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How Prototyping Can Make Business App Projects Easier

Have you ever worked on a business app project that seemed to have unclear requirements, communication barriers between business and IT teams or frustrated end users? If so, you might benefit from using prototyping as a way to have better project experiences and design solutions that meet the needs and goals of your users and the business.

Prototyping is a process of creating and testing a simplified version of your app idea, before investing too much time and resources into building the final product. Prototyping can help you reduce the risk of building the wrong thing, improve communication and collaboration with your users and stakeholders, and validate your assumptions and ideas using feedback and data.


In this blog post, I will share with you some tips and techniques on how to use prototyping effectively in your business app projects. I will show you how to:

  • Define a clear and user-focused question to guide your prototyping

  • Choose what to build prototype with the right level of detail

  • Collect and incorporate feedback from your users

  • Iterate and improve your prototype based on your learning


I’ll also show a couple of simple example prototypes you can use for business application projects to get the ideas flowing.


By the end of this post, you will have a better understanding of how prototyping can help you design better business apps that are valuable, usable, and feasible for your users and business.

The prototyping process


Prototyping is not just building an artefact; it is a process that includes several steps:

  • Question: Frame a question to learn more about your assumptions.

  • Prototype: Build a prototype that allows you to test your assumptions real users.

  • Test: Collect feedback from your users and learn from their reactions, behaviors, and preferences.

  • Iterate: Improve your prototype based on what you have learned, and identify the next question that you want to answer with a new or modified prototype.


Prototyping Process
Prototyping Process

By following this process, you will get a lot of value out of your prototypes. Let’s dive into each step in more detail.


Define a clear, user-focused question

The first step in prototyping is to define a clear and user-focused question that you want to answer with your prototype. This will help you decide what to build as your prototype. Focus on a question that you are most uncertain about, has the highest risk or the most misalignment within your team.


By defining a clear and user-focused question, you can narrow down the scope of your prototype and focus on the most important aspects of your app idea. You can also use this question to measure the success of your prototype and evaluate whether it meets the needs and goals of your users and your business.


Build your prototype

The next step in prototyping is to choose the right level of fidelity for your prototype. Fidelity refers to how detailed and realistic your prototype is, and it can range from low to high. Low-fidelity prototypes are simple and rough, such as sketches, wireframes, or paper mock-ups. High-fidelity prototypes are more detailed and realistic, such as interactive apps, websites, or videos.


The level of fidelity you choose for your prototype depends on the question you want to answer, the feedback you want to collect, and the resources you have available. Generally, you want to start with a low-fidelity prototype and then increase the fidelity as you iterate and learn more from your users. This way, you can test your assumptions and ideas quickly and cheaply, and avoid wasting time and money on building features that are not valuable, usable, or feasible.


There are many tools that you can use to create and test your business application prototypes, depending on the level of fidelity you choose. Some of the tools that I use and recommend are:

  • Miro: a collaborative online whiteboard that you can use to create and share sketches, wireframes, storyboards, business process diagrams, and more.

  • Figma: a web-based design tool that you can use to create and share wireframes, clickable prototypes, and user interface designs.

  • Power Platform: sometimes the right option is just start building in the Power Platform. If you are an experienced maker, you can very quickly build a model-driven, canvas app, Power BI report or Copilot to test usability and how the user interacts with the solution.


Example screen mock-ups
Example screen mock-ups

Collect feedback and learn from your users

The third step in prototyping is to collect and incorporate feedback from your users. This is the most important and valuable part of the prototyping process, as it allows you to test your prototype with real users and get their opinions, insights, and suggestions. Feedback can help you validate or invalidate your assumptions and ideas, identify and fix any issues or gaps, and improve your prototype based on your learning.


To collect feedback from your users, you need to plan and conduct user testing sessions, where you invite your users to interact with your prototype and observe their behavior, reactions, and comments. You can use different methods and techniques to collect feedback, such as interviews, surveys, usability tests.


I particularly like a method called “I like, I wish, I wonder”. It is a simple reflection method that allows participants to provide feedback by completing the sentences “I like...”, “I wish...” and “I wonder...”. These are written down on sticky notes and placed on top of images of the prototype. It is time-effective, enabling everyone to give their own feedback and in a balanced style. Its simplicity makes is super versatile and can be used as feedback tool for many different situations.



To learn from the user feedback, you need to analyse and synthesize the feedback that you collect, and identify the key themes, insights, and action items. You can use different tools and techniques to analyse feedback, such as affinity diagrams, feedback grids, or the “I like...”, “I wish...”, “I wonder...”. method. You can then prioritise the action items based on their impact and effort, using the impact effort matrix, and make the necessary changes or improvements to your business requirements or prototype.


Iterate and improve your prototype based on your learning

The final step in prototyping is to iterate and improve your prototype based on your learning. Prototyping is not a one-time activity, but a continuous and iterative process that you repeat until you reach a satisfactory solution that meets the needs and goals of your users and your business. Each iteration of your prototype should be based on the feedback and learning from the previous iteration, and should aim to answer a new or refined question.


By iterating and improving your prototype based on your learning, you can ensure that you are building the right solution for your users and your business, and that you are not wasting time and resources on features that are not valuable, usable, or feasible. You can also increase the quality and confidence of your solution, and reduce the risk of failure or rejection.

Prototype Examples

In this section I share a couple of very simple prototype examples (that you may not traditionally think of as prototypes).


Prototyping workflow

The flow of work is important for any business application user experience. We often have questions such as:

  • Have we captured all steps end to end to make a complete process?

  • From one step to the next, does the flow make sense, or is it confusing?

  • Is the handover from one user to the next smooth?


Low-fidelity prototypes such as a business process diagram or a storyboard are a great way to test these questions and validate assumptions. With end users, talk through the steps in the process using real-world data and examples. You will soon identify gap or rough patches in the process that can be refined.


Business process diagram as prototype
Business process diagram as prototype

Prototyping data

Ensuring that users have the right information at the right time is another key ingredient for a great user experience. We often have questions such as:

  • What information do users need to see to best help them with their work?

  • What is the most important information?


A very simple prototype is to use sticky notes to represent blocks of information and arrange these on a mock screen based on the priority given by the users. This a quick and efficient way to play with data and get a sense of priority before screens or dashboards are built.


Conclusion

In this blog post, I have shared with you some tips and techniques on how to use prototyping effectively in your business app projects. I hope that you have learned something new and useful, and that you are inspired to try prototyping in your next project. Prototyping can help you design better business apps that are valuable, usable, and feasible for your users and your business.


If you have any questions or comments, or if you want to share your prototyping experiences or challenges, please feel free to leave a comment below or contact me directly.

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