Why Prototyping Is Vital for a Successful Healthcare Digital Project

When embarking on a complex digital project in healthcare, it’s difficult to imagine the end product when you’re still on the starting line. That’s where prototyping shines. It reduces the distance between the initial idea and that final product. A successful prototype tells the overarching story of the final product in a critical way, helping to secure internal buy-in and then sales down the road.

Just keep in mind that nobody said something so important should be easy.

There are many challenges that can make the prototyping phase of a project seem intimidating. Maybe you’re concerned about your timeframe. You might not have the skills in-house to fully realize your prototype. Regardless, you still need to complete the step. It pays off, even if you have to clear a few hurdles along the way.

Let’s take a look at why prototyping is so important, how to get started, and the tools available to help make the prototyping process as painless as possible.

What Are the Benefits of Prototyping My Digital Project?

The whole purpose of prototyping is to turn basic, flat designs into multi-dimensional experiences. When done correctly, a prototype properly frames a project’s design in context. It offers tangibility through interaction, showing stakeholders and users how things work rather than telling them. For instance, linkable screen flows create spatial awareness, so the prototype’s users actually understand how the finished product reacts to input.

By crystalizing the vision of a project, the prototype benefits stakeholders, users, and internal teams alike.

Faster Internal Buy-In

Prototypes allow organizations to align on a vision and truly understand how a future experience will work. This generates the confidence necessary to keep a healthcare digital project moving forward.

Clarity of Vision

Going through the prototyping process allows design teams to conceptualize their own vision more clearly. This helps them develop a clear path toward that vision, while also setting them up for successful future iterations.

More Accurate Feedback

Prototyping enables stakeholders and users to actually interact with something, rather than going off a description of what would happen. This promotes feedback and insights that are more accurate and meaningful than they’d be otherwise.

Better Understanding

You don’t want developers making assumptions about how things should work when designers hand them the keys. Producing a prototype leaves developers better prepared to create a roadmap for implementation, ensuring they’re actually building the right thing.

Cost Savings

The sooner you’re working out bugs, the better for your bottom line. Prototyping allows you to work out bugs in design, rather than in development. And, depending on the fidelity of the prototype, you may be able to work out code bugs as well as those found in the design — and that’s important.

Consider the Systems and Services Institute at IBM’s findings. They report that fixing “an error found after product release was four to five times as much as one uncovered during design, and up to 100 times more than one identified in the maintenance phase.

It’s hard to argue against these benefits, even if you need to spend a little extra time or bring in external resources to get your prototype done.

Which Parts of the Healthcare Digital Experience Need Prototyping?

How do you determine which parts of your digital experience require prototyping? Start by defining the critical or “happy” path. Generally speaking, this critical/happy path should align with the customer journey map you’ve created and reviewed.

Your design team and client team need to align on what this critical path is. This path puts up the fences around what you’re actually designing and prototyping. Otherwise, you’ll be trying to prototype an entire experience — and nobody has the time or desire to do that. Your journey map, which usually encompasses your core persona and its core journey, will typically capture the critical path. Simply put, it’s really just the story you want to tell.

This story might be the most common user scenario, based off of a single persona, and the action this persona is taking in the digital experience. What are they trying to do? What do they want to accomplish? This should cover about 80% of that digital experiences’ capabilities. Don’t worry about edge cases at this point. Focus on the most common journey at the prototype phase. Everything else will follow.

As you define your critical/happy path, make sure you’re looking at touchpoints that tie back to key business indicators. Create your user scenario or story around these touchpoints to frame the experience. Focus your efforts on key screens and related interactions relevant to that experience.

Getting Started with Your Digital Experience Prototype

There’s a big difference between understanding why prototyping is so important, and actually diving into the process. It doesn’t have to be an intimidating ordeal. While some advanced prototypes may be extremely detailed and resource-heavy, more basic prototypes can literally be put together in minutes after you’ve designed the screens. The key to any successful digital experience prototype is planning for every step of the process.

