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How To Give a Prototype Presentation (and How To Be a Good Audience for One!)

McKenzie Landorf Design

Whether it’s to a client, a development team, or your fellow designers, presenting prototypes is a great skill for consultants and product designers to have. Here are some tips for helping your audience understand your prototype.

  1. Start with the ‘why’: By reminding your audience of the context, you get everyone on the same page. Start by going over the big-picture goals, where your prototype fits into the overall project, and any specific constraints you are working within.
  2. Tell your audience what they are about to see: Even for a really simple prototype, it’s important to verbally explain it before showing any screens. Call out the basic steps or events that happen in the flow, and if it is complex it might be helpful to show a simplified user flow diagram to highlight where steps loop or events trigger previous states. Call out the events or steps that a user will encounter: it helps them understand what they should be looking for, and the steps they should see when you do show them your prototype.
  3. Make it crystal-clear: Use arrows, color coded sticky notes or text to guide your audience through the prototype. Perhaps put blank white pages in between sets of screens so that there is a visual and verbal cue that there will be a jump in the flow or you are moving on to a different part. If the same screen shows up multiple times during a process, copy your artboard multiple times and put them in the correct order so it’s clear where it lives in the process. If you, as the presenter, are using a prototyping tool that allows for hotspots or triggers to move between screens be sure to set the hotspot/triggers as this paints an even clearer picture of how a user gets from A to B. This helps the client understand while you are presenting and prevents you from being able to make a wrong step. It also helps the devs when they dive into coding understanding where things will live on the page, and what treatment should be given at what point in time.
  4. Tell a story: Storytelling helps make the product real, and helps convey the passage of time, an integration or a handoff to another part of the process. Remember that products are used by people — who is going to use yours, how will it be a part of their day, what will the user have to do, and what will be an integration?
  5. Practice! Walk through your presentation by yourself and then also with a friend or colleague who isn’t familiar with the project. A fresh set of eyes can help you catch any confusing gaps in your story or correct mistakes like spelling and spacing, before your real presentation.

If you’re on the receiving end of a prototype presentation, here’s how you can help make it valuable and productive:

  1. Approach the prototype with an open mind: There are often multiple ways to interpret a solution. Sometimes a button could work just as well as a link, or an icon — don’t let your preconceived ideas about the design of the feature or application block you from seeing other ways to solve the problem.
  2. Don’t let the product you currently have limit the product you could have: When a prototype is intended to replace your current system, it can be tempting to feel more comfortable with the familiarity of what you already have. But remember, if your existing system was perfect, you probably wouldn’t be trying to update it in the first place. If a prototype is a stark contrast to what you have currently, it might take time to let it sink in and understand or visualize how this new functionality will fit into your workflow or system. Sometimes, though, a change that seems drastic can end up making your system faster, more powerful, and more user friendly.
  3. Be willing to give constructive feedback: If you like something, say so! And if you have concerns, speak up. Ask for time to think over a prototype if there are parts that you are unsure about and then clearly articulate why you do or don’t like it, or you do or don’t think it will work. Your perspective will only make the product stronger.

Prototyping is a great design thinking tool–and the power of a prototype is enhanced when everybody can understand and react to it. A clear, engaging presentation, followed by thoughtful and open discussion, will help your final product be the best it can be.

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