The Power of Prototyping: A Roadmap for Creating the Best Products
Lessons Learned from Adobe XD’s Lead Designer
Prototyping is the key part to solving any design challenge. It’s important from the minute you start designing: you have to make your product real in some way. When designing Adobe XD, we knew the only way we were going to turn a good product into something great was by prototyping. By continually testing our ideas and getting feedback, we were able to make XD better. We’ve been able to tell a better story, and find a better design solution each time. You can too.
My design mantra is simple: make, show, learn, repeat. You should be testing your design as quickly as possible, any way possible: sketch it, print it out, mock it up, pin it up on a wall or on a device and share it with others. Only testing and getting real feedback will take you where you need to go.
Here’s my road map for creating great products and solving inevitable design problems along the way:
- Start with “why?” What do I want the user to do here? How are they going to feel successful?
- Sketch it out. Draw it on a whiteboard, in a sketchbook, or right on your device. Define the backbone of the user experience flow. You want to see the big moments wired together.
- Now test it! Pin up on the wall, get it onto your target device, and ask for feedback. If your core experience doesn’t hold together, no amount of visual polish will make it any better.
- Think about the details. Once you’ve refined your flow, start adding more complexity and visual polish. Then test it again!
- Reiterate and refine. Continue to take that feedback and put it right back into your design. Then go back to step 3, and do it all again.
Do all of this early in development. The quicker I can share my product with real users, the quicker I can learn and make my design better. Always test before you ship: that’s the biggest part of my process. The design team at IDEO has a saying: A prototype is worth a thousand meetings.
How to Prototype and Win
There are a few key steps to take to make sure you prototype in the most-efficient, most successful way:
- Turn to your colleagues and other designers for feedback first. Get it in front of them quickly and hammer out the biggest ideas early in development.
- Ask yourself ‘who is my user, and what problem are we solving for them?’ Find those people and test, test, test! You may have empathy for user, but you and your fellow designers are not the average users.
- Test and validate with your users. They are the ones who are going to give you the knowledge you need. Sometimes they’re going to give you great feedback and it’ll make the design better. Other times they’re going to give you terrible feedback, and you have to decide whether to follow their advice or trust your gut.
- Test early, and test as often as your resources allow. Take those learnings and feed them back into your design to make them better and better: the more you can do that, the better you’ll be.
Don’t sell your product short
Prototyping has always been a challenge for designers who create digital tools: it’s easy to start designing and get locked on the screen. Until you’ve prototyped and ‘held your product in your hands’ you haven’t figured out the big spacial relationship problems that are key to solving any user experience challenge.
Prototype like a Pro
If you continually prototype, test and refine your design, you’ll have success. The best feeling is when your user forgets he or she is looking at a prototype. It means they’ve given themselves over to the experience. This provides your user with the most honest engagement, and in return they’ll give you the most reliable feedback before your product hits the market for real.
With Adobe XD, we’re making it easier to go from an idea to prototype. As designers ourselves, our goal is to create a design tool with unmatched prototyping capabilities that let you design at the speed of thought.
At its core, Adobe XD is built around the simple design process ‘make, show, learn’ – this translates to ‘design, prototype, share’ with the app. In world that’s continually changing and redefining what experience means, this process remains steady. When you’re designing applications with hundreds of screens on multiple devices, this prototyping mantra becomes a crucial part of the puzzle.