Learn how to build website prototypes and how to communicate between web developers and customers.">
Want to have a new website? It is logical to trust a creative team of web designers and programmers to be sure that the generated ideas will be developed. At the heart of their implementation are planning and structuring.
Ideas gain real dimensions through the creation of prototypes. The prototypes show the schematic design, which reflects the specific size and location of the page elements, functionalities, data exchange areas, and navigation of your website. They are black and white, without a choice of fonts and logos and really do not have any design elements to divert attention from the focus on the structure of the site. Web developers often say that they are like engineering sketches for building a house, on which you can easily see the structural elements such as plumbing, electrical system, and others, without the interior design.
Very often, sources of inspiration are prototypes of successful websites in the same category as creatures. Ideal prototypes are easy to understand, test, explain, discuss, and improve. They must fill the information gaps in the communication between web designers and programmers, stimulate ideology, and reveal fundamental solutions at the right time.
Prototyping involves 90% of content planning. The first step determines the characteristics of the users. Who are the end-users? What problem will the website solve? Why will they visit your website? Once the user characteristics are clear, the content and other elements of the web pages can be invented.
Good developers do not use any filling text but create real content to give the client a clear idea of the future site. Considerable time is spent on how to compare the different elements. No colors, images or typography are used in the construction of the prototype.
The content hierarchy is defined. It is important to answer the question of what will be the position, size, and categorization of each element. However, this does not mean that the prototype should detail the design of the website itself. It should show how the site will work, not what it will look like. It should describe how the functionalities will interact with the users and in accordance with each other.
Initially, web developers keep notes about the functionality of the future site and its purpose. They then make a complete list of them, which is subject to discussion by the whole team. At this stage, it is important to create clear expectations. In addition to the basic elements such as header, footer, sidebar, and content spaces, the following questions should be addressed:
- Is it good to have dynamic interactive components?
- Will video links be included?
- How will these links be presented?
- Will there be a list of the latest published content?
Many more questions are usually added to the list. During the preparation of the prototype, the project manager informs the client about the development of the process.
Different web developers create prototypes in different ways. Most often it starts with those with lower precision and moves to higher, depending on what detail is intended to be achieved in each interaction.
There are three types of prototypes - low, medium, and high precision. Those with low precision are hand-drawn sketches that are created either on paper or on a special computer program. The purpose of these prototypes is to present possible ideas and suggestions for arranging web pages, as well as to assess what is happening and what is not. They serve as a basis for discussions in the team developing the site.
Medium-precision prototypes are more detailed and begin to define the user interface. At this stage, the elements of the low-precision prototype are organized more clearly and the result begins to look more like a real website. At the same time, the medium-precision prototype is still flexible enough to change after discussions and evaluations.
High-precision prototypes are very close to the finished website. More colors are used to create them, and images and text are included. At this stage, the prototype is in real size and is perfect to the last pixel.
The prototype can be finalized only after a solid amount of evaluations and recommendations. When ideas are shared, their greatness multiplies. Teamwork is a major factor in the implementation of any web project.
The initial definition of the problem suggests what process and what tools to use in communicating with team members so that everyone is involved in making decisions about the development of the website. Prototypes are an extremely useful tool in this process. Sometimes the process is not easy and creative disagreements arise, but the prototypes are objective.
Last but not least, good developers are not attached to their prototypes. In a tumultuous thought process that produces many ideas, the willingness to make changes is crucial to ultimate success.
Adding notes to the prototypes allows anyone viewing them to understand the developer's rationale. They are short and clear and note the benefits of the design elements for consumers. The notes are usually numbered and follow a strict order from left to right on the page, with the details placed in a special column to the right of the prototype.
The initial rough sketches are used to convey the main idea to the client and to receive feedback at an early stage. Experienced developers ask the right questions, depending on what they want to get - answers, approval, or authorization. The more often the customer receives feedback, the better. The accuracy of the prototypes is not essential.
Some of the most frequently asked questions by developers during customer meetings include:
- What other elements would you like to add to the prototype?
- Would you change the content flow?
- How do you find the focus on the different elements?
For more details, specialists usually invite the client to share more about their work processes.
For developers, customer meetings are also a good opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of their prototypes from the user's point of view. An important rule of thumb is to never target users while trying out interactive prototypes. The interaction is monitored and based on it optimizations are made, if necessary.
At this stage, the prototype is refined. Problems are solved, most often by clearing distracting details and various disturbances. Interference can be expressed in inappropriate images, too many links, or excessive content.
It is determined whether the prototype inspires confidence in consumers. Navigation must be trouble-free. Shorter sentences and sheets make the process easier and subsequently help turn users into customers.
Once developers are happy with the layout of the elements in the prototype, they begin adding content to see if the information hierarchy and structure make sense. He is experimenting with typography. If it becomes clear when adding more details that the original layout is not appropriate, it may change.
Developers typically create one template for a desktop computer and one for a smartphone for a client demo. The use of presentation terms, such as cross-platform functionalities, must be supported by a prototype that demonstrates their practical application.
Sometimes it helps to sketch the prototype on a piece of paper and then demonstrate how the elements move when changing devices. An A4 sheet can be folded several times to show the different screens for which the website is designed. The desktop layout can be presented on a full sheet. When folded in two, two tablet screens are formed, on which to present the layout in the vertical and horizontal position. After three more folds of the sheet, there is space for presenting the layout of the pages on a smartphone.
To make the elements more visually impressive, the full spectrum of grayscale is used. This helps a lot in building the visual design. With the addition of more details, a prototype with high precision is prepared. This means adding as much information as possible without significantly changing the vision. You can add the original content and determine the ideal font size. At this stage, it is possible to add colors. This way, when programming starts, the perfect prototype will be available.
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