So, you’ve defined your user needs, you've turned them into feature and product ideas, you’ve prioritized those ideas, and proved that they're desirable, viable, feasible and aligned with your strategy.
The next step to take in the product discovery process is to validate your ideas with real-world user feedback. And the best way to do that is by prototyping.
Prototyping is a simple yet effective way to test how well your product idea will work with real users, identify any flaws in design or usability and discover whether any areas need improvement.
In this article, we’ll run you through our simple six-step process to prototyping and testing your product ideas, from setting up your test goals to implementing user feedback.
1. Determine what you want to discover
Before you can start designing your prototype, you first need to establish what exactly you want to discover from your test.
Otherwise, you risk coming away from it without the insights you really need to develop and grow the product—not to mention you’ll have wasted your and your users’ time.
A key part of this is figuring out which type of testing you need to carry out at the stage you’re at. For example, if you want to find out how well users understand the product and what it does, you’ll want to carry out something called concept testing.
Or if you want to discover how easy the product is to use and how well users can accomplish specific tasks, you should look at usability/functionality testing.
But if there’s one key piece of advice we could give you here, it’s to be as specific as possible, no matter what you’re testing for. To do this, focus on setting actionable goals over vague, intangible ones.
For example, let’s say you’re setting up a car rental platform and you’re looking to test its functionality. Instead of saying, ”I want to test the functionality of my prototype,” we’d recommend, “I want to test how well users can book a car rental through my prototype.”
This will help you focus your testing techniques and questions (which we’ll get into in step four) and get the insights you actually need to improve your product.
2. Define your target audience
Next, you don’t want to invite just anybody to test your prototype.
First and foremost, your target audience should be made up of the people that are likely to be using or will have a need for your product when it launches.
If you already have a similar existing product, great, you already have a pool of users that you can choose from for your tests. But be sure to also include non-users for the most meaningful and useful insights.
If you don’t have a pool of existing users, you’ll want to look for individuals that fit your target audience. Let’s re-use the car rental platform example. In this case, you’ll want to speak with users that have a license and need to rent a car on a regular basis.
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3. Create your prototype
Now that you know what you want to test and who’s going to test it, you can go ahead and start creating your prototype.
The type of prototype you create will depend on what you need to test and what stage you’re in of your product development.
There are four main types of prototypes to choose from:
- Low-fidelity - Basic, paper-based, early-stage wireframes or mockups.
- High-fidelity - Highly functional, interactive and close to your final product.
- Live data - Often just in the form of code and uses live data.
- Feasibility - Designed to test just one specific feature or part of a product.
Remember that whichever type of prototype you decide to build, its main purpose is to give you insight into what works for users, what doesn’t and what you need to further develop to improve your product.
4. Determine your techniques, scenarios and questions
Once you’ve built your prototype, you’re almost ready to start testing with your target audience. But first, you need to determine which testing techniques you’ll use, which scenarios you’ll create and which questions you’ll ask.
Let’s start with testing techniques. How are you going to approach gathering user feedback? Will you test in person or remotely? Will you moderate tests or let users conduct tests independently? Will you collect qualitative feedback or quantitative? Will you use an automated tool to help you gather insights—if so, which one?
Next, test scenarios. Test scenarios are important for usability testing and discovering how well users can perform specific actions or tasks using your product. And scenarios should be based on known user problems and pain points, as well as their goals.
Let’s return to our rental car platform as an example. If in stage one you set the goal: “I want to test how well users can book a car rental through my prototype,” then now you should create a scenario where your users need to book a rental car.
It’s a good idea to make your scenario as realistic as possible and to ask users to make the booking for a specified number of days, for a specific type of car, under certain constraints or with any special requirements.
Finally, you’ll need to start building your list of research questions so you can gather the right feedback and insights throughout the testing process. These should be based on gathering insights into user impressions and their experience of the product. These might include:
- Who do you think this product is for?
- When and how do you think people would use this product?
- How easy/difficult was the task/scenario to complete using this product? Why?
- Is there anything that doesn’t quite work or doesn’t make sense about the product?
- How would you rate your overall experience, and why?
5. Initiate test and evaluate results
If you’ve done the previous four stages right, you’ll have already planned out your entire test. So, all there is left to do is implement it.
Once testing is done, you can then gather all your insights and learnings together in one place and analyze them for any patterns, recurring themes and actionable ways you can improve your product. If you’ve used software for testing and collecting user feedback, it might be able to automate some of this process.
Finally, you’ll want to share your learnings with your team and stakeholders. The best way to do this is by writing up a report that outlines everything you’ve learned and the steps you need to take to improve.
Make sure you share this document with everyone involved, not just your immediate team. This is to ensure total alignment on what works, what needs to be improved and why.
6. Implement feedback and keep testing
In step five, you made recommendations on how you can improve your product and why. Step six is where you actually implement these changes.
But it doesn’t stop there. Prototyping should be a continuous loop of testing and improvements until you’ve created a product that really resonates with users and helps them solve their problems and reach their goals in the best way possible.
So, once you’ve implemented your changes, it’s time to test your new iteration.
Before moving on to full development and rollout of your product idea or feature, it's important that you take this opportunity to review and improve your discovery process. But how do you measure whether you're creating real value and impact for your teams and helping to guide successful product development? And how do you ensure this process is continuously improving?