Pitfalls of Prototyping

Let’s look at six of the most common misconceptions about prototyping, and how to combat each so that you can avoid these pitfalls and build better products or services.

1. Diving into the first good idea

Since we live in a fast-paced time and everything needs to be done yesterday, our time is precious and we tend to preserve it. It is attractive to go with the first idea you have come up with and run it like it's your final solution. Well, in the beginning, that's great, you feel like you leveled up, but the sad true reality is that you are still pathetic because the great reality slap is right behind the corner, waiting for you. This leads to an issue because most problems we are trying to solve are more complex than they look on the surface. A promising idea pushed all the way into a solution without any prototyping or validation, may turn out to have a couple of assumptions wrong (if you are lucky). The result is a solution that doesn't work, and lots of time and energy wasted.

Solution: A key to successful prototyping is testing various models and exploring approaches before choosing the best model and removing problematic ones. Most times, you will be inspired to create more ideas or merge a few solutions into a better and more successful one, by testing alternative ideas and making quick and dirty prototypes. The point is you can be fast.

2. Falling in Love with Your Prototypes

The endowment effect otherwise referred to as “investment bias”, can interfere significantly with the value derived from prototyping. The endowment effect happens when people ascribe more value to an object simply because they have ownership over it. In prototypes, the endowment effect can create the dangerous situation wherein prototypes become too “precious” to fail or give up on. This happens when designers become too emotionally attached to a prototype or idea, even when it becomes clear that the ideas are problematic. This usually happens when designers spend too much time creating and perfecting a prototype when a rough and dirty model would suffice. Usually, low-fidelity prototypes, such as paper mock-ups or sketches, are sufficient for early stage testing.

Solution: Work fast and simple, use pen and paper. Make sure that your prototype is not over-designed, but rather rough and dirty. That will prevent you and your team from emotional attachment. Also, you have to be honest with yourself and stop wasting time on a broken model. Test and produce as much as you can and don't get stuck with one idea. You will find out that having a range of options to flip back and forth is way better than iterating one idea over and over. It will open new perspectives once you have them all laid out in front of your eyes.

3. Prototyping Without a Purpose

You can't prototype if you don't know the purpose of the model. Prototypes exist for a reason: to test and validate assumptions, test our ideas for solutions, or explain and flesh out ideas.

Solution: You have to ask yourself "What is the purpose of this prototype?" Make sure that your prototype has a purpose.

4 .Feeling Discouraged by Failed Prototypes

Times get tough once you realize that your assumption is wrong. Sometimes emotions can't be controlled and our mind just breaks down. This can trigger a negative mindset and inhibit progress. You have to remember, prototyping is here to ensure that an idea will work and to validate the assumption. Your main job is to fail and learn from it.

Solution: LLook, if you haven't realized by now, failure is an opportunity for you to experience and learn life as it is. You have to master yourself and realize that failure is a lesson, and you have a rare privilege to experience it because if you see it as a lesson, your mind will remember it and give possible solutions. Reframe the idea of failure in prototype testing into a learning opportunity. When you think of prototypes and tests as learning opportunities, you set yourself up for a kind of positive failure that leads to a new, more informed experiment.

5 .Seeing Prototypes as a Waste of Time

Many times, designers and teams who are not used to prototyping think of it as a waste of time and resources. “Wouldn’t building prototypes slow us down?”, “Wouldn’t we be better off to stay focused on the drawing board before we get around to putting things together in the real world?” Well, the truth is just the opposite. While we waste time at the beginning, on the long run, we are faster. It’s because, through prototyping, we are able to see whether our idea will work out, and be able to refine or tweak them further... or abandon it when we’ve realized that what seemed good on paper won’t work in real life.

Solution: When making prototypes to test your assumptions or learn about your users, remember that the small amount of time you are spending now will help you save days and even weeks of time in the future.