Ditch the Printouts, Prototype Instead

Back in the day, I used to assemble my wireframes and designs into a presentation deck, printed it all out, and then reviewed the work with my team/clients. Many designers still do this today, and it’s a bad habit developed in the agency world where everything is printed out and put up on a board for review. Some folks might not print everything out, but they’ll still view the static screens side-by-side on a computer screen. This might work for designs meant for print, but it’s a lousy way of reviewing product designs meant for devices.

Here’s why.

First, it’s important to view your designs on the actual device they’re intended for. This puts your work into context and in its environment. You get a feel for the tangible things that you don’t get with a print or static screens, for example, if a button is positioned in a location where you can’t easily reach it with your thumb, or how scrolling with your finger feels a lot different than doing it with a mouse on a monitor. This kind of stuff isn’t visible in your designs, but it affects the overall experience.

Second, an interactive prototype gives you a better sense of how the experience flows from one screen to another, in both directions. A proto also allows you to experience the transitions and interactions by actually tapping on stuff, and seeing it react. Paper or static screens don’t offer this feedback. There have been plenty of times when I’m reviewing wireframes in Sketch, and everything looks and feels great, and then I discover issues in the design when actually viewing it as a prototype.

Wireframes and UI designs should be reviewed as a prototype with basic interactions, and on the device they were designed for. The time you usually spend assembling and printing a deck, use it to build a prototype instead. Tools like Invision, Marvel, Atomic and Pixate allow you to create functioning prototypes in minutes. These services also make it really easy to share your work with your team or client, so everyone can view it and add comments.

Why have a single static screen on paper, when you can have your entire user flow, with interactions, on an iPhone. You can’t beat it.

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