The fidelity of design refers to the extent to which a prototype’s functionality and detail replicates the expected product. The amount of time and effort you put into your prototype will depend on the extent to which your prototype will match the final result.
Low-fidelity and high-fidelity prototypes:
A low-fidelity prototype has minimal resemblance to the final product. Lo-fi prototypes are often used in the initial stages of prototyping and involve simple and elementary technology. On the other hand, high-fidelity prototypes have a high resemblance with the final product. Being highly interactive, hi-fi prototypes are often seen being used in the final stages of design to identify issues in user experience.
Benefits of low-fi prototyping:
- Real-time renewal: after getting feedback on your low-fi prototype, you can easily fix parts of your design.
- Focus on design and concept: with low-fi prototyping not pressing on clickable and interactive elements, you have more time to focus on the technical aspects of prototyping.
- Accessibility: everyone can draw and sketch, and so low-fi prototyping is not limited to designers.
Benefits of high-fi prototyping:
- Presentable to stakeholders: the level of accuracy involved in high-fi prototyping means that team members and clients will have a clear understanding of the functionality of the product.
- Testing specific aspects of your design: with high-fi prototyping, you are able to gain feedback on specific aspects of your design which is usually not possible with un-detailed, low-fi prototyping.
- More efficient for user testing: the results of your testing would be more accurate with high-fi prototypes because participants would tend to behave naturally with the interactive nature of such prototypes.
Conclusion - choosing the right prototype for you:
One of the most common prototyping mistakes is making prototypes of the incorrect fidelity. Prototyping is specific to your product. While high-fidelity prototypes will be useful for gathering feedback on specific aspects of your interface, low-fi prototypes would be more efficient for speed and flexibility. Do not choose a specific level of prototyping as a default.