Why I Choose Prototyping Tools Over Paper Prototyping
I have been in the design field for 3 years, not a quite long time but got my own understanding about design. I still have this dream- to change the world through my design, it seems stupid but who doesn’t have one. Nevertheless, I have to be realistic and focus on the usability, accessibility, and function of the product now. Back to my college time, my mentor always asks us to do the paper prototyping over prototyping tools, so that he knows our ideas and information architecture more intuitively. Of course, I like using pen and paper to do the prototype in the beginning of my career because it can quickly express my ideas.
It’s quite easy to do a prototype with pen and paper, after all, the tool that we are using is very simple, everyone has it and doesn’t require very high painting skills. You just need to express the process of user interface and key information. Paper prototyping is more concerned about the design process rather than the specific details, it can quickly build up a prototype and be modified on time when discussing with the team member. What’s more, it improves my ideas and design thinking all the time. But there are many drawbacks of using paper prototypes began to expose after I used it for 1 year:
1. Hard to save
Drawing with pen and pencil, the prototype will become blurry after a long time. And the paper is easy to damage and lost. I have lost many prototype files for several times that makes me upset because I need to do it all over again, so I can only save the files through the photo, but the photo effect is not ideal.
2. Difficult for usability testing
Paper prototyping is only suitable for internal member communication, most of the users want to see a real product—a medium fidelity product which can be interacted with. The cost to using paper prototyping to do demonstration and communication is large because it must take a certain amount of human resources to illustrate some of the interactive effects and simulate computer to provide feedback. But the user is difficult to understand and operate it, so it may weaken the effect of user testing greatly.
3. Low fidelity
Paper prototyping is a low fidelity prototype, it is difficult to express some interaction details of a product and the whole branding style. The function and structure are not clear enough, so the user can’t understand the details of the product clearly.
After struggling with if I should continue using the paper prototyping for 2 months, I came into some prototype software on Internet, the benefit of the prototype software is that it can produce high fidelity product which is better for showing the final product model to boss and picky customers intuitively, can improve productivity quickly and suitable for user testing. The most important thing is that the prototype software is easy to modify, many prototyping tools have snapshot archive. I can modify it directly and no longer need to waste time to draw the same part of my project.
Here are some prototyping tool that I used
The first one is Axure - a comprehensive prototyping tool that everyone knows. but it's a bit harder for me to master it. It's quite complex and daunting. The second one is Proto.io that I had been using for a while, but its prototype preview is limited, can only export pictures, HTML and PDF files, and it's very complex to through the "layer" to complete the interactive settings.
Mockplus is a prototyping tool that I use for a long time, its simple and easy to operate, and very suitable for newbies. It has hundreds of components and thousands of vector icons have basically met my needs. I just need to drag the components to the canvas and adjust it, all will be done with seconds. The interaction is very powerful, whether doing pages skipping or components interaction.
If you still insist on drawing on paper to do the prototype, you may want to change it. Prototyping software is definitely worth to try, most of the prototyping tool has a free trial, you can choose one with the lower learning curve and easy to learn, just like Mockplus. I believe you will like it.