Digital Prototyping Tools: A New Wave of Design Software

The Designer’s Perspective on Prototyping

Prototyping has always been a critical part of the design process—from industrial to graphic to digital—whether you’re sculpting a form from clay for a new automobile, creating an ergonomic case for a glucose monitor, or demoing the interaction for a voting machine. If design has a bias towards making, then prototyping is the practice that pushes it along its way. Designers learn by making ideas tangible. It’s vital that we see how something works and how real users react to it. Through the act of prototyping, we can view the evidence—where we got it right and where we got it wrong. Then, based on that learning, we can iterate and test, iterate and test, refining and honing our design.

To evaluate our design concepts properly, we should prototype them in an environment and context similar to those in which the product will eventually function. For the digital designer, this means the best results come from seeing the user interface on the target screen—be it mobile, web, or tablet, embedded interface, or wearable—in surroundings that approximate the deployment environment. Conversely, without a prototype that conveys the function of the application, we’ll have difficulty testing our design hypotheses. It is through the process of prototyping, learning from testing usage in the real world by real people, and iterating based on learning, that we progress towards a solution.

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