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Prototype User Testing – Step-by-step Guide for 2024

Prototype User Testing – Step-by-step Guide for 2024
Joe Bland
•  17.06.2024
Running prototype user testing early and often during the product development process maximizes your chances of meeting user needs. This approach helps you avoid costly mistakes in the coding phase or, even more critically, post-launch.

Prototyping is a crucial step in the design process, but it’s not enough to rely solely on your own intuition or the opinions of a few people around you. To gather more credible and comprehensive feedback, it’s important to conduct prototype user testing with a larger and more diverse group of participants.

By doing so, you can gain invaluable insights and identify potential issues that you may have overlooked. Fortunately, it’s now easier than ever.

User Testing Prototypes

What exactly is prototype user testing?

Prototype user testing involves evaluating a preliminary version of a product (prototype) by a group of target users to assess its design, functionality, and user experience. The goal is to identify any issues and gather feedback early in the product development process.

Potential users of a product are asked to state their preferences or perform a set of tasks on a prototype of your product, to see how well they can orient themselves within it. Based on the results of these tests, you can uncover issues in the structure or design and rework them.

Prototypes can be made for any digital product and are much less time-consuming to both design and redesign than the actual products. This makes testing and retesting more efficient. Therefore, prototype user testing is of critical importance in product development.

🐝 UXtweak Study Trends: Almost a fifth (19%) of all studies created in the last year used UXtweak for prototype user testing.

Check out this video to get a better grasp of how a prototype user testing can look like ↓

User Testing vs. Usability Testing in the Context of Prototypes

User Testing

User Testing refers to the process of evaluating a product by testing it with real users. This broad term can encompass various types of tests, including but not limited to usability, A/B testing, beta testing, and acceptance testing. When conducted on prototypes, user testing aims to validate different aspects of the product before final development. To gather feedback on the overall user experience, identify bugs, and understand user expectations and satisfaction.

Examples of Application to Prototypes:

  • In Early Prototypes: use it to identify major issues and gather initial impressions.
  • Interactive Prototypes: for testing specific interactions and workflows.
  • High-Fidelity Prototypes: gathering detailed feedback on design, performance, and usability.

Usability Testing

Usability Testing is a specific type of user testing focused on evaluating how easily users can learn and use a product to achieve their goals. When applied to prototypes, usability testing aims to uncover usability issues, such as difficulties in navigation, understanding, and interaction. The objective is to measure the ease of use, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specific context of use. 

Application to Prototypes:

  • Wireframes and Mockups: for identifying navigation and layout issues.
  • Interactive Prototypes: testing task completion rates, error rates, and user satisfaction.

High-Fidelity Prototypes: assessing detailed interaction patterns, feedback, and overall usability.

In the context of prototypes, both types of testing are crucial. User testing ensures the product concept is aligned with user needs, while usability testing fine-tunes the prototype’s design for a smooth user experience. Using both approaches together helps to enhance and optimize the product before launch.

If you want to dig deeper into the differences, read our post on the difference between User Testing vs. Usability Testing. Often, the term “prototype usability test” is used interchangeably with “prototype user test,” though they refer to different aspects of the testing process. For the purpose of this article, we will be using them interchangeably.

Aspects of prototype user testing 

If you study product development or work in a digital product development services company, this article outlines ways to validate ideas quickly and with some conviction. Product Designers and Product Managers, but also Researchers, Writers, and Information Architects, can all benefit from prototype user testing of various kinds.

7 Benefits of prototype user testing

Benefits of prototype user testing

If you are reading this article, I assume that you don’t need too much convincing about the value and importance of prototype user tests. However, there are some perspectives you may not have considered, and which are good to know as you proceed with testing.

1. Improve your product, discover new ideas

Almost any user test can reveal responses that challenge the designers assumptions and suggest alternative pathways. These insights may result in minor adjustments or significant, valuable shifts in strategy. By approaching problems with empathy, it ultimately expands our perspective and enhances our ability to meet our users’ needs effectively.

When we prioritize this people-centric approach, we foster a culture of respect and collaboration, ultimately helping us to deliver exceptional user experiences.

