Imagine trying to build a house straight off, with no blueprints. Mistakes would get made, and back-tracking would be very costly once bricks were laid.
Exactly the same is true for web design – if you write a single line of code before you have agreed on the content and structure of the site, you’re in for trouble further down the line. Prototyping is simply this – creating a blueprint for your website, to guide subsequent development.
This blueprint, known as a prototype or wireframe, maps out the structure and navigation of your site, but completely omits the cosmetic look-and-feel, and usually, the actual content (the words and images). It can be a simple non-interactive collection of diagrams, or a fully-interactive clickable prototype, which opens in your browser and behaves like a website. Here’s an example:
Prototyping helps resolve questions such as:
– How much content will fit into the space available, for example, product summary text?
– How many navigation items will fit into your navigation bar?
– What site content do you already have, and what do you still need to create?
Testing your prototypes
You can even combine prototyping with user testing – running tests on your interactive protoype to feed the results into the decision-making process, to resolve things such as:
– Labelling of links. Which labels are most self-evident to your users?
– Does your chosen site structure fit your audience’s mental model of that type of site?
– Is your checkout process easy to use, or are their any stumbling blocks?
Costs and timings
As websites can vary widely in scope and size, a prototype could consist of anywhere between 3 days and 3 weeks, or even longer in rare cases.
I have produced prototypes for highly-commended websites, including:
– www.silverstone.co.uk – NMA score 86%, Website of the Week
– www.park-resorts.com – Travolution finalist, NMA score 84%
– www.holidaycottages.co.uk – Travolution finalist
If you would like to discuss an upcoming prototyping job, my initial consultation is free and with no obligation, so email me or give me a call on 07929 613717.