Design

UX Prototyping Tools to Improve Product Team Collaboration

UX prototyping tools should be used by the entire product team, not just designers. Learn the 4 types of UX prototypes that can empower your entire team to quickly test new feature ideas together.

5 min
May 11, 2022
Billy Sweetman
Head of Design

Your design and product teams have a lot on their plates. Design is neck-deep working on a new feature, while the product team is busy figuring out what comes next on the development roadmap.

Collaboration is necessary to build your next feature, but the more each team brings to the table, the better.

Empowering non-designers to create minimal prototypes

By empowering more people on the product team to mock-up prototypes before designers get involved, you’re working through issues and saving precious time. Those prototypes allow the product team to test out different ideas and avoid unnecessary back-and-forth debate later.

Prototypes enable your team to create ideas, iterate on them, test their feasibility, and get a product in front of customers faster.

It lets the team come to the table saying, "Okay, here's the solution that we've decided we actually want to implement" — instead of starting from scratch during an initial team meeting. 

The benefit? Your design team can spend more time focused on design and less time validating the idea itself.

Why have more team members prototyping?

Higher velocity of idea generation and quality ideas

Designers are often positioned as the primary contributor to the design of a new feature. This creates bottlenecks and can weaken your end product. Bringing in key stakeholders outside of the design team during the prototyping phase not only speeds up development, it makes for clearer communication and, ultimately, a better product.

Let’s take a look at the types of prototypes you should consider for your next product rollout. 

4 types of UX prototyping tools

From flowcharts to functional betas, each person on the product team can have the opportunity to contribute to creating and learning from these different UX prototyping tools.

User flow diagram

Think of a flow diagram like a flowchart. Though basic, you can still use it to start asking users what kind of choices they would make. You can include multiple paths to get leading indicators about their choices and where those decisions would potentially land them.

Anyone can build a user flow diagram with tools like Figjam, Miro, or Whimsical. Because the diagram is low fidelity, it's quickly and easily editable.

It's something your team could spin up in half an hour, and then immediately begin talking to people and walking them through the idea of the flow. The cons? It doesn't look very realistic.

Free template with video tutorial

Download our free Figjam template for user flows

In this video below, Billy walks through how anyone on your product team can use our free Figjam template in the link above to start prototyping new ideas in simple ways.

Wireframes

There are really two types of wireframes. First is one you can build in Miro, Whimsical, or FigJam. The second evolution lives in a tool like Figma and allows the prototype to be hooked up to a code-based prototype (see below). 

Though a good place to start, the first type of wireframe doesn't facilitate being connected to a flow that somebody could then test out on a phone or a device.

That is to say, it doesn’t look like a real product. This is fine when you don't want people to know what the product is — as might be the case when you’re trying to keep new developments under wraps.

Since it’s minimal or black and white, no one's going to tell you, "I don't like this color." They’re only going to give feedback on whether the options in the decision tree are the right ones.

Design system prototypes

Allowing your product team and designers to work with actual design systems results in a prototype that looks and feels like the real app. Even if the design of the prototype changes during discovery and customer interviews, velocity will still be increased.

Your team will be taking established patterns already built into your system, removing substantial decision making, and empowering focus on the problem you’re trying to solve.

Design system prototypes require giving your product team access to your design system template or UI kit in Figma. With that access, they’ll be able to begin building actual screens that look and feel real. Inside Figma, you can also provide access to Figjam, the flow mapping tool.

Functional prototypes

Prototypes written with code or no-code tools

The fourth option for prototyping is to spin up a small functional app. This could either be written with code or experimenting in no-code tools like Bubble or even Figma.

This is going to leverage the benefits of having coded the prototype in a developed design system. Your developers can put the screens together quickly with those design system components, and then you can test it in the real world. 

what users say vs what users do illustration

We often say, “Until someone pays for it, it can be hard to tell if the assumptions will be true.”

When a user is willing to spend their money, it then becomes a potentially successful idea. With a web or mobile app, people are going through the behaviors, including signing up for the product and using it. And that’s the best prototype you can create: one that validates your efforts with real-world results.

Prototyping leverages your resources

From a flow diagram to save time as you create decision trees to a code-based prototype that functions nearly like the real thing, there is a prototype to suit every stage of product development. 

Giving your entire team access to prototyping tools will democratize the creation of new products and features, and the time spent building prototypes will save development and design time.

Free prototyping resources

Shipwright - Free Figma UI Kit and Design System

Never start from scratch again. Quickly mockup a product design or marketing site for your project in Figma. These Figma design system templates will accelerate your process.

Customer Journey Maps & User Flows - Free FigJam Template

Take user stories and themes from your UX design research and rapidly begin to create customer journey maps and app user flows diagrams.

Rapid Prototyping - Faster Feedback Loops In Your Startup

Improve your mindset on prototypes to create faster feedback loops without code. Learn when, why, and how to use prototypes to acquire actionable customer feedback.

Actionable UX audit kit

  • Guide with Checklist
  • UX Audit Template for Figma
  • UX Audit Report Template for Figma
  • Walkthrough Video
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