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Paper prototyping is a very powerful tool early on in a new product build as it helps you to iron out ux and rapidly iterate.

However if you're working on an existing product and want to test small feature changes, adding fields to a form for example, or changing the layout of features should you consider paper prototyping as an option and if so how? Are there better methods of testing/building iteration...

FYI: This is inside a startup using lean-startup and user testing experiments each week

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2 Answers

There isn't a right way to do prototyping. People feel most comfortable with a range from paper prototypes to high fidelity Photoshop mockups. It all depends on the person doing them and their skills and preferences.

My usual method is to:

  1. Always start with paper / whiteboard sketches regardless of whether it's a new product or an iteration on an existing one. I find that it gives me the freedom to not think about the tool, and so it lets me focus on the problem.
  2. Once I think there is a winner idea, I move it to interactive wireframes, which I also use for initial user testing.
  3. Build the interface in whatever makes the most sense for the project and do more user testing.
  4. Iterate between stages until done.

You will find a lot of variation between people. Just try a few different things, and settle on what works best for you rather than try to copy the way that person x or person y does it.

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The goal is to get feedback as quickly and accurately as possible.

Paper prototyping is a great tool for rapid feedback - but it's not necessarily always the fastest way.

Choose the fastest way.

Some examples:

  • If I don't have any existing interface, I'll just jump to paper prototyping. That's going to be faster than building something.

  • I've got a build web app in a vaguely sane dev setup. I want to test how a new font choice and header layout effects usage. Adding in some CSS on a dev branch of the app is almost certainly going to be faster than mocking up the existing app on paper

  • I've got a built web app and I want to try out a new style of interaction on a page. That involves some serious dev time to do, but mocking up the existing app on paper would be a bit of a pain. I might do a bit of both and print out a few pages from the existing app and then paper prototype the new interaction on top of those to provide context.

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