A prototype is an early version of a service that demonstrates and tests the ideas on which it is based.

Prototypes are real and not theoretical. Examples include:
•Physical objects
•Videos of people roleplaying how a service could work
•Screen based interfaces demonstrating a digital service
•A storyboard or drawing showing different journeys through a service

Why should I use it?

It helps teams to quickly identify important aspects of a new service concept and explore alternative solutions, to evaluate the best fit for everyday reality, and to effectively create a shared understanding of initial ideas and concepts. It enhances communication, collaboration, and participation of interdisciplinary stakeholders.

While it is usually done after the initial research phase, it can be used to start off a project, especially in the cases of working with existing service.

We produce prototypes for a number of different reasons.

To give form to our ideas in order to

•Better experience the concept

•Learn and to help us make decisions

•Explain by showing not telling

•Be more inclusive


To try something out and discover:

•If it’s relevant to people

•How things can be improved

•What works and what doesn’t

•How something can be made

To collaborate by:

•Demonstrating your ideas to others

•Learning from how people interact with your ideas

•Creating something with others

•Building support for ideas

It allows us to experience some aspects of the service idea with customers, stakeholders, or professionals ‘in order to improve the solutions before they are realised.'

What kinds of prototypes might we produce when designing serivces?

•journey maps of service users (or providers)
•tenant engagement canvases
•bright ideas canvases
•lo-fi forms, adverts, notices, etc.
•paper versions of digital user interfaces
•sketches, drawings and videos

Prototyping allows us to make our ideas tangible, and invites other people to test and improve them. It emphasises the approach of doing, not talking.


Global GovJam is an international service design event for public sector professionals that makes use of prototyping to develop and test new service innovation. Open Change has co-organised the last two GovJam events in Dundee, and this film made by Associate Jon Gill tells the story of how people learn through collaborative prototyping.