Paper Prototyping in Design Thinking

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Paper city -  MJV Blog

After every innovation project, we find the design thinking tools to be even more versatile and surprising than we thought.

As you may have read here, Prototyping is an important step that can be performed several times during the process, making implementation easier, while preventing errors due to a lack of clear visualization of the solution alongside the users.

This is how paper prototyping work: they are simple to create and they have multiple and sophisticated possibilities. Let’s understand how to apply them.

What are paper prototypes?

They are depictions of graphical interfaces with different levels of fidelity, from a hand drawn wireframeon small sheets of paper, for instance, to schematic representations of the screens of a mobile application – or even the final text and color details for a soap box.

A paper prototype can start simple and gain complexity through the iterations with the user or with the team.

When to use it?

It can be used whenever it’s necessary to evaluate a system’s flow of information and navigation, to explore a product’s communication possibilities, or just to materialize the presentation of an idea to users, the company or even the design team itself, making it more comprehensible.

These tests can take place within several contexts, from a controlled environment, such as a usability lab, or in sessions with groups of end users and potential consumers.

As the result will be builton paper, it can be done by hand, just like a sketch of a solution, or with the help of a computer to evaluate the details of an interface, a product or communicate services.

Practical example – Paper prototyping for new features and website viralization

In order to design a website for a contest called Cupom Mania (Coupon Mania) and aiming to identify viralization opportunities for the product, field researches were carried out by surveying the registered complaints in the website’s Contact Us section and a Desk Research.

One of the hypotheses raised during the Immersion phase was that the contest also needed to reach a younger audience. To do so, new features were created, which required redesigningof the website. The new screens were taken to interviews with users in order to test their receptivity.


When this idea was taken to the field and presented on a printed computer screen to theinterviewees, they felt comfortable providing criticism; after all, the paper model provided it with anexperimental nature. The answers collected from the users allowed the team to reach conclusions, such as:

  • Positive feedback of the prototype test.
  • The functionality was approved by most of the people who took the test and it was seen as a real incentive to send more coupons on a daily basis.
  • Some users were confused with the representation of the daily coupons count (in this case, a star).

From this feedback, a suggestion was made to use receipt symbols to representthe count. Thus, it was clear how important it was to conduct the tests in order to get better and more assertive results from the customers.
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