Prototyping Cover


A Practitioner's Guide

By Todd Zaki Warfel

Published: November 2009
Paperback: 197 pages
Digital ISBN: 978-1933820-22-4
ISBN: 978-1933820-21-7

Prototyping is a great way to communicate the intent of a design both clearly and effectively. Prototypes help you to flesh out design ideas, test assumptions, and gather real-time feedback from users.

With this book, Todd Zaki Warfel shows how prototypes are more than just a design tool by demonstrating how they can help you market a product, gain internal buy-in, and test feasibility with your development team.

Paperback + Ebooks i All of our Paperbacks come with a FREE ebook in 4 common formats.


Ebooks only i All ebooks come in DRM-free Kindle (MOBI), PDF, ePub, and DAISY formats.


More about Prototyping


If prototyping isn’t already part of your design process, this book will not only persuade you that it should be, but will show you how to make it happen. Todd’s straightforward explanations and useful examples will help even experienced designers decide what kind of prototyping to do, when to do it, and what tools will be most effective. When someone asks me about prototyping, I’ll be pointing them to this book from now on.

Kim Goodwin, VP Design, Cooper and author, Designing for the Digital Age

One quarter of the way through this book, we threw out our requirements docs and started using photos of our whiteboard sketches to communicate instead. Thanks to Todd for consolidating and analyzing the wisdom and case studies from a variety of practitioners to identify what prototyping techniques will work, now.

—Shaun Abrahamson, Innovator and Investor, Colaboratorie Mutopo

Todd’s text offers a comprehensive view of prototyping– from the role of prototypes in socializing decision making and achieving organizational buy-in, to the actual pragmatics of creating interactive artifacts. This is a solid book for those “in the trenches”–the designers doing the actual work that ends up in the actual products we use every day.

—Jon Kolko. Editor-in-Chief, interactions and Associate Creative Director, Frog

If you design applications and are stuck in the land of task flows and wireframes, you really need to pick up a copy of Prototyping: A Practitioner’s Guide. Todd offers practical, hands-on advice to jump start your prototyping and make your designs truly interactive before they are built.

—Dan Saffer, Principal, Kicker Studios and author of Designing for Interaction and Designing Gestural Interfaces

Table of Contents

  • Chapter 1: The Value of Prototyping
  • Chapter 2: The Prototyping Process
  • Chapter 3: Five Types of Prototypes
  • Chapter 4: Eight Guiding Principles
  • Chapter 5: Picking the Right Tool
  • Chapter 6: Paper and Other Analog Methods
  • Chapter 7: PowerPoint and Keynote
  • Chapter 8: Visio
  • Chapter 9: Fireworks
  • Chapter 10: Axure RP Pro
  • Chapter 11: HTML
  • Chapter 12: Testing Your Prototype


  1. What prototyping method should I use?
    When choosing a prototyping method, a number of deciding factors need to be considered. You should start by asking the following questions: What’s the goal of this prototype? Who is its audience? How comfortable am I with this method? Is it something I already know or can learn quickly? How effective will this method be at helping me communicate or test my design? The right prototyping method for your current situation depends on how you answer these questions. As your answers change, so might your selection of prototyping methods and tools.
    See Chapter 5. 
  2. Hi-fidelity or lo-fidelity?
    Neither. Prototype fidelity is a sliding scale. Don’t be concerned with hi-level or lo-level fidelity. The level of fidelity that matters is whatever is needed to help you accomplish your goal with the audience for your prototype.
    See page 44. 
  3. What are the differences between a wireframe, storyboard, and a prototype?
    A prototype, regardless of its fidelity, functionality, or how it is made, captures the intent of a design and simulates multiple states of that design. Wireframes and storyboards are static representations of a design that on their own merit do not simulate multiple states of a design. It’s the simulation and multiple states part that creates the distinction.
    See pages 3-4.
  4. Why isn’t “tool x” in your book?
    I chose to include tools that were widely used in the field of user experience. When I started this book, I surveyed a few hundred practitioners to get a feel for the most common tools being used in the field of user experience. You can find the results of that survey in Chapter 5, “Picking the Right Tool.”
    Some tools, like Flash, have entire books dedicated to them. Flash is a great prototyping tool, but because it is so popular, I felt other tools deserved more attention.
    OmniGraffle and Balsamiq are great diagramming tools that can be used for prototyping, but at the time of this book, neither represented a large enough market share to warrant writing about them. That might change. I’ll be watching.
  5. How do I convince my client or boss that we should prototype?
    This is probably the toughest challenge faced by those who are new to prototyping. It’s not that you don’t want to, or that you’re scared of trying and failing. It’s that you can’t seem to get your boss or client to see the value in prototyping.
    The first chapter in this book focuses on the value of prototyping. In that chapter, you’ll learn how to make the argument with your client or boss that you cannot afford not to prototype. In fact, not prototyping will cost you more in the end than the time and effort it takes to prototype. Additionally, I’ve included a number of case studies and insights throughout the book, which should give you additional ammunition to make the case for prototyping.
    See pages 5-9. 
  6. How do I get started?
    You just jump in and do it. Don’t feel like you have to learn a new tool such as Fireworks or how to code HTML. Instead, start with something simple–prototype with paper or PowerPoint. You can always work your way up to something more advanced.
    See Chapters 6-11.