Kelly Jura, VP, Brand & User Experience Researcher & Designer
Kelly Jura, VP, Brand & User Experience Researcher & Designer

2. Prototype user testing costs less than development

The cost of coding or developing products includes three major factors: the salary paid to the engineer, the time the project is on hold while the products are being developed, and the lost opportunity cost where the engineer could have contributed elsewhere. 

In contrast, the cost of prototype user testing is significantly lower, involving minimal design time and the expense of running the test, which is reduced further with online prototype testing tools.

During the concept design stage, a prototype can be as simple as hand-drawn screens, and a user test can be set up quickly. This method enables fast, low-cost iterations, making it easier to identify and develop the best ideas.

3. Save money by avoiding market failure

One of the quickest ways to drain resources is by launching a product that fails to achieve significant product-market fit. All the time and money invested in research, tools, ideation, development, engineering, and marketing are wasted if users don’t adopt the product. 

Using prototype user testing early in the development process helps uncover better ways to meet user needs, significantly boosting your product’s chances of success.

4. Obtain unbiased opinions from users

Most people working in product development share their ideas with the people they work with or know. While quick it is almost never valuable, this form of ‘testing’ is easily distorted by biases, small samples, and a reliance on opinions.

Engaging a reasonable scale pool of external testers should give you more certainty, as well as a fairly solid foundation for internal discussions.

5. Prototype user testing is suitable for all kinds of products

Testing prototypes on users is not limited to just one part of a design, one stage of the design process, or one kind of product. It’s suitable for any aspect of a flow or design, at any stage of a product’s life cycle, and can help apps, websites, landing pages, emails, operating systems, or any other digital products.

6. It’s quick and easy with modern tools

It’s very easy to get started with prototype user testing. A prototype can be drawn on paper and a test set-up with the help of a Prototype Testing tool in just a few minutes.

7. Find hidden opportunities

Watching how participants interact with a representation of your idea can be both terrifying and fascinating, but it’s incredibly educational. 

If users don’t fully understand the prototype, it means that you have found an opportunity for improvement. This might involve minor changes like relocating a button or major shifts in strategy, either way leading to greater value and return.

Types of prototype user testing

Types of prototype user testing

You can approach prototype user testing in a way that suits the scale, nature, and stage of the product you want to test with the following considerations:

1. Low-tech prototype iteration (Typically in-person)


At the lower end of the technology spectrum, you can simply sketch the screens on paper and test them one-on-one with participants. Hand drawing is very quick, allowing for multiple iterations before deciding on which prototypes to test. The drawing quality is not critical, as long as it is legible.

In-person testing, however, tends to be slower and involves a smaller sample group. If you want to test many rough ideas quickly, in-person tests can be effective.


Once you have a clearer direction, it’s advisable to move to an online platform to reach a larger audience. To create the screens, you can use photos of hand drawings or any create a wireframe/in computer program you prefer. Again, the style and drawing quality are not important, but legibility is crucial.

2. High-fidelity prototype user testing

Using UXtweak in combination with Figma forms the foundation for high-fidelity user testing.

Moderated user testing

Moderated usability testing involves a usability study where an active, qualified moderator guides participants through a pre-written test script. The moderator provides necessary information and instructions to help users proceed with the testing. This approach ensures that participants receive the support they need to effectively interact with the product or service being tested.

The moderator records participants’ interactions to gain insights into usability issues and user behavior.

Need to conduct moderated research?

With UXtweak you can recruit, schedule, conduct, and analyze user interviews or any other moderated studies directly in one platform.

Try our Freefrom Interview tool for user interviews or use Study Interviews to run any UXtweak studies moderated (eg. moderated card sorting, moderated website testing…).

Moderated testing supports multiple recruitment methods:

  • Bring your own participants
  • Access prequalified participants from a global User Panel in 130+ countries
  • Turn site visitors into participants with Onsite Recruiting
  • Use your custom panel with Own Database

Unmoderated user testing

Unmoderated usability testing involves participants completing tests independently, without supervision. The test is pre-prepared, and participants complete it on their own. This method allows for an unlimited number of participants, enabling statistically significant results. It is cost-effective and allows for rapid data collection.

