Designing a digital product, such as building energy management software, requires a lot of research and strategy — more so than one would expect. Designing software for enterprise or even smaller companies is intricate and presents a lot of challenges in the design process. These include technology constraints, business requirements, and various use cases.
This is why early-stage wireframing and prototyping are so important to the success of the product. Prototype design and wireframing enable software development firms to create a unified vision during development and deployment and mitigate potential obstacles down the road.
What is a Wireframe?
A wireframe is a basic set of images that detail the functional elements of a website or software. Wireframing is the basic principle of quickly coming up with a skeleton of what a design could look like; adding buttons, text, and all other necessary content to make it easily understood by anyone who looks at it.
Many UX professionals prefer to sketch before creating a wireframe. Sketching is the fastest way to test out ideas and get immediate feedback. When it comes to energy management software, we like to wireframe dashboards, project tracking, budgeting, and just about anything else imaginable that would be involved in the interface of an energy management platform. This allows for full range of testing when we move to prototyping the design.
This critical nature of this stage should not be overlooked, as it will determine the model from which the project will be built. Being able to see how something looks and feels allows the designer to make actionable decisions that will determine the finished product moving forward.
What is Prototype Design?
The next stage of the design and development process is creating a prototype. Prototypes come in many forms, but the most popular is the click-through prototype. Depending on the priority, prototypes can be simple interactions, onboarding flows, or even complex tasks that require form-fields to be filled out.
When someone is clicking through a prototype, they can feel what the experience would be like when using the software or app. Prototyping is a little more advanced than wireframing because it allows users to physically interact with the product, instead of evaluating the design based on images alone. This allows designers to provide users with a more immersive experience and solicit their feedback regarding the design.
Gathering feedback is crucial in designing a product that meets end user demands. Wireframing and prototyping are essential steps in the design and development process that allow for leaner, iterative development based on constant user feedback. Without something tangible to test and iterate upon, things can get messy and ultimately become less usable in the long run. So, in order to get the best results, it is critical to test early and often!
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