Website prototyping is an important operation which finds wide scale use in the web design and development industry. Playing an important role in establishing the scope, functionality and interface design of a website, these prototypes help provide a planned approach to working for a project.
Providing an opportunity to test proposed designs and operational details of a website, website prototyping allows teams to interface with each other and steer the project away from any pitfalls and major reasons for failure / delay. This is also achieved due to the introduction of regular prototype analysis and testing, leading to fine tuning of the entire website.
Testing and design analysis carried out on a website prototype need not be for a complete website and all its functionality at all times. These tests can be isolated as well for the sake of checking certain isolated functions or navigational issues. For example if you have a short application enabling members to communicate with each other through your website, you can hold isolated tests for the mechanism that allows users to register, log in, verify their details, modify their details, initiate communication, administer the communication, and many more functions relating just to the communications part itself.
In doing so you can eliminate many possible errors and loop holes which can result as a major flaw in the website being developed. Prototypes also allow testing and evaluation to be done on a wider scale, on multiple computers across a local network or over the Internet using secure browsing methods as well. This power allows evaluation from all levels of intended users, team members within organizations, clients and their team members, etc. allows for implementing planned workforce utilization strategies to be developed based on the outcome of prototype tests carried out.
While regular checks, proper planning and feedback based product evolution and design are major strengths offered by website prototyping, as a website designer and developer one must always make sure any such interaction with the customer has had sufficient communication ahead of them to make the customer aware about the nature of these tests and the functionality you seek tested and commented on.
Failure to communicate with clients about the main purpose of a website prototype evaluation being carried out can lead to multiple catastrophic results, and even complete confusion leading to embarrassment. For example if you wish to receive feedback and suggestions about just the layout and appearance of your design, you will need to inform your client about this, and maybe even include a prominent watermark in your design to this effect. Missing this could mean a client asking team members to check out features which are just not activated or developed yet. This and many other embarrassing situations can easily arise and are not very easy to digest, and can many more uncomfortable actions.