  • Chapter 5 (PDF)


What’s the difference between theory and practice? Albert Einstein once said, “In theory they are the same. In practice, they are not.”

Practice makes perfect. Champion sports teams practice constantly. Zen masters will tell you that the only way to achieve enlightenment is practice. Practice is at the very root of learning. As you practice, you learn, and as you learn, you improve.

Prototyping is practice for people who design and make things. It’s not simply another tool for your design toolkit—it’s a design philosophy. When you prototype, you allow your design, product, or service to practice being itself. And as its maker, you learn more about your designs in this way than you ever could in any other way.

A prototype, quite simply, is different from other works of the imagination, because it’s real. It exists independently, outside the mind. This means that it can be tested—you can imagine various scenarios that might try to break your model, and you can design experiments that test your hypothesis. Without a prototype, you can’t test your product until you have built it, and in today’s volatile business environment, where new companies can dominate markets in a few short years—for example, Google started in 1998, Facebook in 2004, Twitter in 2007—to build a product or service before you test it is insane. It’s like sending athletes onto the playing field without letting them practice beforehand. It’s a recipe for failure.

So make prototypes and break them, test them and learn from them, model your ideas when they are still in their infancy, and continue to make and break them throughout the design process. Trial and error and continuous refinement—this is the way we learn as children and continue to learn as adults. And if it’s good enough for us, shouldn’t it be good enough for our design children, our ideas, and our imagination?

A book on prototyping can never be more than a prototype itself, a snapshot of a moment in time, since prototyping is a continuing process that never ends, any more than learning ends.

And let’s not forget this: Prototyping is fun! It’s a playful, social way to develop your ideas. It’s in direct opposition to “design in a vacuum” or “design in an ivory tower.” It’s design with and for people. It’s play. And play, like practice, is a learning activity. Play is a rehearsal for life. But prototyping is more than practice and play. It’s also a great leap for many people. It requires courage, passion, and commitment to do it well. You need to be fearless enough to look failure in the face and to listen when you want to defend yourself. Fearless enough to watch your design “baby” in the rough hands of strangers who don’t understand what it is or what it is for. Fearless enough to calmly throw out weeks of work and try a new approach. Prototyping is parenting—a way of bringing new things into the world and helping them grow.

Todd Zaki Warfel has written a book steeped in practice and deep personal experience. He shares his design philosophy, the tools of his trade, and the best methods that he knows for making things work. You can trust him. He prototypes and practices constantly. He’s fearless. He listens. He’s playful. And, God help him, he’s just become a parent twice over: not just of this book, but of a real biological prototype—a little boy named Elijah. So take a leap. Dive into this book. Try it, test it, break it. Prototype, practice, and play with the ideas yourself. Tell him what you love about it, where it’s gone wrong, and how it can be improved. He will love you for it.

Dave Gray
Founder and Chairman of Xplane


This book wouldn’t have happened without the help and support of a number of people. First, I want to thank Lou Rosenfeld and the advisory board at Rosenfeld Media. I originally went to Lou with three different book topics. It just so happened he picked the one I was probably the least prepared to tackle—poetic how that happens. Thank you Rosenfeld Media for encouraging me to write this book. I really learned a lot in the process.

I hope every author out there is fortunate enough to have an editor who balances tradition with the willingness to try something new. My editor, Marta Justak, did just that. I can’t thank Marta enough for working with me on this book and ensuring that it stayed true to my vision.

I spent nine long months doing research for this book. I interviewed vendors and fellow practitioners, asked about their methods and tools, learned new tricks, and even persuaded some of them to contribute an insight or case study.

I’d like to thank the following people for contributing their wisdom to this book: Bill Scott of Netflix, Anders Ramsay, an independent UX consultant, David Verba of Adaptive Path, Robert Reimann of frog design, Chris Pallé, an independent UX consultant, Victor Hsu of Axure, Scott Mathews of Xplane, Tom Humbarger of iRise, Robert Hoekman, Jr. of Miskeeto, Joe Sokohl of Regular Joe Consulting, Nathan Curtis of EightShapes, Henk Wijnholds and Stefan Wobben of Concept7, Jonathan Baker-Bates of Expedia, and Fred Beecher of Evantage.

I also had a number of brilliant people who reviewed the chapters I wrote on specific methods and tools to make sure they were accurate. I’d like to thank Jeff Patton, an independent UX consultant and Agile coach, for reviewing my paper prototyping chapter, Anders Ramsay for reviewing my chapters on Visio and HTML, Alan Musselman Lead UI Designer and Fireworks Evangelist at Adobe for reviewing my chapter on Fireworks, and Fred Beecher for reviewing my chapter on Axure RP Pro.

And last, but most certainly not least, I’d like to thank my wife, Angela, for gently reminding me that this book wouldn’t write itself.

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