Low Fidelity Prototyping

What is Low Fidelity Prototyping In UX Design (Updated 2021)
by Tim Moad
21 Dec 2020
9 min read
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Every UX beginner needs to learn about the basic definitions to get started with their UX journey. This blog covers all the fundamentals that a beginner needs to know about being UX Design.




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A prototype is the preliminary version of a product from which other forms are developed. In UX designing, prototyping allows the designers to express the intentions of their designs. It is defined as an imitation of the final interaction between the customer and your product. It is crucial to know what is NOT a prototype. Static models (have no interaction between the customer and the interface), for example, a simple sketch or a blueprint of the design is not going to be understood by the customers. Hence, a sketch or a wireframe is not a prototype. Now that you have understood what a prototype is and isn't, you should also what fidelity is and how low fidelity prototyping happens.



The fidelity of a product refers to the specifics and realism of a product (the look and feel of the product). It concerns the areas of visual designs, the content of your app or website and how interactive it is with your customer. Fidelity is divided into two; high fidelity and low fidelity depending on different factors. High fidelity prototyping consists of many clickable links and is highly interactive by providing an automatic response to the user's actions. It is also a very realistic layout and looks even if the prototype might be represented on paper, thus giving it visual hierarchy. A Hi-fi prototype would usually contain all the content that the final product is going to have to enable faster responses to customer's issues. Low fidelity prototyping, on the other hand, is more of a static concept and does not include automatic response to the user's actions and only includes some or barely any of the visual aspects of the final product. It also doesn't have all the content of the design, only a summary of it. This blog will further dig into lo-fi fidelity prototyping in relation to what it is, what are its advantages and disadvantages and what methods can be done to perform this type of prototyping in the design thinking process. 



Before getting deeper into lo-fi prototyping, let's take a short look at why we need it in the first place. According to Tom Wujec, prototyping is the conversation you have with your ideas. It acts as a bridge between your product's features and the customer's contentment. In the process of developing a product, the most important factor is gaining feedback from your users. Prototyping allows you to gain early feedback as you're still in the development stage. As a result of this early feedback, you would be saving a lot of time cost because the changes that are required will be subtle and will need less speculation as compared to changes that are done towards the end. It enables the project team to iterate multiple times and get validation from the customer before investing time and money into the full product. The goal of making a prototype is to test how efficiently and with what ease can your users navigate through your product and complete specific tasks. It gives alignment to the team's understanding of any concept in a brief timeframe. If you want to communicate your ideas to the product's stakeholders, a prototype is the most effective way to go about it. Thus, by giving designers adequate understanding of how the final product will look and whether it will be feasible or not, it also allows them to understand what exactly the user requires, and the scope involved in the product or the new feature.



The main goal of lo-fi prototyping is to check and test the functionality rather than the visual appearance of the product. It's all about refining the FLOW of the pages and not the pages itself. It is concerned with figuring out the interaction design rather than the visual appearance, as mentioned earlier. Low fidelity prototypes are extremely basic and hence very simple. They are useful in the early stages of development as they are relatively low-tech and don't need much material. Sometimes even a pen and paper or a PowerPoint slide is enough for lo-fi prototypes. Since it takes real-time feedback from the users, it is known as a collaborative method. Its simplicity allows people with no expertise on the topic to participate and provide their input. It's cheap to build and has a fast pace. Since there is constant interaction between the user and the designer, a more clarified concept of the final product is understood by both: the user and the designer.

Along with multiple iterations, it is also possible to do a real-time iteration, i.e.an iteration done immediately after the user points out something that they would want to have modified. Lo-fi also has a few disadvantages like being low on functionality, having limited interaction with the user, and as a result, gives only a limited output from user testing. It is impossible to convey a high level or complex concepts using lo-fi prototyping. It also does not contain detailed information about your product's working, interactions or designs. It only confirms that a specific solution MIGHT work, NOT that it WILL. 



Paper prototyping, clickable presentations or clickable wireframes are the two most popular methods of lo-fi prototyping today. Hence, it makes sense to know about them in this blog.


Paper Prototyping

Paper prototypes are substitutes for digital representations, and this is done by sketching screenshots of how your product is going to function. Due to the frequent usage of this method in the design thinking process, you can now use stencils for the recreation of buttons and icons. Stencils will make the process quick and more accurate. Even paper prototyping has different levels of complexity depending upon the design and customer requirements. It is used widely for processes like brainstorming where you and your team are still looking for ways to solve your users' problems. With paper prototyping, you can build an overview of the product and see within a very short time if it works or not. It is also the most inexpensive method and can be used universally, i.e. all the stakeholders, irrespective of their level of expertise on the product, can participate and provide valuable insights. However, it does lack a realistic touch, as you can't imitate the design completely. Therefore, your users' reactions will differ when compared later with the finished product. Another limitation of this method is that you must move quickly not to allow yourself to get too attached to it because your prototype is being tested against users' behaviours and needs, not the designers'.


Clickable Wireframes/Clickable Presentations

A clickable wireframe is a visual representation of a product page and its user interface. The main difference between a static wireframe and a clickable wireframe is that the clickable wireframe responds to user interaction, often by taking the user to the next page in the network of links. Wireframes can be used as the foundation of lo-fi prototypes as they are the simplest form of an interactive prototype. They are more cost-effective than programming. Its primary advantage is that it will give the user an experience which will be quite similar to the final result, resulting in more accuracy. 


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