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This key step is about making a variety of tangible prototypes to communicate and test your ideas.

DFA UC Davis
Apr 16
Checklist #1: Make many Low-Fidelity Prototypes
Make 5+ quick and dirty prototypes in under 60 minutes (45 if your team is 4 or more people!)
Apr 17
Cheklist #2: : Build 2 Test
Iterate until at least 5 of your prototypes are testable, keeping Checklist #3 in mind.
Apr 19
Checklist #3: Fail Early and Frequently (at least 30%!)
Testable doesn't mean they have to work! Make at least 2 quick & dirty prototypes that you think would fail.
Apr 20


Building and making your ideas real is a critical component of the design process. This key step is about making a variety of tangible prototypes to communicate and test your ideas.

Effective ways to do this include:
  1. Download this build 1-pager to review key questions with your team for each prototype.
  2. Review the 2-3 ideas that your team would like to build.
  3. As a team ask the following questions:
  • What can each team member make tangible?
  • What do we need to learn with each idea, or what questions do we have that we need to get the answers to while testing?
  • How we can we break up each idea into works-like, feels-like and looks-like prototypes?
  • What is the quickest and cheapest way to build these prototypes?
4. Building and Testing should always go hand in hand
  • Review "Prepare for Testing" to think about how your prototype will be used in a testing session as you start buiding.
5. Define next steps for who will build what and by when.



Build to Test: Prototypes are not only physical embodiments of ideas but are an extension of research. They are used so your team gains more knowledge and answers targeted questions about your ideas for solutions.

Fail Early, Fail Often: It’s better to know if something doesn’t work now before it’s too late. Prototypes are not precious and are meant to be broke. Most solutions evolve so much throughout the building and testing process that final prototypes will look nothing like early prototypes. 

Low-Fidelity First: Because you’re learning and failing quickly, you don’t want to waste resources. Making quick early prototypes with cheap materials you have available to you is key.

Make multiple prototypes: There are always many unknown elements in one single idea so make more that one prototype per idea to allow you to quickly learn about each element. Knowing which elements work and don't work for a possible solution will help you combine the best elements for the ultimate solution. Think of it as a scientific experiment - you have to have controls and a variable in order to learn what’s working. A common way to do this is to make a ‘looks-like’ prototype that symbolizes how might your solution look. Then make a totally separate prototype simulating how it would function, or a ‘works-like.’ Then finally to understand how the experience would feel to your user, make another one that hits at the emotional experience and make a ‘feels-like.’
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