Prototyping is the art of making mistakes before you spend too much money. It’s a crucial part of the product development process in many industries, from tech and IT to retail and restaurants.
Prototyping is a lot like baking bread. You mix together a handful of ingredients and experiment until you feel good about the recipe. Then you pass it around and see what your friends and family think, applying their feedback to perfect the recipe. Only then are you ready to mass produce bread loaves. Just like baking one loaf at a time when developing bread recipes, prototyping is a great way to test out your ideas before investing too much time and money into them.
While different industries may call it by different names, prototyping is essentially the process of creating a basic working model of a product, service, or idea to test its functionality, design, cost, and appeal. Prototypes can be physical or digital, and can range from simple sketches and mockups to fully-functional samples. The goal of prototyping is to identify and fix any issues or areas for improvement before investing in full-scale development, reducing the risk of failure and increasing the chances of success.
When it comes to prototyping, there are some dos and don'ts to keep in mind.
Start with a clear objective: Before creating a prototype, define your goals and objectives. Get early buy-in through stakeholder interviews, conduct user testing, and complete an experience audit to make sure you’re solving a problem or fulfilling a need. Work with your stakeholders to define what you want to achieve, what problem you are trying to solve, and what you want to test. This will help you stay focused and ensure that your prototype is effective in achieving your goals.
Test early and often: Don't wait until the end of the development process to test your prototype. Test early and often to identify and fix any issues as soon as possible. This will save you time and money in the long run. Let EBG help you succeed with a comprehensive testing plan that includes project management, recruiting participants, and research studies.
Get feedback from users and stakeholders: Don't rely on your own assumptions and opinions. Get feedback from users to ensure that your prototype is meeting their needs and expectations. Review with stakeholders to ensure it is on target to meet KPIs and brand standards. This will help you create a product that is truly customer-centric and profitable.
Sweat the small stuff: In the experience economy, where customers seek out memorable and personalized experiences, every customer interaction and brand touchpoint is crucial in creating a positive and lasting impression. At EBG we use qualitative and quantitative research to provide insights into how customers perceive and respond to every touchpoint, big and small, and identify areas where the customer experience can be improved.
Be willing to iterate: Prototyping is an iterative process. Be ready and willing to make changes and adjustments based on feedback and testing. Identify the gap between the prototype's current and ideal user experience so you can react and retest quickly. This will help you create a better product in the end.
Only measure innovation against competitors: Measuring innovation only against competitors is a bad idea because it limits the scope of innovation to what already exists in the market. This approach leads to a narrow focus on incremental improvements rather than truly disruptive innovation. Develop a more expansive approach by exploring new ideas and markets, ultimately creating an experience that differentiates your brand from the competitors.
Assume anything: Don't rely on assumptions or personal preference when designing the prototype. Gather unbiased opinions via card sorting and focus group testing.
Forget context and environment: Don't forget to consider the user's context and environment when designing the prototype - it should be tailored to their specific needs and use cases. Develop a journey map to document where, when, and how your users interact with your product to better inform your prototype design and testing environment.
Rush the process: Don't rush the prototyping process. It takes time and effort to create an effective prototype. Take the time and use the resources you need to do it right.
Be afraid to outsource expertise: providing value to your stakeholders doesn’t mean you need to do everything yourself. Your role is to provide your honest and expert opinion in a professional manner, and sometimes that means building bridges with companies like us to help provide the missing piece of the puzzle.
While it can seem like a lot of things to keep track of, the bottom line is that prototyping can help you prevent mistakes and anticipate errors before they happen. If you’d like to learn how prototyping can help your business, connect with the EBG team today.