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What is Prototyping in Design Thinking: Fidelity Prototypes 2020

Prototyping in Design Thinking

High fidelity prototype vs low fidelity prototypes

What is the prototype?

A prototype is an experimental model that allows you to test an idea quickly and inexpensively, allowing the team to refine the project or evaluate changes in approach, if they prove necessary, before investing time and money in the actual development.

One of the main advantages of the prototyping process consists in the possibility of carrying out experience and concept validation sessions already in the early stages of the design, keeping users at the center of the design process.

Likewise, a prototype helps to engage stakeholders from the earliest design process stages of the project, showing them the solutions, the team is imagining to respond to user needs and project objectives. Finally, thanks to a prototype it is easier to evaluate the technological impact of a project,

Why prototyping?

With prototyping, the “look and feel” of a product can be represented without the actual product having to be built. We can understand how the product behaves or how it could look later.

In addition, we can show the prototypes to users and stakeholders and test and iterate with their feedback. Are we on the right track with our solution? Something missing? How is the product operated? What effect does the design have on the user?

What is prototyping in design thinking?

With design thinking, new ideas can be found for a successful final product. After all, the user-oriented design thinking process is based on approaches from the field of design. Here you can find out what is behind the Design Thinking process and the method, and what else you should know about it. Here we go!

Prototyping is an important part of design thinking. It repeats itself several times in loops. The creation of prototypes is set very early on. Insights gained are thus recapitulated. In order to get as many approaches as possible for a problem. Many people from different areas are involved in the process to provide a high-end user experience.

The Design Thinking process consists of 6 phases:

1. Understand

2. Observe

3. Define

4. Find ideas

5. Develop prototypes

6. Testing


At the very beginning, it is of course a matter of developing an understanding of the real problem. The aim is for the team to pull together towards action. First of all, a general overview is obtained. Once this has been established, a detailed question about the needs and challenges within the project can then be asked.


In order to gain further insights and knowledge, the second step is intensive research. It requires a lot of time and money. Furthermore, it is observed, questioned, and interacted in order to understand the target group and their needs. Conversations with people from outside can also have input and inspiration.


The insights gained on the basis of these observations are then combined to form an overall picture. This can be done through storytelling, for example, or through conversations among team members.

Sketches and sketch notes help to visualize the knowledge gained and to present it to colleagues in an understandable way. It is also important in this phase that you achieve a common level of knowledge.

Find ideas

Now it's time to come up with ideas, the actual core element for a better user experience. Here we tinker and try out together. Actually, every imaginable creativity technique can be used for these purposes. For example, "brainstorming" can be used. From the collection of hopefully sparkling ideas, the best ideas are then selected on the basis of properties such as attraction or feasibility.

Develop prototyping skills

Develop prototyping skills: After you have left the brainstorming behind you, the next step is to create prototypes. The ideas are illustrated by simply structured models (for example made of paper) and tested on the target group.

So, trying it out is the key! The resulting prototypes can also serve as additional ideas. In this way, you learn to understand the idea better and ultimately to really think ahead.

prototyping - modeling the best ideas

In the fifth step of the Design Thinking method, creativity and manual skills are required above all. Your task is to translate your preferred ideas into a prototyping product. Up to this point you already have an ideal first customer in mind, have convinced yourself of the users' problem in a direct discussion with the users, and have prioritized ideas on how you can meet his product needs. Now it is a matter of modeling such a solution.

Prototyping mindset and materials

These framework conditions will help you with prototyping:

1. Focus on prototypes that you can develop in your team

2. Prototypes are disposable, don't invest too much time and energy

3. A prototype is functional and never finished

There are no limits to the imagination when it comes to the choice of prototyping material. From paper prototypes to handicraft materials, sales flyers, press releases, role-playing games or Lego. Or even the use of completely third-party solutions.

The only important thing is that you develop a prototype that gives the users the chance to put themselves in the shoes of your solution in order to be able to give you feedback. Only real feedback will take you one step further in your search for the best solution. For this, building prototype examples are the best idea.


