Today, there are many digital tools for easy prototyping and sketching, and using paper prototypes seems old-fashioned and inefficient. But is that truly the case?

Many top UX design agencies continue using paper prototypes in the early stages of design. So what exactly are the benefits that made simple pencil sketches stick around? Read on to find out.

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When to use paper prototypes

Let’s look at a couple of real-life examples of when top-notch designers usually choose paper sketches over high-tech prototyping programs.

  1. Easily accessible

Nowadays, everyone works remotely, from any place they like, and a designer can be hiking in the mountains or chilling on the beach when they get a stunning idea. And when this happens, a pencil and a piece of paper are much easier to find than a laptop.  

Moreover, a piece of paper does not need to be charged and has no hard drive that can destroy your idea.

  1. Idea generation

When the designer is just looking for an idea and tries out different things, it is preferable for them to work with paper. A digital screen serves as a barrier between the idea and the artist. They get distracted by tuning the parameters and pressing different buttons. On the other hand, using a pencil and paper does not require any extra effort and is much more 

  1. Idea testing

Similarly, when you’re unsure whether the idea is worth working on, preparing just a paper prototype is much more logical. Before digitizing the layout, you can sketch it on paper. Getting a physical touch of the screens will help you look at the product through your user’s eyes and see all its weaker points.

  1. Explain your idea

One of the main reasons paper prototypes are still around is that designers often need to sketch something very quickly, such as meeting with their colleagues. They might not even have a laptop with them. 

It can be complicated to explain your vision to people who are unfamiliar with your ideas. Simple paper prototypes are the best way to reach an understanding. 

  1. Get client feedback

A pencil sketch can be shown to the client to get their feedback. If something is off, it will be visible even at this stage. You will be able to quickly introduce changes and continue the design process knowing that this is what the client wants. 

  1. Small project prototyping

If the project has lots of screens and complex architecture, a paper prototype may not be enough for your clients to grasp the idea. However, if it is small or very simple, a paper prototype is enough. Once you get feedback from your colleagues and clients, you may prepare its digital version from scratch. 

Where to start? 

How do you work with a paper prototype? Let us see how to use one step by step.

  1. Choose a concept

First of all, you need to choose the concept. This is your prototype’s main idea; for example, you are drawing out a mobile healthcare application plan. Since it is just the first sketch, your idea can be rather vague – don’t hesitate to edit, delete, or add new things. 

  1. Come up with use cases

What can help you decide on the project’s concept are use cases. They describe how the system is expected to behave when real users interact with it. This is simply a description made from the user’s point of view. For example, “A user wants to use your app to schedule an appointment with the doctor. They open the app, go to their account, and press the button “search”. They select the doctor. They select the date and time. They close the app. When you understand the needs of your users, it is much easier to create a product that actually meets their needs. 

  1. Sketch

The next step is to bring your idea to life. Make a couple of drafts that represent your idea. You can always erase the parts that you don’t like. Sometimes making a sketch can be done in a matter of minutes. However, other days you’ll want to set it aside and come back to editing it a couple of days later. 

  1. Validate

Finally, you need to validate your idea. It is up to you whether to discuss the idea with your colleagues, boss, or clients. Before continuing to work on the sketch, you have to make sure that it brings real business benefits. 

Final thoughts

Making a prototype is necessary, as it allows the designer to better communicate their idea to other people working on the project. There isn’t always a need to use top-notch digital tools – there are many cases where paper sketches are preferable.

Robert Malcolm

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