Richard Saul Wurman loves dummies. So he always makes “binding dummies” when he’s working on a new book. In this wonderful post, Dan Klyn wonders: are Richard Saul Wurman’s dummies and the prototypes designers make the same thing? In a way they are, but there’s an important difference: While prototypes are often used for validating a concept with real users, the purpose of said binding dummies is to let stakeholders experience and touch a real physical object to get their permission to continue with the project. Which can also be a useful application of digital prototypes, of course.
Basecamp’s Jonas Downey shares his thoughts on something that is hard to acknowledge sometimes: nobody really owns anything in a product made by a team. The contributions each of us makes are often only a temporary state of a system that is ever-evolving. So it is not about individual contributions, is it about the team collectively accomplishing something greater than any one person could have done alone. And this simple lesson is incredibly valuable when you are building prototypes, too: Almost always prototypes are a disposable artifact, which is why you need to separate yourself emotionally from them. As sophisticated or clever they might be, they are always a means to an end and even if a prototype is thrown away or replaced by something else, it still had an invaluable impact.
Design Sprints are a popular way for teams to explore ideas and possible solutions quickly and validate them through prototypes and user testing. In this article, Brittni Bowering shares the interesting idea of running an iteration sprint right after the design sprint. Such an iteration sprint is a simplified version of the first design sprint week where a team uses all the feedback and insights from the user tests to make small (or big) changes to the idea. “This gives us the time and framework to rework the solution and bring it closer to something that the target user would love to use.”
Going all in on the unfamiliar and uncomfortable is key to coming up with creative, innovative solutions. This is especially true for emerging technologies which have the potential to shape the future in new and unknown ways. In order to better understand the consequences and implications of emerging technologies, Elger Oberwelz, an Executive Design Director at IDEO Palo Alto, and his colleagues embarked on an internal IDEO project called “The Discomfort Zone“ and built several prototypes to explore and visualize their ideas around topics like personalized intelligence, augmented realities, or physical tagging.
Are you busy building HTML prototypes to explore the possibilities of CSS Grid? If not, there might be another good reason to do so: CSS Grid Level 2 / subgrid is now available in Firefox Nightly and in this post, the unstoppable Rachel Andrew explains how it works and what subgrid will be useful for. With lots of CodePen examples, or, as you could also call them: prototypes.
Not only is it a clever idea to give an overview of the design process as seen through the lens of the super-villain Thanos. Khoi Vinh‘s annotated slides from a recent talk are also full of meta-advice about the role and value of prototyping and a gold mine if you’re looking for design and prototyping quotes.
Talks & Webinars
Dave Rupert and James Young joined Jeremy Osborn for a webinar about prototyping. Over the course of an hour, they discussed the benefits of prototyping both from a design and a development perspective and how prototyping can help to create and validate ideas and test them with users.
I already shared an article about Caitlin Kalinowski’s six-step approach to building strong prototypes in the last issue. If you missed it, I highly encourage you to read the article. Or, you could also watch this video from a talk Caitlin gave at Mind the Product San Francisco, in which she explains the principles in great detail.
If you are looking for a visual way to explore what’s possible with CSS Grid, Sarah Drasner’s ingenious CSS Grid Generator got you covered. Just set the numbers and units of columns and rows and it generates a CSS grid automatically. You can then manually drag out boxes within the grid. A great way to start your next CSS Grid prototype.
A-Frame is a web framework for building virtual reality experiences built on top of three.js. It supports most VR headsets like Vive, Rift, Daydream, GearVR, desktop, and can even be used for augmented reality.
Sizzy is a browser made for the development and testing of responsive design. In one browser window, it lets you preview your project on numerous different devices at once and synchronized, simulating the viewport and user agent of each device.
Vempathy is a customer experience research software to conduct remote user tests. What makes it special is that they use machine learning to generate insights into the emotional states of the test participants while they are using your prototype. Plugins are available for Sketch and Adobe XD.
The latest monthly update of Adobe XD brought a new properties inspector in prototype mode that makes it easier to keep track of complex interaction and to change the settings for multiple interactions at once. XD now supports superscript and subscript text transforms, the integration with Jira has been improved, and there is a new plugins panel that lets you work with plugins without having to jump through different menus.