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Build an App Prototype in 90 Seconds (No Coding Required)

Think you can’t make an app prototype and get feedback on it in less than 90 seconds? We asked Meg Yan, a designer at IDEO, to share her thoughts on how she would handle this challenge.

Meg Yan, IDEO designer:

"So many people think that digital prototypes have to be–well, digital. But depending on the question that you’re trying to answer, a simpler, easy-to-build prototype can be just as valuable.

With 90 seconds on the clock, here’s how I did my prototype:"

Step one


First I gave myself a challenge. I answered a few questions for myself (whatever came to mind!):

What’s my app going to do?
Lets pet owners order home veterinarian services

Who’s it for?
People whose pets hate going to the vet

Why do they need this?
Because healthier pets make for happier pets (and happier owners)

What’s the app’s name?
Pet Pals


Step two


I use paper and pencil to draw a home screen and three things that my app can do. This early, I’m not worried about if it can actually work or not—no time for that right now! I know I can always come back and get grounding for this idea later.

Step three


I show someone my sketches! My co-worker Crystel is a pet owner, so she'd be the perfect “tester” right now. The question I’m trying to answer at this stage is: how useful is this app to pet owners like Crystel?

After looking at my “app,” Crystel tells me a few things.

First, her pets are behind on their shots, not because they don’t like the vet, but because she just can’t find the time to take them.  

Second, she loves the idea of seeing ratings for veterinarians, because she doesn’t have one that she consistently goes to.

And finally, a question: how much would the app cost? Would she have to pay for it? Would she get a discount on veterinary services if she booked through the app? She probably would pay something like $1.99 for it, if it did what it was supposed to.

That’s it, I did it!


90 seconds is pretty rushed, but you can see how powerful rough and scrappy prototyping can be, even with limited time. I learned a bit more about:
  • What value this app might have if I was to pursue it more fully (maybe keeping people on track to schedule visits to the vet)
  • Features that could be important for pet owners
  • Something about how much someone would pay for this app

If this was a real prototyping session, I’d be sure to reflect more on what I learned. How would I think differently about my idea based on what I heard? And who else could I test this with?  What would I test next?

Want to try this out for yourself? This exercise is derived from the IDEO U course, Prototyping for Digital Experiences, which provides you simple, effective ways to start prototyping nearly any digital product or service—no technical or designer experience required. Or you can download this template (one page PDF) to get started on your own.


Learn more about how to use low-fidelity prototypes to explore and iterate your ideas in our course, Prototyping for Digital Experiences.

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