Many businesses skip high-fidelity prototyping because they consider it an unnecessary expense. However, a recent survey by Rollbar revealed otherwise. According to the survey, over a third of developers spend 25 to 50% of their time fixing software bugs.
Debugging causes project delays and increases production costs. In fact, out of the billions of dollars that go into global software production annually, debugging alone gobbles up about half.
You can avoid such costs and complications by prioritizing user testing during product development. However, without high-fidelity prototyping, you cannot conduct user testing during digital product development.
What’s in this guide:
- What is high-fidelity prototyping?
- Why is high-fidelity prototyping important?
- How does high-fidelity prototyping fit into the development process?
- High-fidelity prototyping examples
- 6 companies to help you create a high-fidelity prototype
What is high-fidelity prototyping?
High-fidelity or hi-fi prototyping helps verify a digital product’s design and functionality are ready for the market. It involves building high-fidelity prototypes - preliminary, interactive prototypes that closely simulate a final product's look and functionality.
Hi-fi prototypes for digital products are typically computer-based mockups that support user interaction. The interactive prototype will have realistic graphics, animations, clickable buttons, menus, and other elements that will appear in the finished product.
Product developers allow stakeholders and users to test drive the prototype to identify if it delivers value. High-fidelity prototyping also facilitates identifying UX and UI design issues to fix before investing in building the final product.
Without hi-fi prototyping, you will have trouble collecting true human performance data regarding UI/UX design and functionality. Neglecting to gather and analyze such data will lead to a blind product development process. Such a process puts you at high risk of building a finished product with usability and aesthetic issues. Don’t forget that 88% of users are unlikely to return if a website or app has bad UX.
Why is high-fidelity prototyping important?
High-fidelity prototypes accurately represent how your final product’s user interface and user experience will look. Since the prototype looks and behaves like live software, users can interact with it normally and provide clear feedback about their experience. Their feedback will provide valuable insights into product design elements you should remove, keep, modify, or fix.
You can perform high-fidelity prototyping at various stages of product development. However, since it’s expensive and time-consuming, most design teams save hi-fi prototyping for the final stages of user testing before launch. If you can afford it, you can make hi-fi prototypes during the early stages of product development to test design concepts and user interface variations.
What if I choose to skip high-fidelity prototyping?
If you do, you will save money during product development and feel like the smartest person in the room. However, down the road, you are likely to face the following problems, which will cost far more than you saved:
- Design flaws and usability issues: Skipping high-fidelity prototyping can lead to undetected design flaws and usability issues. Users will experience these issues after you release your finished product, resulting in low user satisfaction and a tarnished brand image. Not many brands, especially new ones, can recover from a bad product launch.
- Lost revenue: Instead of making money from your launched product, you could end up spending money fixing problems you could have spotted during high-fidelity prototyping. Investing in high-fidelity prototyping will reduce the risk of facing such a costly problem.
- Lack of user interest: High-fidelity prototyping will reveal if your product is something your target users want. It will help you avoid investing time and money to build a product you cannot sell.
In summary, skipping high-fidelity prototyping increases your likelihood of building a less effective, sellable, and user-friendly product. SaaS brands that make this mistake end up losing revenue and customer trust.
How does high-fidelity prototyping fit into the development process?
Product development processes typically vary between SaaS businesses and products. However, the process will still follow a general path, starting at ideation and ending with a product launch. Let’s look at the stages of SaaS product development, so you'll see where and how high-fidelity prototyping fits into the process.
Ideation is production team members brainstorming what the product should be and how it should work and look. Besides brainstorming ideas with your team, you can get more ideas through target market research, such as customer interviews.
Your research will provide insights into the problems your target audience wants solved and how they want the solution to work. You can use the insights to come up with a product design that features the functionalities your target users desire.
2. Low-fidelity prototyping
After identifying promising ideas and eliminating unnecessary ones, you can start developing concepts for the product. Developing product concepts involves creating low-fidelity prototypes, such as simple wireframes and mockups that represent how your product will look.
Your wireframes and mockups can be as simple as a rough sketch paper prototype.
Alternatively, build your rough prototype with a low-fidelity prototyping tool like Balsamiq.
Low-fidelity prototyping provides a picture of how your proposed product will look so you can decide if your design ideas make sense. You can also use the prototype to test and refine basic design concepts. Once your low-fidelity prototype makes sense, you can transition to high-fidelity prototyping.
3. High-fidelity prototyping
Low-fidelity prototyping helps you avoid investing time, money, and resources into building a flawed high-fidelity prototype. Unlike low-fidelity prototypes, which are not interactive, high-fidelity prototypes are interactive, meaning you can click buttons and navigate the interface.
Since hi-fi prototyping requires more money and time, do not start it until lo-fi prototyping has given you a clear picture of how your UI/UX design should look. UI/UX design will include the visual design of your product and the layout and function of your product’s interactive elements. Once you have these details, you can build a high-fidelity prototype to test:
- UI elements, color schemes, and copy
- Transitions, animations, and effects
Share the prototype with users and stakeholders to see how users respond to the design and confirm if the product delivers value. After gathering user feedback with your first hi-fi prototype, you can make other iterations that incorporate the feedback.
