How we use prototyping at RSA Digital

Posted by Martyn Reding on 07/09/2016 in Design

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Industrial designers, set designers, architects and book designers have all been using prototypes as a core part of their process for a very long time. In today’s world of digital experience design creating prototypes is common place. However I wanted to share how we use them here RSA Digital beyond the design process and how they help our teams with functional requirements, replacing documentation, defining products and selling decisions into our stakeholders.

Prototyping for the UX process

The disciplines within RSA Digital (design, strategy, content, ux, product management and analytics) have intentionally blurry edges. We encourage people to pull together in project teams, often ‘swarming’ around tasks using KANBAN methodology. This means that the tools we use to communicate our thinking also need to be fluid. At the point a UX Designer begins to articulate a solution paper prototypes (or ‘scamps’ if you worked in an agency) serve as an ideal way to quickly work through ideas. Once those ideas  are better formed we move to interactive wireframes to put in front of users. In this instance wireframes can be comprehensive and turn in to assets we can refer back to in iterations.

Prototyping to inform requirements

On large scale projects where your build and test teams need clear rules on functionality, a set of detailed requirements are essential. However writing details of how a UI will act can sometimes be an abstract task. So here at RSA Digital we use prototypes to aid the requirements writing process. We have often run requirement workshops, with a click-able prototype on a shared screen. That way we can quickly cut through any confusion in how we describe system behaviour.

In many instances we have entirely replaced requirement documents in favour of HTML prototypes. Allowing developers to refer to them as they build.

Prototyping to develop products

Financial service products often come to life in spreadsheets. This not a bad thing as they can involve complex financial calculations. However it doesn’t take long before the customer insight that created the new product comes back to a customer experience, so we’ve started using lightweight prototypes to bring product ideas to life, allowing our pricing teams to quickly decide if their calculations make good user experiences. It also helps us avoid complexities, for example we recently created a prototype UI to demonstrate how many options would be ideal for users on smaller (touch)screens, before a commercial decision was made.

These prototypes are often isolated to single interactions or pages. They are entirely throw away and often act purely as a communication tool, when ideas are being developed.

Prototyping to support stakeholders

Some time ago designers began to shift away from designing page layouts to designing modular systems. The challenge for UXD teams is now to create interchangeable components, rather than a set of fixed designs. As a result we need some way to demonstrate the experience to stakeholders, particularly if those stakeholders need to give a ‘sign off’. For our teams these prototypes are often referred to ‘creative concepts’ or ‘sneak peeks’. They are usually a high fidelity design, with basic interactions over the top. At this stage the focus is on a few key interactions and will often proceed detailed requirements. At the very start of a new project these prototypes can act as aspirational items and offer a lot of benefit managing expectations and getting buy-in.