Ten ways to prototype your ideas

A prototype doesn’t have to be beautiful or fancy. As a matter of fact, prototyping is all about building something tangible as fast and as cheap as possible. There are several ways to build a prototype. In this article, I will share 10 simple methods for prototyping your ideas.

The Mechanical Turk (or ‘Wizard of Oz’) method allows you to test an idea, without having to build the real thing. You make it look like something technical (an algorithm, artificial intelligence, complicated machinery) works flawlessly, but in reality you are the one secretly moving the parts. By creating a real experience for your users, this allows you to collect feedback about the final product/service. You give the user the feeling that your product/service is real, while you are carrying out all tasks manually behind the scenes. This allows you to test your assumptions (Do people get it? Are they willing to pay for the product? Are they willing to adopt this new solution?) before spending loads of time and money on building the real thing.

The Mechanical Turk

The original ‘Mechanical Turk’, an 18th-century contraption which appeared to be a chess-playing machine.


If you have a digital product (like a mobile app or web application) wireframes or app screens are a wonderful way to test your ideas. Make rough sketches of what your product will look like. A rectangle with a cross in it is a perfect placeholder for an image, and some horizontal lines below each other are a fine indication for a text field. Keep it simple. Wireframes are just a tool to think about the user interface, design, and workflow of your application.


Another way to prototype a digital product, is by creating a clickable prototype. A clickable demo of your product allows you to give your users an impression of how the final product looks and feels. To create a clickable prototype you can use simple tools such as a PDF-file, Powerpoint, Keynote (see also ‘Keynotopia’), or more sophisticated tools such as InVision.


A storyboard is great for prototyping a service. Pick a moment in the customer journey and create a storyboard to show how your customer interacts with your product/service. If it helps, you can also add more details or show what your user is thinking or feeling. Drawing a storyboard helps to empathize with your customers. It’s also highly likely that you will stumble upon new insights while drawing.


Step into your users’ shoes and pretend that you are them. Act the way your users would interact with your solution. See if you can discover insights or bottlenecks that can help to improve your solution. Add props or decorations that simulate the environment of your product/service to add another layer to your play.


Especially for products, a physical prototype works wonders. People like to touch or hold a tangible prototype. It is very different from a sketch or artist impression. To create a 3D model of your idea you can use a 3D printer, but tinkering with cardboard or other materials works equally fine to make your ideas tangible.


A video is often great to explain an idea. When creating a short video or animation make sure you keep it simple. You can, for example, create a ‘Table Top video’ and use an ‘in plain English’ format to explain your idea.


Scale down to quickly make your idea tangible. Build a small version of your idea. For example, use Lego blocks or cardboard. This method is especially useful when the subject of your prototype is large (e.g. a car, square, building, store etc.)


Pretend that your product/service is already available, and investigate if your customers are willing to ‘buy’ your solution. You can pretend that your solution already exists by creating a fake brochure or package. You can also use Google Ads in combination with a landing page to see if your customers will click on your ad and buy your product. You can use A/B split testing, to see what options work best.


A simple visual can help you share your idea. You can do this by creating a simple drawing that explains your idea and that shows what your idea would look like. Of course, you can also take your visual one step further and create an ‘artist impression’, for example in Photoshop. This can be particularly useful when you are pitching your idea, for example to an investor or a decision maker.


How can you make your idea tangible?


Want to know more?

Would you like to know more about prototyping or other parts of the innovation process? Perhaps the Innovation Course is the right choice for you: https://hatrabbits.com/en/innovation-course/

Contact us for more information. We’ll gladly tell you all about the possibilities.

Telephone: (+31) 010 30 70 534

E-mail: hello@hatrabbits.com

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Ideas lead to ideasThe Mechanical Turk - or Wizard of Oz