How to Build a Prototype
How to build a tangible model of your ideas to try them out
Once ideas have been generated, you need to test them and validate them with stakeholders and end users to make sure you are going in the right direction. Prototypes are a way to transform ideas described on paper into tangible representations that can be shown to others to get feedback.
Prototypes also help to develop your ideas further, understand them better, and communicate and create a common understanding among project members about the ideas to be implemented.
Build a prototype of your solution
Designers, Architects, End-Users
Before You Start
- Generate Ideas with Ideation
- The prototyping can start once the project team has a good understanding of the current situation, including business goals, current processes, user needs and challenges. See the following guide:
Generate Ideas with Ideation
Materials you will need
Templates for Download
Detail Level of your Prototype
Depending on your project, the stage you are in, and what you want to validate, you might want to create a horizontal or a vertical prototype.
Horizontal prototypes can cover the entire concept of your project but won’t go into details, while vertical prototypes can cover certain functionalities in depth. Horizontal prototypes are more useful during early stages of a project, when it is important to know if the entire idea makes sense. A good example of a horizontal prototype is a storyboard.
Vertical prototypes are very useful during usability test sessions, when you need to know if a certain feature can be found or used by a user as it was intended. An example of a vertical prototype is a click-through screenflow to test the search functionality of an e-commerce site.
Some Techniques for Prototyping
Together with your team, play out how the solution would work in a certain situation.
Create a Vision Storyboard about your solution idea.
Build a prototype of your proposed product using materials like cardboard and foam board.
Sketch out a screenflow of your solution idea with simple pen and paper.
Create an interactive digital prototype with tools like Figma, Adobe XD, or others.
Building a prototype includes several steps. We recommend completing them in one session.
Select the idea(s) you will create a prototype for
Define the scope of what you are going to build.
Don’t be afraid to show unfinished prototypes. The purpose of prototyping is to test ideas with minimum effort, so you can avoid major changes during design or implementation. Therefore, the time you spend on a prototype should be a lot less than the time spent creating the real solution.
Determine what you want to learn
Think about what aspects of your idea you would like to get feedback about.
Prepare your validation questions in advance in order to know what parts of your solution to prototype.
Choose a prototype method
Select a prototype method that fits the level of detail you want for your prototype and that will help you to validate the selected aspects.
Gather feedback and iterate
Ideally, you should test your solution with real end users and collect their feedback.
Iterate your prototype based on the user feedback until the team is satisfied with the solution.
Be ready to start over. Prototypes are meant to be discarded, so don’t worry if validation indicates that you need to go back to the beginning.