Paper Prototyping

by Shawn Medero

43 Reader Comments

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  1. Thanks for posting the axure website. I found it a few days ago and didnt bookmark it and tried to find it again yesterday and couldnt. Its kind of wierd that you post it here and I find it again. :)

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  2. “The irony of digital photos of paper is not lost on me”.

    It goes one level deeper actually: you’ve got digital photos of paper tabs, intended to mock up digital tabs, which are modeled after real-world paper tabs. Nice!

    Paper is great for brainstorming within a mixed team (business analysts, developers, usability people, etc.), but I would not recommend it for your first stated purpose, i.e. presentation. People outside the team just don’t get it. Like an earlier commenter, I have also been using Axure RP, and I think it’s brilliant. While not as fast as paper, is still amazingly fast and easy to learn. It’s like working in Visio or Powerpoint, except the output is a working html prototype, with widgets, links, graphics, etc. You can make it as generic or as realistic as you like.

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  3. Very interesting post. With rapid iterations in UI and features, it is really important to have a quick and simple process for updating the user interface. I think paper prototypes are great.

    However, at BetterLabs, we have been using Microsoft Excel for the last two years and it actually works a lot better than paper, as it is quicker (once you get the hang of tweaking columns and widths and what not) and re-usable. Most of all, you can just email it to the rest of the team members and discuss it and make changes real time.

    Once UI prototyping is made simple and easy for anyone to use, it unleashes a lot of trapped up creativity .. trapped due to the complexity of the GUI softwares. And it becomes addictive :-)

    Let me know if you’d like to see a sample and I can send one to you.

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  4. Very funny, but userful post. Great ideas on using paper as a medium for creatively and quickly laying out an interface. I couldn’t agree more that many times people of our generation needlessly seek technology to supplant more physical mediums, if only for the “wow” or “cool” factor, sometimes the best (and cheapest) tools are sitting right in front of you. Next time I design I website or create and interface I’ll be sure to try paper.

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  5. Seems to me prototyping can be done on any surface that affords scribbling. . . power point deck, Keynote, whiteboard for agile users, kraft paper. So long as you can shuffle things around on the surface and get things done, doesn’t really seem to matter. Seems like this is just the other side of wireframing without notes and Steve Krug’s bargain basement usability testing…

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  6. Great article with some nice examples of paper prototyping. In a workshop we did on paper prototyping and evaluation we found that using these techniques for software (as well as hardware and product design) promotes some interesting creative consultations.

    We also found there is no reason to stop at the design stage – jump right in to user testing. Even just having one or two outside users go through this outside of the design team can reveal large scale design problems and restart the brainstorming.

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  7. I find that rough hand-drawn prototypes are great for quickly recording ideas. On my most recent project, I used Visio to “sketch” the layout I created on paper to produce a clean wireframe for review. Electronic copies work particularly well when one must collaborate remotely—just send an attachment for others to view and print. They are also easy to manipulate and version; so, you can very quickly modify your designs based on feedback and have several alternatives to compare.

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  8. Another advantage of paper prototyping in the early stages of a design is that it avoids the psychological trap of “premature closure” which can limit creativity. The problem is that if a prototype looks too much like a “finished product” people are going to be thinking only in terms of small variations on it. It strongly pulls their expectations in a particular direction. That’s fine in the later stages of prototyping but it’s the last thing you want early on because if your first prototype turns out to be suboptimal, all the feedback can do is turn it into something slightly less suboptimal.

    On the other hand, the “low fidelity” nature of a paper prototype enables people to think about radically different alternatives because it doesn’t “seed” them with as many assumptions. They’re going to perceive (mostly unconsciously) it as much more malleable. Paper prototypes are like modelling clay; you can try out lots of different shapes, something you couldn’t do with a more solid medium. Things that are truly unfinished should look unfinished if you want people to contemplate different ways they could be finished.

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  9. It’s really a great Article! I’ve been using this technique for a while, some of my client’s are not what you would call web or tech savvy. It’s really better conceptual than I have ever seen.

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  10. qwe
    http://www.alistapart.com/pix/submit.gif</img>

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  11. Hi there. I just launched Balsamiq Mockups, a very simple tool that tries to bring that sketching-on-paper feeling to the digital world.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on it: http://www.balsamiq.com/products/mockups

    Peldi

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  12. We have just launched iplotz.com which allows for fast and easy creation of mockups and wireframes for prototyping websites and software applications.

    If you’d like more details of what we have planned for the future please shoot me an email

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  13. Great post, very helpful!

    As shown in comments though, many people (bosses ;) find paper not attractive in terms of presentation. That’s why many people are stepping into Magnetic Prototyping instead (www.guimags.com, www.magneticprototyping.com). It’s essentially the same as Paper Prototyping, accept you don’t have to use scissors and glue ;)

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