Paper Prototype

Rapidly sketch and lay out interaction design concepts on paper

Illustration of Paper Prototype

Also called: Paper Mockups, Sketches, Wireframing

See also: Clickable Prototype, Working Prototype

Difficulty: Easy

Evidence strength

Relevant metrics: Time to complete task, Customer feedback

Validates: Feasibility

How: Sketch a quick and rough drawing of a static user interface or model of a design on a piece of paper. Consider using cut-outs to create a design system of movable components or simulating animations and interactions with folded paper.

Why: A cheap tool that is easy to understand and fast to use for anyone inside and outside a team to demonstrate a product and its proposed user experience before writing code or beginning development. While paper prototyping seems simple, it can provide great, quick, and useful feedback that can validate your product fast.

This card is part of the Validation Patterns printed card deck

A collection of 60 product experiments that will validate your idea in a matter of days, not months. They are regularly used by product builders at companies like Google, Facebook, Dropbox, and Amazon.

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Before the experiment

The first thing to do when planning any kind of test or experiment, is to figure out what you want to test. To make critical assumptions explicit, fill out an experiment sheet as you prepare your test. We created a sample sheet for you to get started. Download the Experiment Sheet.

Paper prototyping shouldn’t be your first resort

Low fidelity prototyping on paper is too often chosen as the first step to making an idea come to life. This makes perfect sense, as paper prototyping can be a great help transferring your ideas and vision into a product that can be seen and experiences by those involved.

However, prototyping will only help you make the solution more concrete to your peers. It won’t necessarily help you find out whether there is a demand for your envisioned product.

Much more important to testing your solution and its feasibility, is testing demand. Is your product desirable. Before validating your envisioned solution, you want to validate that the problem it solves is real and large enough to make up a market.

After the experiment

To make sure you move forward, it is a good idea to systematically record your the insights you learned and what actions or decisions follow. We created a sample Learning Sheet, that will help you capture insights in the process of turning your product ideas successful. Download the Learning Sheet.

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Idea Validation playbooks