You give testers prototypes with the fidelity level you want them commenting on. Thats the number one rule of prototyping. If you want conceptual feedback about how to navigate an app, for example, you should give testers a low fidelity paper prototype that walks them through the experience. If you want feedback on the visual design, make it pixel perfect.
I wanted to explore a few different positions and business models for a custom tailored clothing service I'm developing. Intrigued by the idea of making branded splash pages and sending them out to the world to review, I turned to trusty old squarespace and threw together three quickies, one for each of the major directions I'm considering.
Instead of immediately buying ad words and seeing what happened I decided to first send them to a few of my friends who run fashion companies or are just really well dressed. I was looking for feedback on the concepts, thoughts about what had traction, and what parts they would use. I did get that, but I also got a lot of this:
In all of them overarching comments are:
1) Too much white space.
2) Pictures do not tell me anything of importance
I tried to makes those sites look branded, but in doing so I gave my testers too much information to comment on. I overwhelmed them with unnecessary detail, and distracted them from their core objective.
This week, for another class my team made a similar concept prototype, but we took a more traditional approach to it. You can view the PDF we made here. I don't think anyone is going to be commenting on the white space in my childish sketches, but I think we'll get more of the feedback we are looking for.
Just as a parting note, I do believe there is some value to higher fidelity positioning prototypes. I think you just need to be very careful about the design, and put the time in to make them look good enough. Adding fidelity to early concepts is also an necessary evil if you want to get the feedback from the anonymous masses of the internet. I could (and will) post those sites publicly and see the response. Thats something I cannot do with the PDF.