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Paper Prototype

The term paper prototype It is understood in the design of products or web pages as a method that pays special attention to usability in software development. Paper prototyping is used primarily for usability testing and the development of new user interfaces. The special feature of this method is that the designs can also consist of hand drawings.


Paper prototyping has been a popular method of product development since the mid-1980s. The novelty of the method is not the sketching of models on paper, as this technique has been used by artists for many centuries. rather, software solutions or PC interfaces are designed with pencil and paper and are also tested on this dynamic. In the mid-1990s, more advanced IT companies, such as IBM and Microsoft, often used paper prototypes to design new user interfaces or programs. No complex or expensive visualization software is used for paper prototyping. All you need is paper and a pen.

Today, paper prototyping is used primarily by developers for user-centered design. But in many cases, design drafts are often created digitally.

Application options

Paper prototyping can be applied to different areas of product design. Here are some examples:

Usability tests

Here the testers use the digital prototype created on paper or on the computer and go through the action sequences planned in advance. These tests can be used to further simplify or adapt designs. The tests are generally performed in three different versions:

  • as the so-called "composition" (short form: comp).
  • as wireframe.
  • as a storyboard.

While the composition already contains all the important items such as color, font and image design, the wireframe is designed to test the design of the app or web portal. The storyboard provides various views of a website or stages of a program.

Design tests

In this circumstance, the result of the prototype is printed on paper. This can be, for example, a preview of a web portal or an application. The tester analyzes this expression before the program is finally implemented.

Exchange of ideas

One of the most common uses for paper prototyping is team discussion of individual designs. The method is suitable for finding collective solutions since each individual does not have to be a design expert. Team members can basically brainstorm, put their own ideas on paper, and use the results as the basis for the discussion.

Creation of an information architecture

Before the structures of a website or program are developed, they can be presented with the help of paper prototypes and theoretically (and beforehand) checked for their coherence.


Paper prototyping has many advantages, which are briefly described below:

  • Designers do not have to wait for tools or have them developed to sketch ideas for the appearance or function of software. You can get started without much effort.
  • All members of a team can be integrated into the idea process, even those who do not master certain design techniques. Hence, the entire imagination of a team can be used.
  • Deployment can be done quickly and cost-effectively, since no special tools or dedicated specialists are required for development.

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