Product Developers Must Find Out! What is Paper Prototyping

When developing a software product, one of the important things in the software engineering cycle is testing.

Testing can be done in several ways, one of which is usability testing. Usability testing focuses on user (user-centered design) which aims to evaluate a product by testing the product directly to users.

In the study of the human-computer interface, paper prototyping is one way to do usability testing. Paper prototyping is a method that is often used in the user-driven design process, a process that helps developers to build software that meets user expectations and needs.

Paper prototyping This is done at the stage of designing an interface before it is ready to be developed. Paper prototyping will explain how an application works well and intuitively.

Feedback from users is needed because it will be them who will use the application, not only the application developer. Furthermore, the issues and input from these users can be used as a reference for making an interface prototype in the design team.

One of the advantages of paper prototyping is that every user can test the interface with real actions.


user can define what actions or tasks he can understand and perform when using the application intuitively.

When to use Paper Prototyping?

In a paper entitled “Paper Prototyping – What is it good for? A comparison of paper and Computer-based low fidelity Prototyping” written by Reinhard Sefelin et al. in 2003, explained the reasons when we should use paper prototyping:

When the available prototyping tools do not support the components and ideas that will be implemented when the developer wants to involve members of the design team without adequate software skills when testing the prototype must lead to many drawings, which can then be discussed in the design team. For example, when we create the mockup uses a vector-based computer graphics application, the device cannot explain what if a button is clicked or what action will occur if someone presses a dropdown list, and so on.


do you have to use Paper Prototyping, while currently making prototypes can be done with a computer?”

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This is a question that arose when I took an online course at Coursera on the topic of HCI. The lecturer from Stanford University always emphasizes the importance of brainstorming about how a system works before it is developed further.

Prototyping is based on natural and human ideas. Because we will always think that a new computer or technology should not only be easy to use, but also easy to understand and not cause new complications.

Paper prototyping is certainly easier to make than computer prototyping. Paper prototyping only requires drawing skills on paper. If something is not right, it can be corrected immediately. In addition, it can also reduce the complexity of making prototypes on a computer which is often related to the ability to use certain tools.


paper prototype does not need to be made as good as possible, the most important thing in paper prototyping is to be able to explain visualization ideas and interface actions that you want to implement.

Mockup vs Paper Prototyping

The term ‘mockup’ has a more general meaning than ‘paper prototyping’. In terms of making ‘mockups’, designers are allowed to make prototypes with the help of computer tools. Wikipedia describes the mockup as:

“In manufacturing and design, a mockup, or mock-up, is a scale or full-size model of a design or device, used for teaching, demonstration, design evaluation, promotion, and other purposes. A mockup is a prototype if it provides at least part of the functionality of a system and enables testing of a design.”

The website adds thus:

“Mock-ups are used by designers mainly to acquire feedback from users. Mock-ups address the idea captured in a popular engineering one-liner: You can fix it now on the drafting board with an eraser or you can fix it later on the construction site with a sledge hammer.”

If the process of brainstorming prototype ideas for a project within the team is nearing the end, it is allowed to strengthen the prototype idea into a more attractive and neat visualization. In this case, software developers often call it the term ‘mockup’.

id="teknik-paper-prototyping">Paper Prototyping Technique

Paper prototyping has several techniques, some are called comps (short compositions), wireframes, and storyboards. Comps are visual representations, generally websites, that demonstrate various aspects of an interface, including fonts, colors, and logos.

A wireframe is used to demonstrate the layout of the interface page. A storyboard is a collection of images used to demonstrate how an interface works. These three techniques are useful and can be applied through paper prototyping.

If I may recommend, paper prototyping should not be made using computer tools, but drawn manually by hand (hand-drawn). Paper prototyping is usually made with pieces of paper of uniform size.

The size of the paper cut will be better if it is adjusted to the width of the interface layout. For example, if you want to make paper prototyping for a desktop interface, you can use A4 size paper.

It’s different if you want to make paper prototyping for smartphone interfaces, we can divide the A4 paper into 8 equal pieces.

Example of Paper Prototyping

Example of a paper prototyping test