High-Fidelity Prototyping + User Testing and Validation

Prototypes are very important in the mobile app development space. They can help your product team members validate their ideas, create buy-in from stakeholders, and help a lot in the QA process.

When you’re coming up with your mobile app strategy, it isn’t a question of if you’re going to build a prototype. It’s what kind of prototype you want to build.

High-fidelity prototyping used to be reserved for expensive large scale projects. However, thanks to advances in tech, it’s simple for nearly anyone interested in proper user testing and validation to build one.

Here’s everything you need to know about the realm of high-fidelity prototypes. Read on to learn the benefits of high-fidelity prototypes, how they benefit your product team, and how to get the most out of user testing and validation with them.

Prototyping 101

You can view a prototype as a simulation of how your completed product would look and work. They’re great tools that can help everyone on the product team test their designs for usability and feasibility at the same time.

Some people use the terms wireframe, mockup, and prototype interchangeably. It’s important to know the differences between those terms. A mockup, sketch, or wireframe are considered assets in the product development world. They can help communicate certain ideas, but they shouldn’t be considered prototypes.

The key term in our definition of prototyping is “simulation”. A prototype is supposed to give users and product team members a way to interact with the product. Static assets can be helpful and can influence a prototype, but they can’t be called true prototypes.

High-Fidelity Prototyping Vs. Low-Fidelity Prototyping

In the product management and prototyping world, fidelity is a term people use to talk about a final product’s look and feel. Typically, fidelity focuses on content, visual design elements, and interactivity.

Low-fidelity prototyping is a relatively simple way to transform some of your high-level design elements into something people can test. These prototypes are still somewhat visual, but they’re mostly used to test key features and functionalities.

These prototypes can be relatively inexpensive to put together, fast to produce, and can help users and stakeholders test out important features.

A high-fidelity prototype will be as close to the finished product as possible in terms of the look, feel, and content. There’s a heavy emphasis on written content, visual design, and interactivity. They can be used at any time in the product development process, but they’re especially helpful when the time comes to get final buy-in from stakeholders on important elements.

The Benefits of High-Fidelity Prototyping

High-fidelity prototyping may involve more of an investment in terms of time and money, but the benefits of using them are more than worth it. After we go through all of the pros of using them, you’ll be eager to use them on your next project.

Improved Feedback From Users/Testers

A high-fidelity prototype is as close to the real thing you can get without launching your product. Having this realism can greatly improve usability testing sessions and give you the feedback you need to improve and build your product.

Some concepts may be difficult to articulate and test with a low-fidelity prototype. Low-fidelity prototypes may be designed for testing interactions, but certain elements like animations and other features may not come across the right way.

On top of this, your users will have a product that’s close to the real thing. Testing a cohesive and near-complete product can give them a true feel of what the full experience will be like. This can help your testing teams gather more important data and feedback.

Test Specific Features

A low-fidelity prototype can help you test out the general functionality of your product or app, but there are some things it may not be able to accurately test.

What if you need to test a micro-interaction for a feature that isn’t 100% done yet? If your design team is trying out a new and complicated animation transition, how can they get feedback from users?

A high-fidelity prototype gives you the ability to test certain features you can’t in a low-fidelity model. You’ll be able to truly test some of your more in-depth features and get the feedback you need to move forward.

Wow Clients and Stakeholders

One of the most difficult parts of building an app or a digital product is selling the idea and work to people who don’t work in tech. Your CFO, content marketing manager, and CEO may know that you need to build a digital product, but some concepts may go completely over their heads.

Instead of trying to explain certain difficult concepts, a high-fidelity prototype can just show them what you mean. High-fidelity prototypes are great for product demonstrations. You can easily show off some of your product’s more impressive features and still have time to make small adjustments based on feedback.

These kinds of prototypes can also come in handy if you’re having trouble securing buy-in or support. They can help generate excitement among clients and stakeholders and are much more engaging than a low-fidelity prototype that just has the most basic features.

High-Fidelity Prototypes and Getting the Most Out of User Testing

We mentioned that high-fidelity prototypes can be great for comprehensive testing. There are some things you can do with a high-fidelity model that are simply impossible with low-fidelity prototypes.

While it’s true that you can learn a lot with the right prototype, the tests you choose to run with it are equally important. Want to know what you should do if you want to get the most out of your testing phase? We recommend running these important tests.