Online usability testing tools like UXtweak facilitate easy execution of unmoderated usability testing.

🐝 Learn more about moderated and unmoderated studies on our blog!

Improve your product’s UX with UXtweak

The only UX research tool you need to visualize your customers’ frustration and better understand their issues

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Improve your product’s UX with UXtweak

Kinds of prototype user tests

Fundamentally, there are two kinds of tests:

  • Comparative tests are set up to compare different versions of the same thing. 
  • Exploratory tests give test participants a realistic scenario and tasks to perform.

If you have intuitively cast a proposed test into one of these categories, consider how the test could benefit from being undertaken in the other categories as well.

See what a prototype test can look like in these demos:

A/B testing prototypes

Prototype Testing
A/B testing prototypes

Does my prototype test well?

Prototype Testing
Does my prototype test well?

Types of tools available for online tests

There are numerous  tools you can use  for testing user behavior on prototypes. 

Check out this list of the usability testing platforms that offer the best tools for prototype testing.

💡Pro tip

Remember that although prototype user testing is most effective in the earlier phases of product development, it can continue even after a product is deployed to general availability.

Prototype user testing for each project stage

double diamond model theory


Within the product creation process, many product teams aim to follow a strategy similar to the double diamond approach. Prototype user testing can be frequently integrated into this framework as follows:

1. Discover

In the first stage, the goal is to observe problems, not test solutions. Use your own or your competitor’s existing products as prototypes for exploratory user testing and get a broad overview of potential issues with the product

2. Define

In the second stage, the goal is to narrowly define the problem. Further testing on existing products can be used to refine and pinpoint the issues which users are having.

3. Develop

The third stage is brainstorming a development of a solution to the previously defined problem. This can mean designing a new product prototype and testing the new design of the prototype. Prototype user tests at this stage will show the effectiveness of the problem solution and of the new design.

4. Deliver

Visual design should be used to create high-fidelity prototypes. The tests can continue to involve page and navigation UX, but can be more elaborate and cover comprehension. Alternatives in UX and style can be assessed through A/B tests.

5. Post-deployment

This is what happens after the second diamond. Once the product is deployed and being used by actual users, tests can still be run on usability, comprehension, and minor variants in an A/B test.

How to conduct a prototype user test

Prototype User Testing

1. Creating the test plan

To be honest, the planning stage in prototype user testing can be quite minimal. However, it’s still important to consider the key elements of a plan, even if they aren’t formalized into a written document.


What is the scope of the audience, enquiry, time, and money for the test?


Outline the tools and people required to do the test.


Are there any challenges to research rigor and objectivity, and how will they be overcome?


Set and validate the questions to be answered and goals for the outcomes.


Outline what artifacts will be created and their use.

2. Creating the Prototype

Once you have an idea of the purpose and procedure for the test, it’s time to make the prototype.

  • Hand drawn screens

A great method for creating hand drawn screens is to use sketchboards, which is a way to give your drawings a small degree of structure. In this context, a sketch board is simply a piece of office paper with 2 to 6 equally sized portrait-orientation rectangles printed on it. 

Each rectangle represents a screen, without being too specific about the device. Create this quickly, print out a few sheets, and sketch away. Photograph the outcomes with your phone to use as images in tests.

  • Making screens in other programs

Many people are comfortable with tools like Word, PowerPoint, Google Slides, Miro, and Adobe Creative Cloud. 

These are all perfectly suitable for concept exploration. Use landscape or portrait orientation depending on the target devices for your product. Create your screens and export them as images for testing.

  • Making screens in Figma

Figma is the preeminent tool for product design, just ask Adobe, who paid $20B for it! 

Thankfully, it is possible to use Figma for free and it is simple to learn. You’ll find a lot of Figma tutorials on YouTube and throughout the internet, so we’ll just cover the need-to-know basics here.

