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The importance of wireframing and prototyping before development

April 29, 2021
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Photo by Andrea G on Unsplash.

A wise soul once said, “failing to plan is planning to fail.” Some attribute those words to Benjamin Franklin, while others say Winston Churchill coined the phrase. Regardless of who said it first, those words can be tied directly to the wireframing and prototyping stages of product development.

And it doesn’t matter whether you’re building a physical product or a digital product. Both require a thoughtful and iterative design process in order to craft the most user-friendly experience possible. 

So what’s the difference between wireframing and prototyping, you might ask? A wireframe is a low-fidelity mockup of the user interface that prioritizes information architecture, the structure and organization of information on the screen, over interactive design. A digital prototype is a high-fidelity, functional mockup that comes right after wireframing and serves as a working version of the application.  

There is no shortage of options when it comes to wireframing and prototyping tools for designers. Adobe XD, Axure, Figma, and InVision are just a few of the great platforms for digital prototyping solutions. 

Another crucial part of product design is user testing. Wireframes and prototypes are essential for conducting usability tests before a product can advance to development and production. But it’s important to note, testing with a high-fidelity prototype usually leads to more insightful user feedback since its features are more finalized and realistic than they would be in a low-fidelity wireframe.     

As far as physical prototypes, early-stage mockups can include 3D modeling. Once there’s a visual representation of the product, it’s easier to evaluate both personally and with the help of usability participants. The following step is to 3D print a minimum viable product, which is significantly cheaper than large-scale industrial fabrication. 

Testing and redesign allow for iteration with the benefit of user feedback. By spending time and resources on evaluation early, a company can save a lot of money on development later. It’s much cheaper to make changes in the design phase.   

In terms of project management, there is always a negotiation between various aspects of the work. More specifically, quality, time, and cost. Prudent design practices like wireframing and prototyping enhance the quality of a product. And with rapid prototyping, a company can get a working version of their product to potential customers relatively quickly and still have room to self-evaluate and grow.    

Here at 3Digit, we apply comprehensive wireframing and prototyping procedures to both digital and physical product design. We understand that mockup design and testing, working from low-fidelity to high-fidelity, is fundamental to improving the user experience and building amazing products. To learn more about how we can help advance your digital or physical product design, click here. You can also read our thoughts on other design topics, and if you’re interested in collaborating, contact us.  

3Digit is a small agile product design shop based outside of Baltimore, MD. We focus on designing user-centered digital products for mobile and web applications, as well as physical prototyping for early-stage startups and entrepreneurs. Our approach relies on research and rapid prototyping to help businesses turn their ideas into reality.