Paper prototype illustration

Lead paragraph

Paper prototyping is a tool that designers use to quick prototype services. Because services are intangible, paper prototyping helps designers to make services concrete or tangibilize them using paper. This includes prototyping screens of a digital interface, a menu, an information sign, an ad, a new organization structure, etc.

PREPARATION: up to 60 minutes
DURATION: 30-60 minutes
TEMPLATE OR GUIDELINES: Own prototype questions
FACILITATORS: 1 per workshop
RESOURCES: Paper, cardboard or foam board, scissors, X-actos, tape, glue, pens, Post-its, camera
PARTICIPANTS: 3–6, design team, partners, community members, etc.
EXPECTED OUTCOME: Prototype service environment, touchpoints, interfaces

Paper prototypes are rough and rapid prototypes, which use paper and all the objects and materials available in that specific moment and location. These elements are used to simulate the service components in order to better explain an idea in front of the other members of the team. It is a tool supporting the visualization of ideas and a way to be sure that all the members are aligned.


State the selected “How Might We” statement or a sub-focus area of it.

Based on your design challenge statement or the focus of what you are interested in, define the criteria, and select suitable participants, considering not only who they are, but also what activities they would do. Consider what you want to prototype and what are the expected outcomes.

Organize a meeting with the selected participants, and gather the necessary resources and supplies. Then, choose the type of user you are going to use in the prototype, and what do you want to learn from the prototype exercise. After that, think about your own prototype questions, what expectations will be set up-front, how you will start and end the workshop, and how much time participants are expected to dedicate to this activity.

Explain to the participants what is the type of user are you going to test, and what you want to learn from the paper prototype. Then, ask participants to sketch the interface by hand (e.g. menus, webpages, leaflets, content). Assign roles: Split the team to users, service provider and observer. Apart from the facilitator, all roles can be played by one or more people.

Ask the user to perform a certain task with the paper interface. Service providers react and simulate the changes in the interface by replacing or adding parts of the interface. The service provider does not interfere with user testing by commenting. Repeat this until the user completes or fails. The observer keeps a list of issues that s/he discovers. Encourage the users to speak out loud their experiences so the observer can list these remarks. Revise the prototype and try a different task.

Discuss the results with the participants, gather feedback and document the key outcomes.

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