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Paper prototyping

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Paper prototyping :: 1 of 3

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What is it?

Paper prototyping is a variation of usability testing where representative users perform realistic tasks by interacting with a paper version of the interface that is manipulated by a person "playing computer", who doesn't explain how the interface is intended to work.

Characteristics

Paper prototypes are "disposable", quickly generated versions of designs. They are also called mock-ups.

They are - indeed - most often created on paper, but there is nothing in principle to stop them being electronic. Some paper prototypes are hand-drawn, while others use printed-out screen shots.

Paper prototypes or other mock-ups are used to clarify requirements and enable draft interaction designs and screen designs to be very rapidly simulated and tested.

What's it for?

Paper prototypes or other mock-ups are used clarify requirements and enable draft interaction designs and screen designs to be very rapidly simulated and tested.

Paper prototyping can be used for virtually any type of human-computer interface - software, website, hand-held device, or even hardware. Its purpose is to get quick feedback from users while the design is still (literally) "on the drawing board."

How to do paper prototyping
Paper prototyping is a refined, grown-up version of what most people do anyway if presented with the task of creating something - namely, they create a "model", or a "thumbnail sketch". The principle is the same in all cases: draw something, play with it, and see if it works on paper before going to all the time and expense of actually building or making something properly.

So any approach that enables a designer or developer to visualise - and interact with - a model counts as paper prototyping after a fashion.

More formally, if the necessary skills are available, the design can be evaluated and improved by expert or heuristic evaluation

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