Paper prototyping

Jack Dorsey’s original sketch for Twitter (\

When I first started exploring web design and journalism nearly 10 years ago I thought paper prototyping was silly.  Paper…really?  Web design was beyond paper, I scoffed.  I used the cutting-edge design tools like Photoshop 5 that actually let me edit text on the page (a huge upgrade from Photoshop 4 that featured a quaint-but-clunky text editing panel).

Who needs paper when you can push pixels on the screen, right?

Well, it took a few years to sink in, but I have since changed my mind.  I rediscovered paper several years ago and now find it much easier to sketch concepts and ideas in a notebook.  Nothing beats paper for speed.  I can flip open a notebook and jot down an idea much faster than using a computer or PDA.

Don’t get me wrong, I love computers and gadgets as much as (if not more than) the next guy.  But paper still rules the initial stages of design for me.

Why do I bring this up?  I found some great early-stage paper prototypes on Flickr recently.  You will probably recognize a few of them.  Several of them are now extremely popular, with millions of users each month.

For me, seeing these sketches is like seeing the notes of a mad scientist after he’s built a giant robot or a glimpse into a wizard’s magical tome.  They probably didn’t realize these hand-scrawled sketches would eventually turn out to be blueprints for success.  Hope you enjoy them.


Photo of Jack Dorsey’s original sketches of Twitter (
Dan Catt’s original sketches of Flickr Places
Sockyung Hong’s sketch for Vimeo profile pages.

Beth Goldman’s sketches of several Quicken screens.


Large plain Moleskine reporter. (my favorite).
Pocket ruled Moleskine notebook. (great for travel).

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10 Responses to Paper prototyping

  1. “…find it much easier to sketch concepts and ideas in a notebook.”

    Or a whiteboard eh Dave?

  2. Dave says:

    Love whiteboards. They’re just really hard to carry with you. 😉

  3. Jim Thompson says:

    I have a strange fascination for other people’s notebooks. I have a small collection of scans of notebooks and sketchbooks that I have found on the internet and on flickr. It’s really interesting to look at other people’s handwriting and drawings.

    Which reminds me… I found this fascination: Handwriting samples from prominent typographers.

  4. Dave says:

    Jim, that’s a very cool article. Most typographers in that article had beautiful handwriting (in comparison to me). I remember as a kid in first or second grade getting a “C” in handwriting. This freaked me out because I was normally an A or B student.

    Luckily my parents told me not to worry about it. I distinctly remember my mother telling me that I would develop my own “style” of handwriting eventually anyhow.

    It was comforting at the time, however, I still have crap handwriting to this day.


  5. g says:

    whiteboard + iPhone + evernote = happy

  6. Dave says:

    I’m liking Evernote so far – when I remember to use it. I keep forgetting I have it.

  7. Hello there. I wonder if you’d be interested in my little wireframing tool: – it’s designed to feel like paper, but, if possible, be even faster and more flexible. I’d be happy to send you a license to the Desktop version if you want to evaluate it fully.


  8. Paul says:

    Excellent – I have now added you to me reading list…

  9. Dave says:

    Glad you like it Paul. Thanks for reading.

  10. Pingback: Bookmarks about Prototyping

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