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State of Prototyping

World-class design solutions require honing, refining and testing in order to reach their full potential. From apps to automobiles, prototyping is an increasingly fundamental part of the process for in-house teams and agencies alike.

The 2020 State of Prototyping industry report is a first-of-its-kind global survey that explores the rapid rise in both the popularity and accessibility of prototyping.

by Design Week in partnership with Framer.

The first global report commissioned on prototyping explores the rapid rise in both the popularity and accessibility of prototyping.

  • 345 senior design professionals
  • 11 VPs and design leaders
  • 16 industries

From a surge in online retail to the burgeoning range of video communication tools, the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically accelerated the global shift towards digital.

Our survey and interviews reveal that there is a growing need for robust digital products that cater to consumers’ fast-changing requirements, and digital transformation must be at the heart of any forward-thinking organization’s strategy.

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John Maeda

Chief Experience Officer at Publicis Sapient

Helen Fuchs

Design Director at ustwo

Noel Lyons

Chief Design Officer at Barclays

Luke Woods

VP, Head of Design at Instagram

Margaret Cyphers

Design Director at Google

Laurel Tripp

Vice President User Experience at Salesforce

Jenny Cha

Senior Designer at Duolingo

Jerome Zhong

Senior Designer at Duolingo

John Pruitt

Director of Design and UX at Dell

Klaus Bischoff

Head of Design at Volkswagen Group

The rise of prototyping

Consumer expectations are high, but speed is critical too. Effective prototyping improves both the quality of the outcome and the efficiency of the process, so that market-leading ideas can be developed, refined and approved more quickly – and at lower risk.

In this report, senior leaders share how prototyping is effecting change both in obvious areas, such as a risk-reducing tactic, but also in more surprising areas, proving to be a barometer of early stage success and a powerful presentation tool for encouraging buy-in from stakeholders.

99%

agree that prototyping is more important than ever

70%

increased their commitment to it within the past two years

87%

say that prototyping has become easier in the past two years

We prototype everything.

—Luke Woods, Head of design at Instagram

“Ten years ago, there was a bit of showing and a lot of telling. Now we can show everything, and hardly have to tell at all.”

This includes feeding in real user data—something Instagram strives to do wherever possible.

“Products that people expect today, you couldn’t really create without a prototype,” he adds. “There are a lot of micro decisions that you’d gloss over with static design mock-ups.”

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Portrait of Margaret Cyphers
85%of respondents use prototypes in their web design process

Putting theory into practice

Prototypes can pave the way for innovation, particularly in fields where developing concepts before field-testing them could be prohibitively risky and expensive. For instance, a quarter of respondents identify emerging technologies such as AR and VR as a key focus for prototyping, while 21% create prototypes for Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

“It’s important to our DNA to get tangible,” confirms Helen Fuchs, design director at Ustwo. “You must test if your hypothesis is resonating. Getting tangible quickly is a great shortcut.”Read the ustwo case study

But by far the most widespread use of prototyping is for designing websites and apps. Intuitive, on-brand digital experiences are key differentiators in a crowded market, and they are often one of the most public-facing parts of any digital transformation strategy. 85% of respondents use prototypes in their web design process, and 68% for app design.

68%use prototyping in their mobile design process
25%use prototyping in their AI/VR design process

Based on multiple choice selection by respondents.

Empowering non-coding designers

As non-coding designers take more ownership of the prototyping process, reducing the need to tie-up developer resource at an earlier stage, tools are becoming more intuitive and accessible to cater to that need.

The continued innovations in prototyping software are streamlining the process, bringing that resource commitment down across the board. And the risk of not prototyping is high.

“Designers work in isolation, ticking the requirements from a PM and providing a specced document. No collaboration; no exploration of ideas; no curiosity or unpacking of requirements to understand them better; no critiques from other designers.” —Laurel Tripp, VP User Experience, Salesforce

Prototypes can instill confidence in both clients and makers that this could be the right thing.

—John Maeda, EVP Chief Experience Officer at Publicis Sapient

“[And] you need confidence to bring something to the planet that no one has used before," concludes Maeda.

“[And] you need confidence to bring something to the planet that no one has used before," concludes Maeda.

But Maeda is quick to add that it can be situational: “Creating a prototype just to show at one meeting could be a lot of work. But if you can expose that prototype to 100 users and acquire real data, it gets interesting.”

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Portrait of John Maeda

More persuasive than PowerPoint

Prototypes can give projects a huge boost in the Boardroom: few things can capture the imagination of a senior stakeholder like a fully immersive, high-fidelity working model. In fact, 50% of respondents believe the primary benefit of prototyping is to encourage buy-in by communicating ideas more effectively.

Handing over a mobile device with a prototype inspires in a way a 200-slide deck can’t. From a design critique to a review with the C-Suite, the closer to reality a prototype is, the better the reception.

—Steve Wake, Design Director at Work & Co.
Prototypes

A risk-reducing, cost-saving tool

Full-stack development gets expensive quickly, and prototypes have a key role to play in enabling designers to explore and test ideas before developers get involved. A working prototype can keep focus on the bigger picture during a multi-stage design process, avoid veering off track and wasting time and resource.

We don’t want to set developers working on something experimental. At Barclays, we do our experiments, learning and exploration with prototyping.

—Noel Lyons, Chief Design Officer at Barclays
Read the Barclays Bank case study
  • 54%

    Allows users to provide valuable feedback within the proper context

  • 44%

    Brings the user interface design to life

  • 34%

    Illustrates functionality to developers in ways screen specifications can’t

  • 22%

    Reduces the need to write spec to explain designs, saving time

  • 14%

    Enables effective incorporation of user data during testing

  • 13%

    Reduces the cost of making mistakes

Prototypes are critical as we can test without full engineering or actual launchable code.Prototypes are critical as we can test without full engineering or actual launchable code. It enables us to get quicker feedback, at less cost.

—Margaret Cyphers, Design director at Google

Higher fidelity is better at this stage, continues Cyphers. “[With prototypes], we’re not asking people to make such a leap of faith to imagine themselves using it,” she says.

Get the full report

Portrait of Margaret Cyphers
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Bring the most ambitious ideas to life

The best digital experiences feel intuitive. That can’t be described effectively using words alone: it must be experienced.

Once you make it real, you have to make it really real or people get distracted.

—Laurel Tripp, VP, User Experience at Salesforce

According to Tripp, Salesforce has a large analytics component within its software – here, live insights have much more relevance and impact at the testing stage than dummy text.

The same is true at Volkswagen Group, where Head of Design Klaus Zyciora says prototypes were integral during the multi-stage design process of the VW Touchscreen Display.

Read the Volkswagen case study

99%

say that the ability to bring a user interface to life during the design process is a core technical benefit of prototyping