Tips for Creating Great Design Prototypes

Developing and testing prototypes is a fundamental aspect of a design process. It seems easy at first glance – make a low-fi version of your concept, and test whether it works. But it can be surprisingly hard. To increase your odds of creating an effective prototype, this author recommends following several tips and rules.

Testing means letting people experience the thing you’ve made, by using it or going through it, while you observe and then ask them about their experience. It doesn’t mean making a scale model of a scene or product and explaining it to people before asking their opinion. Who can really experience something by walking their fingers through it like Barbie legs? And it doesn’t mean piloting a finished idea.

Good prototyping takes a bit of lateral thinking, some knowledge of running scientific experiments, and the child-like ability to quickly build something out of cheap stuff and let your imagination fill in the gaps.

Stanford’s provides a good prototyping tip-sheet. Plus, this author recommends two simple rules of thumb for successful prototypes:

  • No scale models, it has to be life-sized
  • Take the time you think you need and cut it in half.

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