Making design concepts real can help you communicate, get feedback, and ensure you’re designing the right solutions.

2 minute read


A prototype is an early mockup of a product, built to evaluate the concept or design with users. Prototypes can be paper-based or digital, with varying degrees of interactivity. They are often thrown away when done.

Who’s involved?

  • Prototype Designer
  • Graphic Designer (as needed)
  • Software Developer (as needed)

How To

  1. Determine the goals you are trying to achieve with your prototype
    Refer to the Prototyping Planning Guide to clarify what you are going to build.
  2. Define the scope of the prototype
    Determine how much needs to be built to meet your goals and which tool you will use.
  3. Plan your design
    Think through the overall structure, layout, navigation, interactive components, content, visual treatment, and any other elements, based on your goals.
  4. Build the prototype
    Review and refine the prototype along the way to ensure it is complete enough to meet the goals.
  5. Use the prototype with your intended audiences to accomplish the prototyping goals
    This may include design walkthroughs, usability tests, stakeholder demonstrations, communicating with the team, etc.
  6. Collect and analyze feedback
    Identify key findings, recommendations, and next steps.
  7. Consider additional prototyping activities, as needed
    This may include building a more elaborate prototype, developing “competing” prototypes to explore design options, shifting from simple prototyping tools (e.g. paper and pencil) to more sophisticated tools, etc.


  • Build only what you need to support your prototyping goals. You can always build more later.
  • Paper prototyping is a great way to test core concepts, basic flow, and overall value without having too much detail get in the way.
  • Avoid getting overly attached to the prototype, because the design will likely change over time.

Tips for Life Sciences

  • When possible, use realistic data in your prototype to build credibility of the design and better engage scientists.
  • You may need to do some background research to better understand the specific subject matter and context of use.
  • Review the prototype with a subject matter expert to identify any inaccurate content prior to showing the prototype your intended audiences.
  • Engage the audience with the prototype in the environment where it will be used. If in a lab, consider any environmental/safety implications (e.g. personal protective equipment)


“If a picture is worth 1000 words, a prototype is worth 1000 meetings.” – saying @ideo