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Is prototyping the death of coding?

Copenhagen, October 4th, 2018

Mikkel Noe Westh, Founder, CEO and Senior Adviser at Copenhagen-based agency Granyon, is a great advocate of prototyping and how this technique allows agencies to come as close as they can be to the end product without the need for heavy coding. We interviewed him to find out more.

Can you please describe what a prototype is and share how Granyon is using it?

Prototyping is the only way we design for digital. It is an entirely designed website, where we can test all aspects of a brand, communication, sale or specific flows. We can play around with real content to find new ways to present products or to communicate the brand promise.

Only designers are needed for creating a prototype. And we don’t need developers in this process. We are free and flexible to try things out that would usually only be found after the developers are done. So, what we can do in this way of working is create what seems like the final product but without development. Usually, you would see a flat design and only after development see if the website turns out the way you hope. We can do all this in the design phase.

Are there different types of prototypes? Which ones are these and how would you use them?

It all depends on the project. Is it creating a new brand? Renewing a current brand or maybe just optimising actual sales flows? The method is pretty much the same, but the team size and competencies might differ.

When did you decide to change your way of working into prototyping and why?

It’s the way we worked from the beginning. And this is closely linked to our no-bullshit approach. Designing in prototypes makes it possible to go quickly from ideas and strategy to something you can see and test – in a flexible setup without developers.

Prototyping tools prices vary from free to a couple of hundred dollars a year, what is critical to know what tool is fit for purpose?

The tool itself is not the most important. There are, as you say, different ones out there. The most important thing is that we have super skilled people that understand branding, UX, design and can exploit the possibilities coming from digital.

Prototypes are a combination of fidelity and functionality, could you please explain what the pros and cons of having more of one or the other are?

With prototyping, we can see that things like transitions and animations have a massive effect on how the brand experience is, or if customers can find what they need. It’s all a part of an experience. And what we aim to build is great customer experiences. That takes all the elements at once.

So having simple prototypes is ok in the beginning but we won’t be able to know if we have created the right experience before we have a version that is as close to the final vision as possible.

How do you test whether it will work on the end user?

We often hook up with a testing partner, so we get as accurate results as possible.

Do prototyping improve collaboration/communication? How?

Absolutely! Especially when customers want to create new things they haven’t tried before. New target group, new products, new business area new brand. Here we get to be partners with the customers instead of customer-supplier relations. We all look at the same thing, and we can all bring in new ideas that can be tested and tried out in a matter of hours instead of several months.

How do you know when you need to start prototyping?

We start discussing strategies, research to understand the brand purpose and customer needs and desires. From that, we begin sketching on paper. And already from that, we move into the prototype, where we can work with content, design, UX and communication at the same time.

Granyon is now Three years old, has its vision and mission changed or evolved in this time?

Well… Mmm… naah… I think we are now more aware of who we want to be. But we are still following our mission to be the no-bullshit-agency. Marketing and branding are about understanding the company and their customers, not about tools technology and men in suits creating giant analysis in reports no one reads.

Are Photoshop and InDesign dead? Why do you think they haven’t evolved into a prototyping tool?

For digital, yes. We can see it doesn’t work anymore. You can’t create something as dynamic as web solutions in a tool that can only output flat design. But when we create visual identities, the old tools are still very much in play.

Do you consider yourself a team player?

Yes. I know I don’t know everything or can come up with ideas or solutions for every situation. It’s all about the team. Having the right people, that together can create the perfect storm.

Please list a few of your favourite digital brands:

Creative Mornings, Zappoes, Kickstarter, Fortnite – not for the game but because they know how to create engaging experiences.

What do you like doing in your free time?

Just got a Golden Retriever so, for now, I’m in puppy-mode.

Thanks Mikkel!

By Geny Caloisi.

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