An intensive discussion with the target group then takes place on the basis of the prototypes. The knowledge gained in this way provides further clues for improvements and alternatives within the project.

The design is refined until the best possible and as user-oriented solution as possible is found. Under certain circumstances, this step can also include all previous steps.

The most important goal in this phase is to get feedback. Not to convince the customer of the brilliance of an idea. Prototypes have the simple task of making abstract concepts tangible. And it's just a prototype, so you can also say: “That wasn't a good idea, get rid of it”.

In this phase, you observe up close how the customer interacts with your solution. Questions from the customer are a good indicator that the customer is already “thinking about” your solution and is actively dealing with it.

Always try to understand the background of his questions. This gives you valuable insights into points that may have been hidden from you before. Before you present your prototype, however, you should formulate assumptions and expectations under which conditions the prototype can be rated as a success.

By the time you've talked to five customers, you will have already received most of the suggestions for improvement and feedback.

Back to go or implement

Testing closes the circle of the Prototyping Design Thinking method. From here it can go on in any direction. Maybe you have to go back to “Go” again because you only gained important insights in this last phase. But maybe you are only allowed to vary your prototype in order to receive new feedback.

Only when you are confident that your prototype will meet with a sufficiently large number of users do you start implementing your solution.

The solution is then implemented using methods such as Scrum or Lean Startup. Both methods support you in developing a product from your prototype in iterative steps. But the basic attitude of Design Thinking always remains a valuable companion in implementation. Especially when you jump into the implementation of new features before you even understand the problem.

Why design thinking is more a mindset than a method?

Don't think out of the box - think of what you can do WITH the box!

A hip design thinking workshop does not create change, let alone transformation. Because the organizational system, the processes, and structures, the corporate culture, and also the routines remain largely unaffected.

Flexible thinking, self-confident decision-making, and quick action are required - from specialists and executives more than ever. Think in advance what goals you are pursuing with your team/organization/company. Involve your HR department: develop it into a key partner and a pioneer of entrepreneurial performance culture.

First and foremost, this includes a positive, open mindset and an inner attitude that says 'yes' to this new complexity and at the same time makes it possible to deal with it effectively.

Design thinking focuses on empathy and creativity and focuses on the problems and the problem-solving search of the users/customers. It is both a process and a mindset and helps to create a lively innovation culture in the company.

What is high fidelity prototypes?

A "high fidelity prototype" is a prototype with a high level of detail in terms of functionality and design and thus the counterpart to the "low fidelity prototype”. The "high fidelity prototype" is an interactive presentation of a digital product, such as a website or an app, that has already been worked out very extensively - and is therefore close to the later finished product.

A "high fidelity prototype" is used to test the visual design when it comes to animations, mini-interactions or effects that influence the behavior of the user.

What is low fidelity prototypes?

A "Low Fidelity Prototype" is a prototype in which the focus on user guidance and functionality is largely detached from the design. It is an (interactive) presentation of a digital product, such as a website or an app, that is as close as possible to the beginning of the development process. This makes it the counterpart to the »High Fidelity Prototype« .

Benefits of low fidelity prototyping:

• fast and inexpensive

• it is possible to make changes immediately and test new iterations before final product

• disposable

• enables you to get an overview of the product with minimal effort

• available to everyone; Regardless of ability and experience, we are able to create rudimentary versions of products in order to test them with users or to get their opinions on the product

• promotes design thinking

Depending on the stage of development an application is in, either low fidelity prototyping or high fidelity prototyping is used. The first variant of so-called paper prototyping is more likely to be carried out in the development process of an application.

The focus here is on functionality and user guidance, which should be assessed independently of the design. This is achieved with the help of so-called wireframes, in which the digital product is presented interactively.

Later and in more detail: high fidelity prototyping

With high fidelity prototyping, the applications are already very mature and show a high level of detail. Both functionality and design are already close to the later end product. The focus here is on detailed questions such as visual design, design effects or animations, which are intended to have a positive effect on user behavior.

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