High fidelity prototypes or low fidelity prototypes, that is the question. For quite a while, I’ve been an advocate for low-fidelity prototypes.
The best arguments in favor of low fi are:
- Fast to build
- No technical or design ability required
- Prevent tunnel vision — don’t distract the end user with visuals
- Get good feedback fast
I still think these are pretty good arguments. Especially very early in the brainstorming phase, or in the validation phase (I think you asked me to build something like this). Low fi works well for that broad-strokes, big picture functionality.
But the more I’ve used prototyping and ProtoShare, the more I’ve found that I move from low fidelity to high fidelity much more quickly, and that it pays off with huge benefits.
The reason high fidelity works so well can be summed up with one word: Engagement. No matter who your stakeholder – executive, end user, developer, UX pro – higher fidelity prototypes grab and hold you users attention much more effectively than low fidelity.
This engagement leads to discovery of more complex and subtle issues and conflicts during the design process, and allows you to iterate quickly on issues that might otherwise not come up until very late in the process, requiring significant rework.
The only drawback of high-fidelity prototypes is time. You want to iterate rapidly, and the prototype is not the product. Higher fidelity will take a bit longer. But it doesn’t have to be slow. We’ve spent a lot of time with ProtoShare trying to make high-fidelity prototypes fast.
We’ve said for a long time ‘prototype as much as you need to get your point across’ and I still believe this. More and more, I’m finding that high-fidelity gets my point across much more effectively, and without much more effort.