Confession, I love creating digital prototypes. There seems to be an endless array of new tools available to create mockups for apps and websites, and they are all mostly great to use.

The question is, how good does your prototype need to be?

My rule of thumb is this:

  1. Start as simple as a post-it within your team, or

2. High fidelity when getting feedback from all others

Post-its or paper prototypes are great for design sprints and sharing ideas within your team. It is an easy and rapid way to get up and running, and simple for people to vote on the best ideas without getting bogged down by days of work in Photoshop (I use Sketch btw).

I highly encourage you to check out the excellent book on running design sprints and creating prototypes using only the bare minimum at Google Ventures.

But when sharing with people outside the team, and especially when getting end user feedback, prototypes need to be believable. If people see the ‘duct tape’ holding it together, you probably aren’t going to get the raw feedback about your idea that you were looking for in the first place.

Coinciding with the contriversial Macbook launch last week, the great Jony Ive was interviewed by CNET about the new touch bar, and the overall design process. (Personally, I can’t wait to try it out).

Jony says this about prototyping:

One of the things that remains quite a big challenge for us is that you have to prototype to a sufficiently sophisticated level to really figure out whether you’re considering the idea, or whether what you’re really doing is evaluating how effective a prototype is.

So with prototypes, try and build the minimum that you can get away with, but it is a fine line.