Prototype Your Idea

With a promising concept in hand, you will make a prototype of your idea to test and develop based on direct feedback from your users. A prototype is a small-scale, tangible representation of an idea that people can directly experience.

Prototyping is an integral part of the design process - it allows us to think by making things, to generate and refine ideas, and to communicate ideas to others in a tangible, interactive way. Prototypes allow us to try ideas out quickly and gather feedback easily.

Using the methods below, develop a prototype of your idea that:

  • Is tangible and interactive - so people can experience it for themselves
  • Enables you to show how it works, rather than tell how it should work
  • Allows you to revise and iterate on your idea that isn’t working  (whether it’s just part of it or the whole thing!), and try another way

We recommend each team member take 30 minutes to create their own "quick and dirty" prototype. Each person shares what they've created, and others give feedback about their prototype to highlight which aspects should stay and which aspects should go.

Once the share-out is complete, work together on building a new prototype that you can then take out and test with others in the next activity. Depending on the fidelity, developing a testable prototype may take one hour to several days.

Time Needed

2-4 hours

Prototyping Guide

Prototyping is an integral part of the design process—it allows us to think by making, to generate and refine ideas, and to communicate ideas to others in a tangible way. Prototypes allow us to try ideas quickly and gather feedback easily.


Types of Prototypes

Typically, when we think of prototypes, we think of a physical product or tool. We can also prototype solutions that are more intangible—such as processes, services, interactions, and experiences. Even if the solution isn’t tangible, the prototype should either be tangible or interactive so your user can have a basis to give feedback.


Choose a prototyping method that you feel best fits for your idea (use the concept description that you developed during the Imagine phase). You will be using this prototype to gather feedback. We have also provided some templates in the Prototyping Guide PDF on the right to help your team get started.

Put together a rough, simple three-dimensional representation of your idea. You can use materials readily available to you—such as paper, cardboard, pipe cleaners, fabric, and whatever else is on hand.



Create sketches or simple designs of digital tools and websites on paper. Try to make it as life-sized as possible to help assess the usability. Make each new sketch a different screen to get at the flow of the interaction.



Visualize the complete experience of your idea over time through a series of photos, images, sketches, or even just text blocks. You don’t have to be an artist—stick figures work well. For a template, download the Prototyping Guide above.



Experience map
Map out the journey or process of your idea - from before people engage with your idea to after the experience. Include what happens (the activities), how it happens (the capabilities), and who is involved (key players). For a template, download the Prototyping Guide above.



Tell the story of your idea from the point of view of a user. Describe what the experience would be like for that particular person.



Video prototype
Create a short video clip that demonstrates how your solution works, and how people interact with it.


Document your prototypes

You will be iterating on your prototypes during this phase, so make sure to document each iteration with a written description, photos, and/or videos. This will help you track and share the story of its development.

Play with prototypes

Some kinds of prototyping work better than others, depending on the type of solution you are testing. Try several different types: for instance, start with an Experience Map to think through the different moments that a person will interact with your solution. Then, use Role Playing to walk through how it would work in real life.

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