Who Is Your Prototype For?

All design projects need to keep the consumer in mind. Consider who your prototype is actually for, and make sure it’s presented in a way they’ll respond to. For instance, is the main stakeholder the CEO of the company? Does he or she respond to flashy features? Are they confused when looking at stripped down wireframes? And what might they respond negatively to?

The goal here is not to appease stakeholders and then go off in a different direction. Stay true to the vision of the project, but make sure your prototype includes those elements that will please stakeholders and facilitate forward motion on the project. Generally speaking, streamlined and utilitarian prototypes are your best bet resource-wise. Just make sure your audience has what they need to engage positively, and adjust accordingly while supporting the project’s goals.

Are You Testing for Usability?

You really cannot talk about prototyping a digital healthcare experience without mentioning user testing. There are a few considerations you need to make if you are going to test with users.

First, have a clear vision of what it is you want to learn. Determine which part of the prototype is most important for testing purposes. Not only does this give clarity to the testing process itself, but it also helps you decide which tools you’ll use. Again, keep the user in mind. If you are planning to move forward with a low-fidelity prototype, think about how your test audience will respond. Give them what they need to give you accurate feedback.

What Resources Are Available?

As mentioned above, prototyping is a non-negotiable step in designing a digital experience. It has to happen. If you don’t think you have the resources you need, your next step is to figure out how you get those resources. Time, budget, and people will absolutely play a role in the path your prototype ultimately takes.

When it comes to budgeting, you need to find a way to fit prototyping in. The payoff always justifies the cost, provided you’ve implemented your prototype the right way throughout the process. Even if time and money are tight, you have options. Plan for the set-up phase to be the most resource-heavy, and remember a simple prototype showing a two to three page flow can be stitched together very quickly. If you have a few hours to devote to your prototype, you’re in good shape.

Which Tools Will You Use?

Once you’ve answered the questions above, it’s time to figure out which tools you’ll use to build out your prototype. There are a lot out there to consider. The following are some of the tools we use at UpTop Health.

Simple, Clickable Prototypes

In most scenarios, a very basic prototype is all healthcare digital projects require. If demonstrating screen flow is the main priority of your prototype, and hooking up clickable elements on the screen to other pages on the site or app, then this is what you need.

Good tools for this application include:

  • InVision: We use this for most of our own prototypes. It generally gets the job done, but does have its limits if you’re trying to feature special mobile app interactions, such as carousels or integrated video.
  • Adobe XD and Figma: Both of these tools offer design and prototyping, meaning that you only need one tool to carry things through from the design to the prototyping itself. That’s a major advantage.
  • Keynote: When rich media (typically video) is an integral part of the experience, Keynote is a great option. It comes with a lot of capabilities built in, and many people are already used to the tool from using it for presentations.

Advanced Prototypes

While simple, clickable prototypes are generally sufficient, some situations call for a more complex simulation of the finished product. Short of actually building out the design in real code, using these tools is the best way to provide that simulation.

  • Axure and Flinto: When simulated drop down menus, form functionality, or micro interactions interactions are critical in highlighting an experience, these tools are great to have at your disposal.
  • Framer: If you’re looking to build out components of your prototype using Javascript, which can be translated into code later on, then Framer is the tool to use.
  • Adobe Premiere and After Effects: If you’re not planning on a live demo, but want to provide an immersive video experience, you can record a walkthrough of your prototype complete with branding, titling, and narration or music for stakeholders, using Premiere or After Effects.

Whatever your prototype may require, the tools to deliver it are out there. But the real work lies in the planning. Put simply, prototyping is too important to rush into. Take the time you need to lay the groundwork and set your prototype up for success.

To learn more about the Design Thinking process, read our previous articles on empathizing with your customers, identifying their specific problems, and solving those problems through structured ideation.

Get in touch to learn more about how the Design Thinking process can benefit you.

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