Do we really need to make design more complicated than it really is (or should be)? I have heard that the term 'pretotype' is being thrown around a little bit as the next trend in UX research and testing, and I have been trying to find information about the difference between doing a even more rapid/lean version of a prototype that becomes something of a different process in itself?

Are we really splitting hairs here or should we be just classifying the different types of prototypes that we can create, whether it be something that is interactive vs. non-interactive, high vs. low fidelity, functional vs. conceptual, etc.

I would be interested in hearing thoughts about the use of this word in the design circles, or what the term means to other UX practitioners out there.

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    "What is the rationale behind creating a 'pretotype' rather than a more simplified version of a prototype?" IMO writing articles pretending to introduce a new concept/methodology when you simply fancy named something existing. For any medium-sized project I need at least few sketches and two prototypes (to test both UI and overall code architecture), I don't wish to give a name to each of them... Jan 13, 2016 at 8:31
  • 2
    @AdrianoRepetti this is one of the few cases where a comment truly answers a question well.
    – JohnGB
    Apr 13, 2016 at 4:04

4 Answers 4


That is marketing term, not usability one!

I think this is marketing term, and the guys are trying to market themselfs for a long used technique with the name of low fidelity prototyping.

Really lame idea that is designed to fool the unknowledgeable ones or maybe the author itself does not know about low fi prototyping. I saw "academic article" which didn't had any citations whatsoever. He even has manifesto in that article, and links to his social media contacts which is totally not academic! I think this guy Alberto Savoia is trying to sell the idea to to businessmans with low IT knowledge.


While pretotyping has a marketing-ish side , I think its approach is interesting. Granted, it can be solved by other different testing approaches, but I think it has some merits to hold its own place. Also, despite the similar wording, I don't think it's the same as prototyping. Or at least, they have different intentions.

From Prototyping page:

Pretotyping differs from prototyping in one important respect. The main objective of prototyping is to answer questions related to building the product: Can we build it? Will it work as expected? How cheaply can we build it? How fast can we make it? The main objective of pretotyping is to answer questions about the product's appeal and usage: Would people be interested in it? Will they use it as expected? Will they continue to use it? ...

The rationale

So, prototyping is more about creating some low fidelity version of a final product, but this low fidelity version is an attempt to create something as close as possible to the final product, reducing problems and focusing on the features the final product will have.

On the other hand, pretotyping looks to create as many different prototypes as possible, with features, visuals, tools and usability that you may NOT use, but looking for insight on what you can do and what you're missing.

In short:

  • Prototype is about trying to make a product's features to work.

  • Pretotype is about creating all the possible combinations of features that product may have, as crazy as they might be, and FAIL... or maybe not!

Take this with a sip of snake oil if you wish, but in the end, only time will tell if we will be pretotyping soon or just talk about it as just another gimmicky concept

  • Except prototyping is not just a low-fi version of a final product. In fact, it covers exactly what the definition for a "pretotype" seems to be. There's no limit on how many prototypes you can make or how much you'll use of them, and the end goal is the same—gather UX insights from users. No need to call them "pretotypes"
    – Tin Man
    Mar 12, 2018 at 22:14
  • prototypes come after research and some more or less extensive process. Pretotypes usually have no research at all, they're just ideas that may develop into something more complete and after some work... prototypes. As my answer reads, I'm fully aware of they marketing-ish side, but I think it holds some merit. As a matter of fact, after this answer I used this approach a couple times and it kinda worked. Not exactly as they say, but it helped somehow, so it was an interesting eperiment
    – Devin
    Mar 13, 2018 at 5:48
  • Actualy, even prototypes don't have to come after a phase of research. Wiktionary defines them as "an early sample or model built to test a concept or process", meaning they easily encompass what "pretotypes" are. That said, perhaps it is useful to have a separate word for prototypes created as a precursor to user research.
    – Tin Man
    Mar 13, 2018 at 7:38

Programming is such a flexible way of making something, that I don't understand why so many people try to have a perfect UI design before ever writing a line of code. From my point of view this is madness!

Most companies seem to take the view that beginning to write even a line of code is like starting on building a skyscraper, but with code you can change whatever you want at any time; change the foundations without trashing the whole "building".

No matter how good your design process is, there is absolutely no substitute for making a naively coded prototype of your UI, and letting the client / users play around with it. No other process is faster or more agile than getting your hands dirty and trying things out. If people are calling this pretotyping now then I am very much in favour of it!


Prototypes that cover

Edge cases where the user uses the feature in an unexpected way, like not entering data or entering wrong data.

Localizations how the design of a feature works in different countries unexpected variations like currency

are crucial.

This is 1 kind of Prototyping (not sure what it's called) is a way to uncover and fix aspects or flaws of the design early on before it gets developed. It will be problematic to revise the design after it has been developed and gone to testing or worse gone live. Usually we do prototypes on invision to add interactivity.

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