Paper Prototyping

The term paper prototyping is understood in product or web design as a method that pays particular attention to usability in the development of software. Paper prototyping is especially used for usability testing and the development of new UI. 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, but rather that software solutions or computer interfaces are designed with paper and pen and also tested in this form. In the mid-1990s, state of the art IT companies, such as IBM and Microsoft, often used paper prototyping 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 mainly used by developers for user-centered design. But in many cases, the design drafts are usually created in digital form.

Application Options[edit]

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


Here the testers use the digital prototype created on paper or on the PC and go through the planned action sequences in advance. These tests can be used to further simplify or adapt designs. Testing usually takes the form of three different versions:

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

While the composition already contains all of the important elements such as the color, font and image design, the wireframe is designed to test the layout of the application or website. The storyboard provides multiple views of a website or stages of a program.

Design Tests[edit]

In this case, the result of the paper prototyping is printed. This can be, for example, a preview of a website or an application. The tester analyzes this expression before the program is finally implemented.

Exchange of Ideas[edit]

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

Creation of an Information Architecture[edit]

Before structures of a website or program are developed, they can be presented with the help of paper prototyping and theoretically checked for their coherence, in advance.


Paper prototyping has many advantages, which are briefly outlined here:

  • Designers do not have to wait for tools or have them developed to sketch ideas for the appearance or function of a software. You can start without much effort.
  • All members of a team can be integrated into the idea process, even those who have not masters certain design techniques. In this way, the entire creativity of a team can be used.
  • The implementation can be carried out very quickly and cost-effectively, since neither special tools nor exclusive specialists are required for the development.