PROTOTYPE: Fail at the Earliest

In 2009 George Kembel, co-founder of Stanford d. school, developed 5 steps of design thinking process. The 5 steps are:

1. Empathize, interviewing and observing, to developed deep understanding in the field;

2. Define, synthesizing insight, clearly articulate the problem;

3. Ideate, generate ideas, create possible solutions to the problems;

4. Building prototypes, make models that simulate the finished design;

5. Test, testing with the users to get feedbacks.

Design Thinking Process

In this blog post, we are going to talk about prototype.

Prototype gives you opportunity to work on the functions and the looks aspect of your design without involving a large portion of time and budget you have to spend in the actual production. The benefits of doing prototype are, that it is less time consuming, because it is fast creating, we can get iterations as much as possible, and we can get responds or feedbacks from users in a short period of time; Also its low cost and low difficulty characteristics, which mean it is cheaper and easier to change the design while in this state, than the finished work.

The idea to make prototypes is to generate ideas as much as possible. Also embody the idea in a tangible way. Prototype allows you to overcome the design issues by trying ideas, test and refine them. Prototypes are simulations how the finished design will work. To test the design will work or not is incredibly important to the overall design process.


When exploring the possibility of prototyping, there are some considerations. Believe personally that the prototype or prototyping process will work. Therefore if there are some colleagues that can’t work together in the team, you can convince them; Use terms that familiar to the team so they can understand the key components of the process rather than try to figure out the new terminology brought; Properly prepare the team, get the team think and communicate differently; Make a mess! Establish a space dedicated to the process. Spread and leave the work visible to other so they can comment and inspire new idea. Also consider not using regular meeting room to encourage new ideas and perspectives.

In the context of prototyping, there are 3 forms of prototypes: the low fidelity, just-good-enough fidelity, and high fidelity. Low fidelity prototype is sketchy and incomplete in some area. It’s very fast to create and to test, but has some disadvantages. If the fidelity is to low, the user might not understand and will have difficulty to interact with it. The high fidelity prototype in the other hand is a prototype that very close to the final product, with lots of functionality and detail. The disadvantage of this kind of prototype is that the user might get distracted with aspects in the design which not actually part of the issue being tested, or they will be less willing to make a honest feedback because they think the prototype is already finalized. The better form between the three types of prototype is just-good-enough fidelity, because it sits at the middle. Not too “raw” that user might not understand, and not too “well-done” so the tested users think it’s a final product. That way the users can understand and interact with the design and at the same time can give an honest feedback.


Using prototypes can be beneficial to designers. It is cheap and fast. In this early stage of the process, failing will do little damage, in fact failing in this stage could be the best guidance to refine the design.

Reference: (2013). UX prototyping tutorial- Design process overview – Available from [Accessed 1 November 2014) (2013). UX prototyping tutorial- What is a prototype – Available from [Accessed 1 November 2014)

Silvers, D. M. et al. (2014). From Post-its to Processes: Using Prototypes to Find Solutions. Baltimore, MD, USA. Available from [Accessed 28 October 2014)

University of St. Gallen. (2005). What is Design Thinking?. Available from [Accessed 31 October 2014)


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