Eye-Tracking

Do you want to understand which parts of your app resonate with your user the most? Are you interested in finding ways to improve your navigation flow? Have your developers wondered if users are really engaging with the latest features they made?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, you need to make eye-tracking a part of your next user test.

Eye-tracking can help monitor tester’s physiological reactions to your app and give your product team unique insight into how users truly interact with your product. The data you can get from monitoring eye movement can be extremely helpful. Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to do with a low-fidelity prototype.

Since eye-tracking is so useful and unique to high-fidelity prototypes, we highly recommend that you utilize this kind of test. They’re great for helping teams understand barriers to conversion and can give you insight into user drop-offs.

Problem / Bug Discovery

Some of you reading this may think it’s pretty basic to list discovering bugs or other issues in the testing phase. Finding issues may be an important part of every testing phase, but you can really take the discovery to the next level when you have a high-fidelity prototype.

Instead of simply thinking about problems and bugs in terms of functionality, a high-fidelity prototype lets you focus on issues from a usability perspective. Since your app or product prototype is nearly complete, you’re able to glean more insight into what could be harming the user experience.

When you’re running tests, it’s important for facilitators to monitor them closely. They should pay close attention to how users react to problems and document each individual test from start to finish to pinpoint where problems occur.

Competitive Analysis

Do you really want to see how your app stacks up against the competition? Don’t send out another user survey asking people to compare and contrast your product against others. Make a testing plan that lets you see how you measure up in real-time.

The main benefit of the high-fidelity prototype is the combination of design and usability. Your testers are going to have something close to your final product to work with, so now is the perfect time to see how your app performs against some of your competitors.

Plan side-by-side tests with users performing identical tasks on your app and a competitor’s app. Don’t just test how long it takes to perform each action. Ask your testers which experience they preferred, and what they specifically liked about it.

Tips For Using Prototypes For Validation

Prototype validation is an important part of the development process. It allows product teams to build something that’s truly user-focused and is more likely to succeed in the market.

There are different kinds of validation you can utilize during the product development process.

User validation helps you validate certain requirements and also interpret any problems you’re trying to solve through user scenarios. Tester validation can validate specific requirements for completeness and can even help point out certain scenarios you may not have prepared for.

Technical validation typically involves the engineering and development team. They can help ensure that the solutions you’re thinking of implementing are technically possible to build.

User testing, prototypes, and validation go hand in hand (in hand). However, just like with user testing, it’s important to focus on the right things and ask the right questions when you’re validating certain features.

You now have a nearly complete product in the hands of testers. Here’s how you can ensure you validate things the right way.

Rely on Real Customers

Using family, friends, and co-workers to test products can seem like a fun idea. After all, it’s less work to get people you know to test. It also gives you a useful way to show off your work.

If you want to truly validate the right way, we’ll always recommend going with real customers instead of people you know. Real customers won’t hold back on how they feel. Some of their comments may be harsh, but they’re coming from someone that’s intimately familiar with your product and has the right expectations.

Watch and Listen

Your facilitator needs to have the right mix of being accessible and also invisible. They’ll need to help ensure that sessions stay on track and that testers understand what they’re doing. However, if they get too involved in the test, they could end up accidentally skewing the results.

You want anyone on the product team side to be as impartial as possible when they explain what to do. Remember, you want testers to come to conclusions on their own. Trying to pitch a product or highlight certain features could accidentally influence the testers.

Instead of trying to over-explain things, give needed direction, and pay very close attention to your testers and take note of their body language.

Do you notice people nodding their heads, moving the hands energetically, or smiling? That could be a sign that they’re truly enjoying the app experience. Are you seeing a few furrowed brows, squinting eyes, or head-scratching? Your testers may not be having an easy time using your product.

Create Direct Tests

One of the easiest mistakes to make in the validation phase is to give people the wrong thing to test.

Tests that take too long or require multiple steps may not give you the insight you need. Your users will be too busy following long or confusing directions and won’t be able to focus on the task at hand.

Talk to your testing team about which features they feel need the most validation. Take time to examine each feature in-depth and see how you can break them down into easy to follow tests.

Start Building Your App Today

High-fidelity prototyping can be a powerful tool when you’re trying to build and test your app properly. You can build and test some of your most important features, generate buy-in from stakeholders, and overall, build a user-centric product.

Do you want a high-fidelity prototype for your next app? If so, we can help!

Be sure to contact us so we can start talking about the best way to approach your latest project.

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