Advanced Interactive Prototyping: more than just a design tool for the product development.

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In the fast-paced world of product development, the ability to visualise and test ideas efficiently is crucial — and that is where the advanced interactive prototyping comes. This approach has emerged as a game-changer, empowering designers and developers to bring their concepts to life before investing valuable time and resources in full-scale development. In this blog post, we will look at the concept of advanced prototyping, understand why this step is so useful in modern design and development processes, and show how it looks on a real use case of prototyping a new IT-Dimension website.


Definition

Advanced interactive prototyping is one of the steps in the product design and development process that involves creating interactive mockups and fully simulating the actual finished product, with all of its user flows, transitions, animations, and interactions. It allows designers, developers, or stakeholders to interact with the prototype and “feel” the user journey before moving on to full-scale development.


But what is the difference from the usual simple prototyping and wireframing?

The primary distinction lies in the static nature of traditional simple prototyping, which involves static layouts of various screens or pages without interactive elements. While it may be easier to implement, it falls short in several aspects when compared to advanced prototyping. Notably, a static prototype offers a less realistic user experience and lacks the ability to showcase complex design elements like animations or transitions. Additionally, it poses challenges in understanding navigation, testing user flow, obtaining feedback from stakeholders, and presenting an ‘almost real’ product before starting development.


What tools available to create advanced prototypes?

There are several widely-used solutions available for creating interactive animated prototypes, such as Figma, Adobe XD, After Effects, and Blender.


Benefits of advanced interactive prototyping

💡Ability to visualise and test even before starting development phase

💁‍♂️ One of the best options to demonstrate a product to clients with no need to develop a working app/website

🧩 Advanced animated prototypes are interactive, which is more attractive and realistic than static design prototypes

🤔 Ability for designers to explore a number of design options and come up with a best final decision

🔧 The prototypes are easy to modify, which is really helpful for designers on all stages of a prototype’s developing and refining

💰 Finally, advanced interactive prototypes save time and money. Critical glitches can be found before investing resources into the product

Do you notice how one of the design processes evolves into something more, becoming significantly more meaningful for the project?

Let’s take a quick look at some eye-opening statistics collected from the IT-Dimension team members and our extensive working experience:

  • 80% of product developers reported that interactive prototyping improved their communication with stakeholders during the development process;
  • Projects utilising advanced prototypes experienced a 15% development time reduction compared to more outdated design methods;
  • Advanced interactive prototyping saved an average of 18% in development costs, owing to early detection and rectification of design flaws, easier specs preparation, as well as avoiding of constant changes and polishings;
  • 8 out of 10 stakeholders expressed higher confidence in project success when presented with animated prototypes, referring to a clearer vision of all the details of the project, as well as realizing the professionalism of the design and development team.

But it is also worth noting that this approach is unlikely to be suitable for much shorter and smaller projects. Or for products that do not need complex design preparation. In such cases, it becomes essential to accurately assess the project at its initial stage and then make informed decisions regarding the implementation of advanced prototyping.


Implementation in project management

In the life cycle of project development, it is crucial for all team members to fully comprehend the product specifications and remain aware of any changes that may arise (let’s be honest, almost no project reaches completion without some specification adjustments). Advanced interactive prototyping emerges as a mega-useful tool at this moment, keeping the whole team in the zone of understanding – where we are, what needs to be done, and what is changing. It offers a much easier way to comprehend the project than, for example, relying solely on lengthy documentation. An interactive and animated prototype allows teams to see and “feel” the product’s functionality, providing a more effective and faster understanding compared to spending hours reading extensive documentation to grasp all the details, for example trying to understand what the animation, newly invented by a brilliant designer, should look like.

The interactive prototyping is great for all types of project management. Let’s say more, it can be a “level up” for the Waterfall methodology and other approaches close to it. It is safe to say that the planning stage (super important process for the Waterfall) becomes many times more efficient and less time-consuming using advanced interactive prototypes. All team members are on the same wavelength, understanding all the details and concretely seeing the result of all discussions and decisions made.

Equally useful will be the introduction of the process of advanced prototypes for the Agile methodology and its frameworks. For example, backlog refinement and sprint planning ceremonies in the Scrum framework become much faster and more productive, also developers have fewer questions about “blurry” parts to the product owner during the sprint.

We firmly believe that using this approach is pivotal to enhancing both the product’s quality and its overall development process.


Now let’s review what the advanced interactive prototype looks like on the example of a real case of preparing a design for an updated IT-Dimension website.

The development team’s initial task was to completely redesign our website, prioritizing enhanced user experience, intuitive accessibility of important blocks, and a more attractive interface. Therefore, advanced interactive prototyping played an important role in the preparation of layouts and user flow.

Our designers had the opportunity to try out several navigation options before submitting the wireframes to development. The interactive prototype gave the opportunity to experience what the final version of the website would look like and how it would be used by the user, which immediately made it possible to correct and improve many points, especially UX wise.

In addition, the developers got an entire detailed picture of what they should work on, including all animations, transitions, and more complex components, which subsequently greatly facilitated the understanding of all concepts and reduced the time of communications and additional explanations.

Here is the example of the built navigation scheme for one of the website’s part


Simply put, the designer “connects” various design elements to each other, building a complete functional scenario for the prototype. This allows building a simulated navigation system, and then easily testing it.

Now take a look at a new feature recently announced by Figma – Variables. We are able to set different conditions for displaying certain design elements. This allows creating even more interactive and clear prototypes.


The process of creating complex animations is a little more complicated, but the result is worth it.


Now, let’s look at a finished prototype — all the details are here, from the hovers to more complex gracefully playing animations. It’s an ideal candidate for testing and making presentations to developers and stakeholders, isn’t it?

And some of the main results of using advanced interactive prototyping for this case:

➕ With the ability to fully visualize and experience all the UX and UI details, we had smooth and super efficient communication during the discussion of various ideas, both inside the design team and outside it. This was especially true for navigation part.

➕ Had the opportunity to make a large number of changes to the design after testing the first versions of the prototype, significantly improving the final result and eliminating corrections after development (thus saving time too);

➖ / ➕ The time to get the first version of the complete website design was increased due to constructing an interactive prototype. However, this investment paid off in the two points described above, ultimately saving time in the further dev stages and improving the overall design process.

In conclusion, advanced interactive prototyping is not only an excellent design tool, but also one of the conditions for success in modern product development. By combining the power of visual storytelling, user experience optimization, and efficient collaboration, interactive animated prototypes bring improvement to all stages of development, as well as to its result.

So let the pixels dance and the interactions flow to deliver the best impact for the product that will delight users and raise the level in the market.

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