Prototyping is About Capturing the Essence of a Project

What is essential to a web property? What can drive traffic, achieve conversions and translate into profits for the company? What can change people’s lives in a substantial way? These are the questions we should be asking ourselves when we talk about website prototyping. Version 1 prototypes should be embryonic, direct, and effective at capturing the user’s mindset. You have to make do with less, but you have to make it as effective as the final product, in bare terms that is. In this post, I try to give you a taste of why we prototype before making full-blown websites.

Space is Limited, So Focus on What’s Important

If you’re developing for a startup, ask for their business model canvas and focus on three buckets: key activities, value proposition, and customer segments. Use the information contained in these buckets to guide the design of your homepage and category pages. Always go back to basics and ask yourself what’s most important for the success of the business?

Design for Top Customers Because They Spend Much More

Prototyping is essentially about making tradeoffs, and that’s why we use personas, behavioral clustering, or psychographic measurements to identify top customers and design for them. Find out who your top customers are and make every effort to please them. Why? Because they spend orders of magnitude more than regular customers and drive more referrals to your business. If top customers are significantly different from regular ones, consider brand divesting or craft new sections in your website that cater to different audiences.

Design Thinking is a Powerful Prototyping Tool

Since the design thinking methodology involves business stakeholders, the fruits of its implementation contain powerful insights that can help your prototyping efforts. This methodology relies on rapid prototyping, and value chain analysis to discover new features and services that can make your website unforgettable. So, give design thinking a chance and look into the methodology.

Great Web Properties Start Out as Ugly Childs

Your prototypes don’t have to be works of art, because version 1.0 of websites rarely are. You can start out small and grow as your user base becomes larger and more diverse. Just remember to iterate timely and to keep improving on your web property to keep relevance and awareness as high as they can be.

Even Seasoned Web Developers Forget that Prototyping is Mainly About Statistical Analysis

Which link will bring in the most traffic? How to best structure the homepage? Who are our top customers? Well, you need to crunch the numbers. Statistical analysis, persona discovery, behavioral clustering, and A/B testing are powerful tools but they all require significant dedication and number crunching. Do your homework and find those insights wherever you can! Analyze traffic logs, social media behavior, website usage, and even traditional business metrics (geographic performance, PNLs, etcetera). All this grunt work is the basis for insight discovery and great prototyping.

Finally, have fun with your iterations, and don’t take your eyes far away from your most important goal: delivering value for your customers and a great marketing tool for the company.