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Over the last few years, several new design and prototyping tools have been making their presence felt leading to UX designers being able to turn around highly interactive prototypes quickly and easily. With so many thoughtfully curated tools becoming the order of the day, is paper prototyping a thing of the past? Let’s explore on this blog.

To me, as much as the wealth of resources on the Internet today are seen as a boon for an aspiring designer, nothing beats the power of designing on good old paper. Isn’t that where the origin of the idea you have in mind stems from? Ergo, it’s always good to approach designing a product or a solution ground up since that will ultimately pave the way for a successful and seamless user experience.

Here are some advantages of approaching the design process with the mind or with paper rather than using specialized tools.

Broadens your thought process

When you begin your designing process with paper, it facilitates greater creativity. Ask how? Paper prototyping allows you to make a detailed demonstration of what your work process should be like. This way, ideas are not limited by tool constraints, thereby expanding scope and presenting you with a broader canvas to think through solutions to a given problem.

For instance, if you are designing for a user group that is looking to get a glimpse of the unfinished product right at the outset, paper prototyping would come in handy. It lets you build quick prototypes because of the simple fact that you’re not constrained by tools that take time to master. Therefore, speed, flexibility, and simplicity are some of the definite advantages of designing without tools initially.

Makes iteration easier

Since paper prototyping focuses less on design perfection, iteration becomes a lot easier. It makes for collaborative work since it lets stakeholders take part in the design process and accommodates several rounds of feedback. With rapid and iterative generation of feedback early on and more frequently during the design process, paper prototyping helps improve the final design and reduces the need for changes during the actual design and development phase.

Helps identify usability issues

Paper prototypes are ideal for finding most usability problems including issues with concepts, terminology, navigation, workflow, and screen layout. Although usability testing isn’t the best method for researching user needs—you should do that before you design—if you missed a requirement or got one wrong, a paper prototype will reveal every nuance of it.

Helps build consensus among stakeholders

When you spend time designing on paper rather than using tools, it opens up the flexibility of experimenting with ideas rather quickly and thereby helps build consensus with all the stakeholders involved. For instance, while building a mobile application, the customer may put out a brief that he would expect to see a top header menu present at all times in the mobile app. Instead of just taking the customer’s word for it, a designer could encourage the customer to draw the menu and include it on the prototype for the rest of the session. Talking about a feature without putting it on paper and seeing it take valuable screen space are two different things. This allows the customer to want to change his mind after further interacting with the prototype. By demonstrating through practical experience, paper prototyping is a strong factor that drives consensus.

The misconception about design tools

Just because a designer is trained and conversant with various design tools and principles, it doesn’t necessarily have to translate to the need to practise them all. In order to build something new and innovative, it’s enough if a designer is well-versed with interface design principles and best practices. At the same time, a past product design experience in a specified industry shouldn’t be the cut-off to achieve a smoother and functional UI.This misperception is quite common amongst the young clients who work on a niche segment. The bottomline is that a good designer is one who has a range of certain comprehensive skills that may crossover and help him or her to practice applying the skills in a given project.

What’s the final take?

All said and done, designers must practise to accommodate the aesthetic, functional, economic and sociopolitical aspects of both the product as well as the design process. Although we are not taking anything away from design tools and their value, the design team at Ionixx believes in the power of designing on paper to ideally derive valuable insights on initial design ideas without spending much and without heavily relying on existing devices. And we do it also for the amount of collaboration and fun they bring to the design table!

Author Bio

Shilpa is a multidisciplinary creative from our UX team with 5+ years of industry experience.  Proficient at retail communication, print design, creative textiles, photography and handmade craft, she strongly believes in the ability of UI and UX design to create powerful experiences. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Textile Design from NIFT Kannur and a Master’s degree in Retail Experience Design from NID Bangalore. While not at work, she loves to spend time watching movies and experiment cooking. You can get a glimpse of her portfolio here.