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#57 - Design Thinking XIII - Prototype

Author face
Article written by
Juan Jesús Millo

Writing of the week

Prototyping is nothing more than getting ideas and explorations out of your head and bringing them into the physical world.

A prototype can be anything that takes a physical form, be it a wall of sticky notes, a role-playing activity, a space, a room, an object, an interface or even a storyboard.

In early explorations, prototypes should be rough and fast so that we can learn quickly and investigate many different possibilities; we should never get attached to a prototype, as the word itself says so because of its Greek roots, "protos" for first, and "typos" for model.

Prototypes are most successful when people (the design team, the user and others) can experiment and interact with them. What is learned from those interactions can help deepen empathy as well as shape successful solutions.

Traditionally, prototyping is seen as a way to test functionality.

Prototyping is used for many reasons:

  • Generate empathy: Prototyping is a tool to deepen understanding of the design space and its user, even at a stage prior to solving your project.
  • Explore: Build to think. It is possible to develop multiple options of the same solution.
  • Test: Prototype to test and refine solutions with users.
  • Inspire: Inspire others (teammates, customers, investors) by showing your vision.

Many of the goals of prototyping are shared in the four categories above. We prototype to:

  • Learn. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a prototype is worth a thousand pictures.
  • Resolve disagreements. Prototyping is a powerful tool that eliminates ambiguity, aids ideation and reduces miscommunication.
  • Start a conversation. A prototype can be a great way to have a different kind of conversation with users.
  • Fail quickly and cheaply. Quick and dirty prototyping allows you to test a number of ideas without investing a lot of time and money up front.

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