3. Creating a Prototype User Testing Study in UXtweak

Creating a prototype user test in UXtweak could not be easier. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Go to uxtweak.com and sign up for a free account, or sign in. The free plan allows you to create the test, and you’ll only pay for responses.
  2. Create a new Prototype Testing Study.
  3. Paste in your Figma prototype link. Any flows you created in Figma will just work and you can skip the next step. Or, drop in your prototype screen images from any source, including photos of your hand drawn screens.
  4. Use the UXtweak editor to arrange the screens. You can open each frame to click and drag hotspot areas. In the hotspot popup which appears, you can choose which frame to link to.
  5. Complete setting up the study by defining which task to start with.

You’re done with the set up, it’s that simple. To launch your test:

  • Copy the link to the study and share it with your test participants. They will be prompted to install a free Chrome Extension to track the results of your test;  
  • or choose users from UXtweak’s user panel. This is a great way to quickly reach a large user pool to test your prototype.

To better understand how the process works, check out this quick video tutorial:

4. Analyzing the Results

The following inquiries can be applied when reviewing the results of a prototype user test.

  • Did the test succeed in progressing with our objectives?
  • What patterns can be seen, good and bad, and what qualitative and quantitative evidence is there for these patterns?
  • What did the test confirm with some certainty, and what qualitative and quantitative evidence is that based on?
  • How far back in the product development process do we need to go to address or extend what we have found? Is it just a small iteration, or does it require full ideation?
  • What are the proposed next steps?

Improve your product’s UX with UXtweak

The only UX research tool you need to visualize your customers’ frustration and better understand their issues

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5. Create and share a report

UXtweak provides excellent report outputs which you can collate with your analysis and share with your team. Make sure your report is easy to consume for people with less time, but perhaps include detail for those who want to dive in deeper. Be prepared to revise your report based on the feedback and discussions which it sparks.

For the majority of prototype user tests, there is no need to create a thick report. A test report can be as simple as a few bullet points together with UXtweak data visualizations. The most powerful insights gained by a prototype user test may be clear in a small amount of words.

What comes after prototype user testing?

You’ve successfully planned, designed, executed and analyzed your prototype user testing. Congratulations! Now it is time for a redesign and more prototype testing. And then the next step.

Once you’ve analyzed the results of your tests you might have found some issues in the users’ experience. It is a no-brainer that the found issues will have to be fixed within the prototype framework and tested again. This process will have to be reiterated as many times as possible until you are satisfied with the ease your users are navigating your prototype with and with the prototypes themselves. 

When you have finalized the prototypes, it is time for what comes after. Let your developers bring the prototypes to life! Developers will use the prototypes, which at this stage should be of high technical precision and develop an online product based on them. This stage will typically be more lengthy, depending on the complexity of your product.

With the conclusion of the development of your product, you shouldn’t, however, forget about testing. Usability testing is important in many stages of product development, be it a prototype stage, a newly launched product stage, or when redesigning your product.

Conclusion: Prototype Testing is imperative for product success

If there’s one thing we’ve got from the article above is that Prototype Testing is not just useful but essential to perform if you want your product to succeed. Luckily, UXtweak is always there to help!

Register for your free account and test your prototypes with UXtweak.

People also ask (FAQ)

What is a user prototype?

A user prototype is a mock-up of a product, website or application that’s used for user testing before the final version is released. User prototypes might be sketches, wireframes or interactive models, which designers use to test their ideas with potential users and adjust designs to user expectations from the start. 

How to test UX design prototypes ?
  1. Start by defining goals of the user testing on your prototype.
  2. Recruit target participants. 
  3. Use a Prototype Testing Tool to conduct the user testing sessions. 
  4. Analyze gathered feedback from the study. 
  5. Improve designs or elements based on the study outcomes. 
  6. Repeat to ensure the final product meets all user expectations.
What are the benefits of user testing prototypes?

User testing prototypes has many benefits, such as:

  • Identifying usability issues and user pain points 
  • Discovering opportunities for enhancement 
  • Reducing risks of costly design mistakes 

Making sure our product lives up to user anticipations

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