Once you have a high-fidelity prototype that effectively satisfies user needs and meets design requirements, you can start developing version one of your product. The development process will involve building and optimizing your product for the market.
After fully developing and testing the product, you can launch and monitor it. Monitoring the product’s performance in the hands of end users will help you identify opportunities for improvement and additional features.
High-fidelity prototyping examples
If it’s your first time hearing about high-fidelity prototypes, you probably would like to know what they look like. Below are four screenshots from a high-fidelity prototype we created for a client. It’s a prototype of an app for managing coffee bean inventory and scheduling roasts.
The above screenshot shows the welcome page of the high-fidelity prototype. It resembles a finished product and is more detailed than the below low-fidelity prototype we made for the same product.
The elements seen in the hi-fi prototype will all appear in the finished product. Unlike in a lo-fi fidelity prototype, these elements aren’t just for show. You can click on most of them to experience user flow within the app. For instance, clicking the Inventory tab will take you to our second example - the inventory page.
The inventory page of the high-fidelity prototype clearly shows how users can monitor the amounts of green coffee beans remaining, roasting time left, and more. Also, you can filter the inventory page by selecting All, Green (unroasted coffee beans), or Roasted. The prototype page is interactive, allowing users to experience the system fully.
This example shows what happens after clicking the Create Roast Schedule button. On this page, you can queue different coffee bean types and set the quantity to roast. The quantity you select will determine the Roast Time, and the system automatically updates the Roast Time as you adjust the quantity.
Another vital feature on this page is the Trend row. The row reveals if a specific bean type is currently in high or low demand. You can use this information to forecast how long your current stock for each bean type will last.
The final example shows the last page of the prototype app, which offers a summary of completed scheduled orders. The page will update as each order completes.
6 companies to help you create a high-fidelity prototype
While it’s possible to build hi-fi prototypes of your digital product in-house, you are better off leaving the job to professionals. Outsourcing high-fidelity prototyping will give you access to experts with the skills and knowledge to ensure your product development succeeds. Outsourcing can also save you time and money by preventing delays that extend project turnaround time.
However, outsourcing hi-fi prototyping will only deliver these benefits if you work with the right company. Below are six highly-rated companies that offer high-fidelity prototyping.
DevSquad is a highly rated, Utah-based product development and design agency that serves SaaS companies of all sizes and niches. As a full-service product development company, we help clients bring product ideas to life, starting with strategizing and prototyping before developing and launching digital products.
With our product strategy and design services, clients have successfully launched user-centric products that deliver value quickly. Let us turn your idea into low and high-fidelity prototypes your stakeholders and users can test to provide feedback. The service will help you build a finished product your target customers crave.
Besides user testing, we incorporate user flow optimization into high-fidelity prototyping to ensure seamless user onboarding and navigation in your final design. Schedule a consultation today to learn more about how our prototyping service can benefit your SaaS company.
Persimmon is a product development agency that serves businesses in the healthcare sector. The agency’s services include low and high-fidelity prototyping for digital health product ideas.
You can use your completed hi-fi prototype to pitch investors to raise capital or pre-sell pilot clients. With Persimmon’s help, your product can have a visual design and interface that attracts and engages your target audience.
FiveDotTwelve is a digital product consulting company that offers UI/UX design services, such as design thinking prototyping. The design thinking prototyping service covers project wireframing and high-fidelity clickable prototype development.
FiveDotTwelve’s specialty is mobile app development, but the agency also builds web and IoT applications. However, since the agency is in Poland, it is a better fit for Europe-based businesses.
Businesses in the early stages of product development can contact InputUX for prototyping services. Prototypes made by InputUX are ideal for proof of concept or improving UI/UX design to meet business and target audience needs.
The Canadian agency builds high-fidelity prototypes with Axure RP. These prototypes closely simulate the proposed product’s final design, functionality, and interactions. With user and stakeholder feedback, the agency continuously performs usability testing to improve prototypes until they are market-ready.
Outsourcing your high-fidelity prototyping to Teksun will give you access to UI/UX specialists. These specialists will research your business goals, target market, and product vision. The team will then use insights from the research to develop comprehensive low/high-fidelity prototypes that benefit your business.
Depending on your needs, Teksun can build you a feasibility prototype, horizontal prototype, rapid prototype, or wireframe. You can get prototypes for web and mobile apps, and the team aims to develop prototypes within days. Industries served by Teksun include consumer electronics, manufacturing, biotech, home automation, security, and healthcare.
Instead of hiring a fully managed team for product development, you can hire a freelancer to handle just your high-fidelity prototyping. Toptal is one of the best platforms for finding qualified freelancers that offer such services. Since freelancers cost less than hiring fully managed teams, Toptal is a better choice if you are on a budget and need only hi-fi prototyping services.
However, freelancers do not offer reliability or convenience like agencies with fully managed teams. For instance, DevSquad has experts who handle all aspects of product development. With such a team, you can avoid the hassle of searching for other freelancers to manage the rest of your product development. You can also be as hands-off as you want during product development and enjoy more peace of mind regarding your project.