Aug 10 2022

From paper drawing to advanced design; How does Paper Prototyping work?

️ Blog
12 min. reading time

But ehh… what is paper prototyping?

In the initial stage of a design process, all ideas and designs for a pleasant customer journey still need to be thought out. Paper prototyping is one way this can be done. It is a technique in which new interfaces are designed by using hand-drawn screens. Within Social Brothers we use paper prototyping to find out together with the customer which features they find important. In addition, paper prototyping makes clear which other wishes the customer would like to see translated into the designs. The goals of paper prototyping are to set up a clear information architecture and to visualize the customer journey.

paper prototypingThe benefits of paper prototyping

Paper prototyping has several advantages. For example, we have been using this technique in our creative sessions with customers for a number of years. From experience in practice we have found that these are the biggest advantages of paper prototyping:

  • It's easy to collect useful customer feedback;
  • Paper prototypes are quick to create and also quick to modify unlike digital prototypes. This way we can easily make adjustments during a creative session;
  • The designs are not limited by characteristics of the devices on which they will be coded later. The different sizes of screens can lead to a very different UX;
  • More creativity is possible in paper prototyping because you don't have to limit the designs to the size or interactions of existing gadgets. 

The disadvantages of paper prototyping

In addition to the many advantages of paper prototyping, we have also experienced the various disadvantages of this technique. Thus, it is easy to forget small elements during this process. Other drawbacks that we have experienced are:

  • Animations are difficult to display;
  • When working with a somewhat more complicated site structure, many drawn screens are needed to display this. It is difficult to keep an overview with many designs;
  • It is only possible to test paper prototypes in person. When a customer cannot attend a creative session, paper prototyping becomes more difficult.
  • It is necessary to transfer the paper prototypes to digital format. In any case, the digital prototypes will eventually have to be made.

Our paper prototyping process

How do we use the technique of paper prototyping within Social Brothers? For us, paper prototyping is perfect to learn more about the products and services of our partners. By holding a creative and above all interactive session, we can clearly map out the wishes of the customer. Which widgets or functionalities do they find important and why? We try to answer these questions in a creative session. This is how we apply paper prototyping in our creative sessions:

  1. Let's start! After we have become acquainted with the products/services of our partner, it is time to put 'wishlist' on the wall. By means of sticky notes, we let the customer stick all wishes for their website/app or other format on the wall. This method gives us a clear insight into the specific wishes of the customer. 
  2. Time to consider which pages are best suited for paper prototyping. Where does the customer foresee problems or where are the problems known? These pages are a good place to start. 
  3. Step three is all about the visualization of these wishes. Time to move to the drawing board. Both the SB team and the customer are given 5 minutes to draw out their ideas for a design on paper. Ready, set, go! The five minutes are starting. How should the content be presented? Where do the buttons come from? Everything has to be put on paper in 5 minutes. 
  4. Time to reflect. Everyone takes turns taking a moment to explain their design. In this way everyone gets the opportunity to tell why they have chosen certain elements. When everyone has given a mini-presentation, it's time to decide which parts are best. So you don't vote for an entire design, but for individual parts and elements. NB! You cannot vote for your own design parts. As an extra feature, we're going back to the drawing board one more time. Now we can really go in-depth with the points that came out of round one. 
  5. The session resulted in a concrete action plan! Now it's up to our team to convert the concepts into a high fidelity prototype. 
  6. After the drawing and voting rounds, it is time to put the final design on paper. Everything must be bundled and summarized on a paper prototype, so that the first version is ready for digitization. 


Paper Prototyping

Are you interested in a creative session + paper prototyping for your company? Don't hesitate and make an appointment to discuss the possibilities!


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