Why is prototyping so important in designing new web properties for HE?

We recently wrote about our chosen design system - UXPin. One of the reasons we chose UXPin is its prototyping power. In this article, we'll take a look at how prototyping has evolved and the value it now brings to our educational clients.

In recent years the work we do has become subject to more and more scrutiny. Many institutions have started to move away from traditional marketing avenues towards a digital-first approach. This has been helped by advancements in digital technology that allow more creative freedom and better tracking potential.

But, competition in the education sector is at an all-time high. Institutions now invest more of their budgets into digital. Add to this the growing expectations of end-users and the pressure is on to prove the effectiveness of digital solutions.

What is a clickable prototype?

If you’ve been part of a website project, there’s a good chance you’ll have been given design files to review. In the past, these were produced in Photoshop or similar. Until recent years these would almost certainly have been static files and in many cases, they may have been presented as printouts on mountboard. But these traditional methods for presenting work no longer cut the mustard.

The web has moved on and is far more fluid now. There are now a huge number of different devices and screen orientations to cater for. A page will display differently across these devices. Then there’s an additional layer of polish that we’ve become accustomed to in modern web browsing experiences. Think scroll behaviours, loading animations, background video and more. A static file or printout simply doesn’t give a true reflection of the proposed vision. 

A clickable prototype is a high-fidelity mockup of a website. They vary in complexity and scale from a single website component to an entire user flow. But most importantly, they include the extra layer of polish described above. The result is a more accurate representation of a proposed design. And all produced without the need to write a single line of code.

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Taking a look at the full power of UXPin

What are the benefits of a clickable prototype?

There are many benefits to clickable prototypes. First up, there’s the benefit to our teams’ workflows. In particular the hand-over of assets between these teams.

We’ve used various pieces of software in the past to help when handing over design files. These tools have gifted our development team with more detail by allowing them to inspect a page element. This is fine with static elements but doesn’t allow the same level of detail with anything more advanced. 

Clickable prototypes now offer the solution. Our design team are able to build a vision in collaboration with our customers and then hand this over to dev. The result is a design file that includes the advanced detail meaning development files are more accurate to the design vision.

Our design team are able to build a vision in collaboration with our customers.

Clickable prototypes in UXPin are also perfect for gaining stakeholder buy-in earlier in the design process. You and your team are able to interact with the designs as you would a live website. You’ll see the real content, including video. You’ll be able to click between pages and sections. You’ll be given a preview of the experience your users can expect.

This leads to the final, and perhaps most-powerful benefit – user testing. It’s one thing to get the nod from your Director of Marketing. It’s a different ball-game to get the nod from your users. Prototypes make this goal a reality. We take a clickable prototype and set up a user test based on the functions of the site. 

Tests are planned for up-front and backed in insight such as personas and user stories. Before any design work is complete we’ll have set the measures of success, making all of our design choices goal-driven. User tests give us the opportunity to validate design choices. And more importantly, the opportunity to refine any parts that aren’t working quite as well as expected.

All of this is completed before a single line of code is written, giving you the peace of mind that your investment is safe.

If you’d like to know more about clickable prototyping and how it could benefit you reach out.

Interested in how prototyping could help you?

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Matt Lees

Matt is the Creative Director at SMILE.