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Photo by Amélie Mourichon via Unsplash


A prototype is a draft version of a product, site, or service that allows you to explore your ideas and show the intention behind a feature or concept to others before investing in development. Prototyping allows you to gather feedback from users while you are still planning and designing your solution.

Prototypes enable direct examination of a design concept’s viability with a number of other methods such as usability testing or a cognitive walkthrough. Static prototypes (e.g. paper prototypes) are helpful for gaining feedback on users’ intentions and various design elements. Functional prototypes (e.g. in Figma, InVision, or HTML) are helpful for observing how users interact with the product.

Consider starting to build prototypes as soon as possible in a project. It is much cheaper to change a product early in the design process than to make changes after development has begun.


Prototyping is often more effective when it is informed by these complementary methods.


  1. Determine what you need your prototype to accomplish. What moments in the experience or design do you need to gather more information on or explore?
  2. Determine the modality of your prototype. Can you answer your product and experience questions with a simple paper prototype, or do you need to be able to click through scenarios on a device? If the latter, can you click through PDFs or a Figma file, or will you need to mock up your prototype in HTML?
  3. Determine the fidelity of your prototype based on what you need to learn. Fidelity ranges from low-fidelity (often inexpensive), to high-fidelity, which simulates a greater range of functionality, but often takes more time (and more money) to create.
  4. Build your prototype according to the modality and fidelity you've established and integrate it into your discovery, usability testing, and iteration process.


Prototyping typically produces insight and solutions focused on these areas:

  • Navigation Effectiveness

    A measure of how effective site or application navigation is relative to business and user goals.

  • User Preference

    Elements, arrangements, or qualities of experience design that user state or show are valuable to them.

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