What Kind of Prototypes and Design Tools You need for Your Audience?

In our daily software design, it often involves the prototype design. There are always three purposes for prototyping:

1. Prototyping for yourself, for further design.

2. Prototyping for developing team, for developing.

3. Prototyping for client, for getting paid.

However, sometimes we have lots of newbies take the developing prototype to the client, leading to customer dissatisfaction, then the negotiation process will be extremely difficult. Some people take the prototypes which are made for customers to the developing team, the result is inefficiency of the developing, and might be rejected by the team. In a few cases, it may lead to more serious communication problems. In few situations, some may take the prototype for himself to the developing team or even the clients. What happens next, would be really terrible. So, for whom, which kind of prototypes shall we make with what tool? Please allow me to explain.

For yourself

What matters: Draft

Tools: White board, Paper and Pen, Balsamiq, Xmind

Since it's made for yourself, there's not much to say, just record everything you have in mind, and make sure that you can fully understand what you've recorded. In this phrase, the less interruption from outside world, the better you can make. The easiest tools like paper and pen, white board would be the best things for you. You have no restriction with them. If you want to arrange these wireframes more affectively, please try Balsamiq. There's no interaction for this prototyping tool, but the sketch style would definitely provide you with some good ideas. Of course, sometimes you need a mind map to get a better view of what you're doing, then you will need the help from Xmind.

For developing team and Experienced clients
What matters: Interaction

There are a thousand ways to interpret the bible. PRDs are not bibles, but, still there will be a thousand different understandings from your developing team. If you are still using wireframe + word descriptions for "PRDs" and give them to your developing team, then please try those four prototyping tools I listed. Align developing teams usually choose prototyping + a few descriptions. It may need hundreds of pages for a full word description PRD file, but when you have a prototype, there will be just dozens of pages, it's like ten percent of the original files. 

What's more, the interaction will make your ideas more intuitive. This will help your team improve the level of efficiency with less misunderstandings. In those four tools, Axure and Justinmind are more comprehensive, on the contrary, Mockplus and UXPin are more agile. Personally, I like the latter ones better. Mockplus and UXPin are basically meet the needs of prototyping. On the specific function point, such as Value and Judgement, they are less competitive. Nevertheless, please have a second thought, is it really worth it to spend over ten minutes for setting an interaction? In fact, one simple description may have already solved the problem in one minute. In the same situation, for the clients who are experienced, time is so valuable, present your idea in the fastest way is not only respecting your client, but also the affirmation of your work. So, when the communication is among experts, some simple word descriptions combining with the prototypes made with tools like Mockplus and UXPin often can create a faster and also better result.

For clients with no experience

What matters: high fidelity

Tools: OrigamiFramerJS

However, there are some clients good at business but not familiar with software design. They might request a prototype which is 99.999% like the real App. What you need would be Origami and FramerJS. Why I put these great tools at the last? Because, if you design with those two, it might take some time. Origami is really complicated and FreamerJS is based on coding. While the align developing, you won't have so much time for prototyping, unless you have met clients without experience but with super high requests. The interfaces and the interaction animations are really good, even could replace the real app. However, it needs coding skills and will cost a lost of time, so they're not on the list of recommendations for daily using.

These are the basic explanations for the three different situations. Many of the great tools are not mentioned here. Please always choose the tool the suits you better.

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