High fidelity prototype: When should a startup build one?

August 14, 2022
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High Fidelity prototype for start ups

Founders live and breathe by their ideas. But as you’ll find in your journey it’s not enough to have a great idea, hell, that’s the easiest part of being a founder. As a founder that wants to create an amazing product there’s just one thing you need to ask yourself. What problem are you solving?

Time and time again we see companies spend all their runway on building something without going through the proper testing and just hoping that their idea is good enough to carry the company forward. And once in a blue moon, that works, but in most cases, that approach falls flat on its face. So how can you avoid this fallacy? What should you do to give your startup a chance to succeed? 

When it comes to launching a digital product there’s only one question that matters. 

What is the first thing you can give to your users that will give them any value? - Michael Seibel (Y Combinator)

Nobody has the answer, you may think you do but until you talk to your users and put your design in front of them you’ll never know, at that point it’s just an assumption. The best solution to this is creating a high fidelity prototype. This entry aims to look at this approach in detail and answer the following questions. When should you build a high-fidelity prototype and the advantages and disadvantages of high-fidelity prototype?

What is a high-fidelity prototype?

How High fidelity prototypes work

In prototyping fidelity refers to just how close to the real thing something is. In order to understand what a high fidelity prototype is you must first understand what a low fidelity prototype is. A low fidelity prototype is very bare bones and is still far away from the final product. But it’s a quick and cheap way to test out initial ideas. It answers questions like usefulness of the product or feature, how users will interact with your product all without spending too much time on it.

A high fidelity prototype takes it a step further. It’s the closest thing you can have to the actual product. It looks and feels like the final product without having to build it. The benefits of this is that you can actually test the usability of your product. It also gives you a lot more success and bargaining power when pitching your idea to investors. And best of all, no developers needed.

When should you build a high fidelity prototype?

This is a loaded question but the right answer is, before you hire engineers and developers. Developers are expensive, and rightly so, so before you make that huge investment you need to be certain that your product is actually going to work. Taurist approaches the high fidelity stage as the 3rd step in the design process.

→ User Research & Interviews → Low Fidelity Prototype → HiFi Prototype → User Testing → Build

High Fidelity prototypes are great if you need to raise more capital and justify your product. It’s the best way to have usability studies and the only way to answer the “is this valuable” question. It shouldn’t be the first thing you do, but it's the most insightful thing you’ll do in your product journey.

Advantages and disadvantages of high-fidelity prototype

As with everything there are pros and cons. I encourage you to only build a high-fidelity prototype when you reach that stage in your design process. But the benefits that a hifi prototype can have on your bottom line are immeasurable.

Advantages

  • Looks like the real thing
  • Useful insights from test participants
  • Displays what features are working, what features aren't, and what features need improvement
  • More presentable to investors, stakeholders and your team
  • Cheaper to make changes

Disadvantages

  • They cost more time and resources than low fidelity prototypes
  • They are not the final product

How to build a high fidelity prototype?

How to build a high fidelity prototype

We live in a golden age of UX design so there are plenty of tools and experts that can help you get this process done. Bear in mind that before building a high fidelity prototype you need to have all your designs ready to go. Your branding guidelines must be ready. Your design system must be set, your copy must be written, your icons need to be designed, your images or illustrations ready, and your sticker sheet is prepared. On top of that it’s highly recommended that you have built and tested a few low fidelity prototypes beforehand. 

The best way to do this is to hire an agency that specializes in UX and UI design. They can do the user research, low fidelity prototypes, user testing, and high fidelity prototypes in a matter of days or weeks. They even offer design sprints that will have your prototype ready in a week. Hiring a design agency will allow you to focus your resources on the next stage and guarantee that the insights you are working with are user focused. They also offer you an unbiased look at your product that you wouldn’t get if you built it in house. Plus you save on hiring costs and employee benefits. 

But if you want to add another hat to your many founder hats, here are some of the best platforms for high fidelity prototyping:

Figma (what we recommend)

Proto.io

Protopie.io

Sketch

Adobe XD

A lot of factors can go into deciding which tool to use for your prototyping. It ultimately comes down to which platform are you most comfortable with and meets your business needs. But overall here’s a list of what you need to look for in your prototyping software.

  • Cost of use. Are you going to be doing multiple prototypes or just working on one? There are plenty of tools that allow this for relatively low costs.
  • The ability to collaborate, as in allowing colleagues to comment on or provide feedback on features
  • It is possible to drag and drop established interaction models into the software so that you can make your prototypes quickly
  • Aesthetics of the produced prototype, including visuals, animations, and native interaction.
  • Asset management, including integration with popular cloud-based platforms, ease of storing and searching assets in the software, and ease of updating all instances when the source asset changes.
  • Support for Photoshop, Illustrator, Canva or any other visual tool you prefer
  • Prototyping across devices and platforms of different sizes
  • Playback speed
  • Sharing capabilities with clients and other stakeholders
  • A library of common UI elements is available to assist in creating quick screens

Key takeaways

As a founder you are here to create a solution to a problem and not find a problem to a solution you created. High fidelity prototypes are the best and most cost effective way to ensure that you know exactly what the problem is and how you are solving it. 

Our team at Taurist.com is dedicated to providing small businesses and startups with the design and marketing services they need at an affordable price. By focusing on research and insights, we guarantee that our customers receive the most cost-effective solutions, ensuring that their success as well as ours is guaranteed. Click here to get a free Branding, UX, and SEO competitor audit.

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