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Last updated on 6/30/20

Prototype and Test Ideas

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The prototyping phase takes ideas and makes them visible or tangible. They also allow you to express ideas in creative ways that communicate their purpose and how they work with audiences and stakeholders. This is a way to "show, don't tell" when experimenting with different ideas and possibilities.

Prototyping is an iterative process which lends itself to change, revision, and updates. Therefore, you to learn at each step by talking to the people for whom you are designing.

Iterate Iterate Iterate from IDEO.org. "In an iterative process we gain validation along the way." [1:15 min]

Start low fidelity

In prototyping, you create something that starts to resemble a final version of your idea. Channel your inner kid by using scissors, paper, markers, tape, or any materials you have on hand to imagine your prototype. This can be done by individuals, in pairs, or as a group. It's important that you don't wait too long to show others your work.

Prototyping does not always have to be 3D. Storyboarding is a great way to break down what is happening step-by-step while considering the context, factors involved in each step, and even what emotions are involved. (Google uses it too!)

In addition to building physical prototypes, you may also want to consider how you can use role-playing to communicate your ideas and help set the scene. Don't worry, you don't need to be a professional actor to do this, and it doesn't need to take a lot of time. You're working to communicate an idea. As adults, you may feel a bit silly, but in these workshops, fun and laughter are allowed. Chances are it will help the other participants think differently about an idea, whether it's how a ticketing system will work, or the interactions a customer will have during a shopping experience.  Acting things out is another way to uncover factors you may not have considered otherwise.

Depending on how long your workshop is you can work on creating more high fidelity digital prototypes. They should be created quickly. The goal is to communicate big ideas, not design details. Still, no code is needed. You can make prototypes that resemble the final product using tools like Marvel (which was used in the course Create Simple Prototypes with Wireframes), or even Keynote or Powerpoint. Not every function is going to work in prototypes. That is not the goal. You're trying to validate what is or is not working concerning a prototype and learn from it in order to iterate and make improvements for the next one.

Prototyping during GV-style "sprints" involves creating prototypes that may resemble the final product.

Thursday (day 4) is devoted to prototyping in Sprints. Once the prototypes are built, they should be tested with users. [2:22 min]

Test your prototypes

Prototypes are designed to be early representations of ideas. Still, they're a valuable tool for getting quick feedback on an idea or concept before investing a lot of time or money. A test in a workshop can be as simple as turning to your neighbor, presenting your work, and getting their feedback. Or, you could pass your prototype to others and ask them to try to explain what it's for or what it does based on what they see. In guerrilla testing, you can head to a coffee shop or find someone in the setting relevant to your audience.

When GV hosts their 5-day sprints, the last day is reserved for testing on actual users. It takes some planning. GV shares customer testing resources (scroll down page). One tool they use is a "screener" to make sure the person they're talking to would actually be part of the target user base for the product you're designing to avoid wasting anyone's time. On the final day of the workshop they're showing their prototypes they've created during the workshop to potential users.

GV presents their five-act interview process for getting feedback during sprints. [7:47 min] 

Don't forget to get feedback early and often!

Let's recap!

  • Prototyping involves taking an idea or concept and considering how you can create a low-budget, low fidelity version of it to help communicate your ideas or thought process.

  • Prototyping is an iterative process. Don't expect what you create to be perfect on the first try. Instead, focus on improvement each step of the way.

  • Testing your ideas (ideally on actual users) is the best way to get feedback so you can revise your prototype (or know to start over). 

Example of certificate of achievement
Example of certificate of achievement