UX/UI Design

UX Prototypes: Low Fidelity vs. High Fidelity

Can you imagine at least once you've implemented a product without any fixes? Hardly possible, we know. Still, there is a way to make it easier. As a team leader, you may have already seen how prototyping is important in the UX design process. 

You can easily decide how close you are to the desired result and how much effort you need to put into it when it comes to prototyping. Measure twice, cut once! By using prototypes, developers can significantly reduce their time and money before development and align the vision for the final product.

To understand the prototype definition, we invite you to read this brief and clear guide. Together we will answer the following questions:

1. What are the prototypes and their types?

2. How to choose the right type and fidelity of prototypes?

3. What is the difference between them?

So, let's not waste a minute to find out the answers.    

What are low-fidelity prototypes?

As we mentioned, prototypes are experimental models of the proposed solution that facilitates the future development process. Prototypes allow product teams to test the feasibility and usability of their designs. 

Prototypes use wireframes and mockups with interactive elements to simulate interaction and user flow. In simple terms, a prototype visualizes the final integration between the user and the interface. Prototyping allows you to see a map of all screens in action even before developers start implementing the functionality.

However, prototypes do not always look like the final product, as they can have different fidelity. The accuracy of a prototype refers to how it conveys the final product's appearance, that is, its level of detail. The level of accuracy may vary depending on:

  • Visual design (shapes of elements, basic visual hierarchy);

  • Interactivity (can be simulated by a real human or created from wireframes);

  • Content (key content elements). 

There are many prototypes, but they fall between low and high-fidelity prototypes. A product team chooses a prototype's fidelity based on prototyping goals, design completeness, and available resources.    

Low fidelity, meaning simple paper-based concepts, usually do not allow user interaction. It is an incomplete version that represents a limited number of product features. Lo-fi prototypes are typically used during the wireframe stage to test the functionality of an application or website. The main goal is to show transitions on buttons and links between pages to follow the flow's logic.  

Pros

  • Cheaper. It is extremely low-cost. 

  • Fast. It saves time on quickly adding new solutions, updates, and fixes.

  • Collaborative. Since visually low fidelity is not very difficult, we can say that this design stage allows you to connect with other team members and immediately fix something on the spot.

  • Clarifying. That means managers, developers, and stakeholders can visualize the final product.

Cons

  • Uncertainty. Due to not detailed prototyping, there may be inaccuracies during the testing. The customer may not fully understand what the final project will look like, leading to misunderstandings.

  • Low interactivity. Without color, interactivity, and content, a prototype can seem boring and unimpressive to the client and the potential user. This type of prototype is not suitable for conveying complex animations and transitions.

What are high-fidelity prototypes?

Using real, ready-to-use mockups, you can create hi-fi prototypes that appear and function as closely as possible to the final product. High fidelity, meaning a prototype that can look like a ready application, can be shown to stakeholders to get a final design approval before developing or testing it with real users.

Pros

  • Meaningful feedback. These prototypes provide meaningful feedback during usability testing, as participants can interact with such prototypes naturally, like with a final product. 

  • Testability of different elements and interactions. You can test specific interactions such as animated transitions and other micro-interactions with hi-fi interactivity. 

  • Accurate product view and expectations. Provides all stakeholders with an accurate view of the final product. It can also help startups get funding at different stages.

Cons

  • Costly choice. It is more expensive than a lo-fi prototype because designers spend more time and money making changes to high-detail parts. Without clear goals, there can be delays on the UX side because designers will try to find the best solution for interactions, animations, and transitions. 

Benefits of using low vs. high fidelity prototypes

In general, the overall UX prototyping advantage includes the following:

Capturing a single product idea 

It helps designers make changes or suggest improvements already at the prototype level: before committing to huge investments and starting the development phase.

Solve silos 

Prototyping helps solve the problem of disunity between the product team and the client. The team can agree on the product features with the client during the prototyping phase.  

Reduce the risk of product failures 

There are situations when a developer cannot understand the logic of a user flow from mockups. Here, prototyping simplifies communication for developers and helps avoid development problems. Prototyping provides an opportunity to find missing functionality, prevent future bugs and mistakes.

Saving money and time 

By creating prototypes, you can minimize the chances of a launch failure and reduce costs and time.     

The benefits of choosing a certain prototype’s fidelity often depend on the project budget. If there is no time to test basic UX solutions, designing high-fidelity mockups without low-fidelity prototyping makes sense. 

If we compare low and high-fidelity prototypes, we can say that:

  • Low fidelity prototypes are best used in the early design process;

  • High-fidelity prototypes are best used as a final step before handing them over to developers. 

The choice of lo-fi prototypes is available for everyone because you can draw your product sketches on paper. At this point, you can cleverly change the structure of the mockups and redo the functionality. That will help you organize the content of your architecture before you start interactive wireframing.

In the case of hi-fi prototypes, it makes no sense to move on to such prototypes until ready-made mockups and a custom flow for testing. To prototype using this method, mockups must include clickable materials, color, and content and present a lot of functions and interactions that might be required during the transition. The high fidelity prototype example also has elaborate animations and transitions. 

Through prototype meaning, the team can get rid of unnecessary features and add new ones. It can be overlooked initially, but a decent prototype takes this aspect into account. If you need to test design concepts, quickly creating and editing hi-fi prototypes will seriously complicate the process. Therefore, it is better to skip it. 

Arounda's Exceptional Contribution to the Project 

As part of a thoughtful overview of the UX design process, we would like to share the results of the Deep Clip project. We were responsible for strategy development, guided UX and UI design process, and participated in developing and marketing a mobile app during this project.

Deep Clip is a tool for a mobile app, allowing users to create deep fake videos. Users can create original and funny video content and edit it with this tool.

One of the main challenges was fulfilling the customer’s request to design the new logo. With the help of high fidelity vs low fidelity prototypes, our team complemented an initial black and white color scheme with a bright mint accent color. Thus, we have reduced the costs and time for developing the final version of the logo with an app prototype example, which finally satisfied our client's needs. 

As a result, the new logo blends perfectly with overall rigor. The sign contains the two main letters of the product name and looks great as an icon for an application.    

UX Prototyping Made Easy With Arounda

To conclude, low and high fidelity prototyping is an important step in the overall web design process, helping to focus on the product for both the team and the client. Their main goal is to improve the appearance and performance of the final product and meet the expectations and needs of users. 

After comparison, the lo-fi prototype is intended to provide a basic visual of the product or a design. In contrast, hi-fi prototypes are designed to look and function much like the finished product. Depending on your product goals, available resources, and required design components, you can include both or decide which prototype suits you best.

Plus, you can rely on our broad spectrum of different services related to digital product design. 

Starting with targeted market research and strategy development, we create interactive visual UI designs as well as implement effective customer-product interaction during the UX process. The development process runs smoothly and transparently powered by the modern technology stack. Developing your brand identity through the marketing services we provide will leave no chance for your potential competitors!

If you need professional advice, book a consultation to maximize efficiency and improve your final product design. 

Lilya Khimchenko
WRITTEN BY
Lilya Khimchenko
CMO
I make sure our clients get the high-quality result from the beginning stage of the idea discovery & strategy to the final digital product.
Lilya Khimchenko
WRITTEN BY
Lilya Khimchenko
CMO
I make sure our clients get the high-quality result from the beginning stage of the idea discovery & strategy to the final digital product.
Got a project? Let’s talk

Not ready for estimate? Book a FREE one hour consultation with one of our experts to discover the right solution.

More interesting

All articles

Hungry for more?

Sign up to our newsletter to get weekly updates on the trends, case studies and tools