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A guide to paper prototyping & testing for web interfaces


This is a quick guide to paper prototyping & testing for web interfaces, as an early part of the «user centred design» process. It is aimed at any kind of professional that is involved in the process of creating web or other screen interfaces.



Paper prototyping is a discipline that has been around for ages. It has re-gained popularity with the spread of agile design methodologies, inspired by movements such as human or user centred design and design thinking .

These philosophies have one major thing in common according to Don Norman — self-proclaimed advocate of human and user centred design:

«…it is about starting with a good understanding of people and the needs that the design is intended to meet»


What is paper prototyping

Prototyping or especially paper prototyping is a research methodology that helps to visualize and test ideas and concepts in an early stage of a project. This can be done with minimum investment in time and cost or as UX Pin states,

«nothing brings you closer to the functionality of the final product than prototyping»


Building your paper prototypes

Creating paper prototypes is fun, it is a great way to collaborate in a team and anyone can participate. Paper prototyping is an early but NOT THE FIRST method in a user centred design process.

Prior to prototyping, you should have a goal in mind and you should have gained knowledge through other research methodologies.

Let’s make up an example —

You wanna build an application for a pizza delivery service.



Icon source: http://iconmonstr.com/

The ultimate goal for this service is, that your average customer John, 28, may painlessly and easily place an order with his phone, based on the following criterias:

John wants to order two pizzas. One is spicy salami, the other one he is not sure about yet. John wants to deliver to his work address. And he wants to be able to pay with his credit card.

A main goal, personas, scenarios, user journeys or even storyboards should have been set up before you start prototyping. Based on this knowledge you start drawing interfaces that allow your user to perform this particular task.

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