One of my job responsibilities is to create the prototypes for testing. Sometimes it is me, sometimes it is one of my team. They are all used however for testing. I run a UX user group, and we recently had a meeting about tools for UX. A lot of prototyping tools were mentioned. I'll write another post about the tools of the trade soon, but there are already a lot of options and articles about the tools.
To start with, I bet a lot of people who have never done that before know it takes upwards of 4 weeks to get a test on the books. Where are the users going to come from? What do they need to know, what product(s) do they need to have used, and so on. Who will conduct the test, who moderates, what software will you use to capture the testing? So many variables. Lighting, computers, servers, speakers, one-way mirrors and more.
Creating a prototype for testing means creating smoke and mirrors illusions. It is all about the interactions, and what level of interactivity the tester and product owner needs from the prototype to get the information they need from the users. What we use to get that information doesn't even matter.
The first prototype my team did was in Axure. A mobile prototype. Then I did my first one in Flash, based on a wireframe. I had a blast creating that one. So much grief deciding on Flash to start with, I had tried HTML, but the interaction was too complex. Then I thought Muse, nope. Fireworks, no again. InDesign interactive saved as a SWF, and no again. I actually spent a lot of time on those, and a disaster all based on the level of interactivity I needed. I finally finished and was happy with my Flash prototype.
Since then we've done HTML, paper, Axure several more times, Flash Builder, Muse and I am still trying to decide on the next one. This one now is tricky. Turns out iOS turned tricks on us, and you can't get rid of the browser window on an HTML prototype any longer, past the home/index page. Janky move Apple. So, I am now trying different things out which will probably involve an app on the phone side to display the prototype. This one also involves lots of form fields, so I couldn't use something that just creates hotspots.
So again, how the user needs to interact, rules. We'll see what I find to create that prototype that emulates a native application. So many choices out there, surely I will find something suitable. Will keep you updated!