Part 1: Choosing your prototype approach
It is cheaper to fix a design than it is to go back and edit a live product. For this reason, prototype testing before release is a critical part of a product's journey to production.
Research from the National Institute of Standard Technology indicates it takes three times longer for a development team to fix a bug in production.
For those who are new:
Prototype testing refers to the testing of the bare bones of a product with its intended market, before you invest time and money building it. The goal being to identify flaws or opportunities for improvement before engineers make it.
Prototype testing is only as successful as it is prepared, below is our recommended framework to deliver helpful, actionable feedback at a pace with little fuss.
Step one: Deciding what Prototype test will be most beneficial
The time you invest here, you gain back by receiving relevant, insightful, and accurate feedback. The following can be used as conversation starters with all your key stakeholders, to get the conversation flowing and ensure you are getting to the heart of what you need to know.
1.1 Defining your goals
What do we need to learn from this research?
What kind of decisions do we need to make based on this feedback?
What theories do we currently have about how the market will use or react to this product that we want to test?
What concerns may we already have that we can validate or rule out?
1.2 Defining your audience
Who is our end user? If we have multiple potential users, which is most relevant or important to us right now?
Do we need to validate these changes or concerns with existing users or with new users?
1.3 Defining what materials you need to test with
There are a few different options when it comes to prototype testing. Once you know what your research goals are, this will inform what type of material you need for testing
This is a basic prototype, which can include a paper mock-up of a product, or a basic prototype that can simulate what it is like to use the product without having a fully functional prototype.
Low-fidelity prototypes work well for testing;
Multiple designs against one another if you have options you are considering
Checking if users can complete a journey or singular activity
Assessing how people will attempt to interact with the design
Testing information hierarchy and architecture
This is a more elaborate design. Such as workable prototypes with all the bells and whistles, like the intended artwork and visual design as well.
High Fidelity designs work well for testing;
The user satisfaction of using the product
User journeys and flows
The response to the design
How the UI feels and works
Response to graphics such as text, images, sound, videos, etc
Identifying your research method
1.1 Identify your questions
Your questions are influenced by your method, will you be doing in-person interviews, will you test remote or in person? Regardless of the method I always recommend capturing verbal feedback where possible as you will get more detail than you would from written/survey feedback.
Some questions you may want to use are;
What did you think about the experience of using the product?
How was the language used on this page?
Can you tell us what you think of [X]?
What did you like the most/least about [X] - Why?
Would you use such a product in real life?
What would you change about the product?
Please try and complete [X] how did doing that task feel?
How do you feel about [X] design compared to [X] design?
Below are two of the most common methods used to inform decisions.
Ideal if you have limited time and resources and need instant results
Ideal if you have time and money available, are willing to wait and feel you need to speak to your participants
In my personal experience, I find no need to moderate remote prototyping sessions due to the constant development of software and resources enabling remote research. Using online software such as Maze, I translate what would be an in-person interview script into a series of questions that replicates the feeling of being interviewed
We find Maze delivers us the structure that replicates that of an interview & detailed feedback, however, without the hassle of scheduling and administrative tasks.
How to decide, you’re ready to move on to the next stage
You will know that you and your team are ready to move on to Creating Your Prototype Test if you;
Have clearly defined and cohesive research goals
Have a clearly defined intended audience
Have the appropriate testing materials ready
Have a prepared list of questions for your research audience
Now you know that prototype tests can be ran without lots of money and moderation, and can be just as successful remote and unmoderated using free online tools!
Read our next article Creating Your Prototype Test to learn how to define final logistics before launching your research.
If you have any questions or would like to chat with someone, feel free to reach out to us via the chat function at the bottom right of this page or via email@example.com