and want to build onto it — taking some aspect that we glossed over and fleshing out the details. Our prototypes unlock news ideas and inspiration which enables us to build something valuable together.
Conceptual Prototyping is a risk mitigator because it’s fast and cheap to test your ideas. There’s two major reasons for this:
- We aren’t worried about production code for this prototype. We can often use tools like invision and principal to conceptualize our stakeholder’s objectives and reduce the amount of time and resources needed to validate ideas.
- We aren’t building the whole the thing. We give the appearance of a finished product, similar to a movie set facade, but we don’t actually build the entire product out. A great side benefit to working this way is that no one should get too attached to an idea since we didn’t invest the time and energy. It’s like telling a parent their baby is ugly. Designers can spend a lot of time and energy on an idea and it gets harder to throw out and realize it’s a bad idea when they have nurtured it for so long. We are able to test ideas and accept the results all while moving quickly and cheaply.
Conceptual Prototyping helps with support
Conceptual Prototyping helps with support. The majority of feedback we receive from our clients is that our design impressed users and leadership alike. At Dialexa we believe good design is essential to enhancing the product’s value. We see that not only in the responses from clients, but also the awards we’ve achieved. We’ve garnered a lot of meaningful relationship and return clients because we’re able to help them rapidly explore and validate ideas with design and prototypes.
So if you find your team stuck or wanting to quickly test some new ideas, conceptual prototyping can help you move your project forward. If you are NOT prototyping, challenge yourself and ask why? We are seeing innovative companies move quickly with this method. Design practices have been prototyping with sketching and exploring multiple ideas and avenues to get to the best solution for years. Large companies like IBM and Capital One are buying design firms that are comfortable with these practices. We’re not only able to build better products but a better world — where good design meets the user and business needs to succeed.
If you liked this article, listen to Dialexa’s Head of Design Research, Sarah Reid, and Design Architect, James Utley, on Custom Made talk using lean design research to get to the ‘the why’ of your product:
Listen to all episodes of Custom Made for insights and perspectives from industry disruptors and technology leaders.
If you want to learn more about how we run through our own design processes, download our free guide Designing for Business Outcomes. And if you are interested in understanding more about Conceptual Design as you plan out your next technology initiative, just reach out.