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Prototyping Approaches

You can use any type of material or methodology/ approach, as long as it enables you to actively test out an idea and learn from it.
Prototyping can be used at all stages of the innovation process in order to either develop and test a new idea, or improve an existing idea through iterative cycles, and finally to learn and test viability of the business model, growth model or policy. You can use any type of material or methodology/ approach, as long as it enables you to actively test out an idea and learn from it, rather than simply talking or thinking about it. Also ensure that you are focused on conducting the prototype quickly and cheaply; it does not need to be a finished product.
The below content has been contributed by Roya Damabi from Alberta CoLab.
When deciding what prototyping tools to use, consider the following.


The starting point for choosing your prototyping method is deciding what you want to learn. Do you need to get feedback from end users about look and feel? Do you need to understand how much direction people require? Do you need to understand how your new concept fits with current operations? Different questions require different testing tools.


Whose feedback do you need? Who do you need to engage in the prototyping process, and for what reason? Understanding the context, capacities, and comfort levels of different audiences will enable you to choose prototyping methods that enable them to jump in quickly and easily. For example, a family member and a social worker may have different language abilities, system knowledge, and play different roles in relation to the prototype that will influence how they are able to engage with it and the type of feedback they are able to provide. Some audiences are quite comfortable with role playing, while others will run away – literally! How you engage others on your prototype should be an enjoyable and useful experience for everyone involved.


Prototyping tools have different degrees of fidelity – from a sketch on the back of a napkin to a digital mock-up of a new online platform. When considering the degree of fidelity in your prototyping tool selection, consider the time and resources you have available to you – the higher the fidelity, the higher the investment. Also consider your audience: a sketch on the back of a napkin might be completely acceptable to test an idea with your colleagues, but a senior decision-maker or investor might find a translation of that sketch by a graphic designer to be more professional and appropriate.
There are many different approaches you can use for prototyping. Here, we describe a number of them, but there are many more you can use.

Examples and Resources

Experience Prototype
Service Prototypes
Wizard of Oz
Life-Sized Mockups
An experience prototype is a simulation that enables a lab team, users and stakeholders to actively engage with the prototype, in order to learn how it is experienced (in terms of “look and feel”). Through this experience, we can understand more about how something is integrated into someone’s life, and the role and functionality it may play in that individual’s life. It also enables an understanding of the contextual factors that may affect that person’s experience, such as environmental conditions, social circumstances, time pressure, etc.
Experience Prototype Tool:
A service prototype is one that tests out a service as it would be delivered to a user – in the same place, situation and condition as it would be in actuality. It allows a team to test out different variations of the service over time, to refine the process further.
Service Prototype Tool:
A wireframe is like a blueprint for a technology application. It consists of a set of sketches of what users will see and how they can interact with different screens of an application. It’s a low-fidelity layout of the design that presents the relevant information, draws the general layout and structure and indicates what the user interface is. This is particularly used for mobile applications or web applications.
Template - Wireframing
The Wizard of Oz methodology is named after the scene in a film where a curtain is pulled back to reveal that the ‘wizard’ is a man who is pulling levers and switches. It is a technique that helps people to map out different scenarios that should happen based on user behaviour. The people in the scenario follow a script that provides directions on what happens, where one person plays the role of the end user, one person plays the 'wizard' who performs the different tasks that simulate the behaviour of the final product. After each iteration, feedback is gathered, analyzed and reintegrated into the prototype for further testing and iterations. It is useful for testing ‘fake’ functionality that has not yet been developed, to save time and resources on developing it.
Examples of Wizard of Oz Prototyping can be found in the links below:
A full-scale or life-sized mockup is one where a prototype is being tested in real life as a full-scale model. A mockup (unlike a functional prototype that is actually meant to function) is a representation of the real idea, most often to avoid having to build it first and make expensive changes.
Storyboards provide a visual narrative of your idea from beginning to end. It helps to learn about your idea (and refine it), to generate empathy for end users, or to solicit feedback to consider design alternatives.
Visit the below resources for more information on how to use storyboarding to illustrate your idea: