Prototypes are one of the most useful assets in the software development toolkit. As the name suggests, it enables us to test ideas with users and then to communicate the outputs back to the project team, especially to the developers who will take the prototype into production code.
It minimises risk, reduces waste and keeps budgets under control – three critical factors for the success of any project.
Before going into production however we must test our prototype. There are 2 forms of testing; product validation and usability testing – are we building the right thing and are we building the thing right?
When developing a brand new product we will validate that our idea has customer value, solves their problems, has the right features etc. It is likely that after doing this we will make some changes to the prototype and potentially test it again.
Once we are confident that we are building the right thing then we can look at the detail, is it intuitive to use, is that button in the right place, is the user getting the right feedback at the right time? All of these questions concern the usability of the product and we are likely to repeat this test several times throughout the project.
With a mass market product it is easy to recruit users for testing, simply go to a coffee shop and offer a gift voucher in return for their time. Testing B2B products requires a little more preparation, but we have found that existing customers are very keen to take part in product development and have their voice heard. Developing a relationship with these customers is mutually beneficial and we will often return to users who have taken part in tests to include in beta programmes.
Connecting with your customers and testing software early will only provide positive outcomes – you will learn which avenues will lead to wasted investment, and dedicate resources to only the best of the best.
If you like the sound of this, why not find out more about a Google Ventures style Design Sprint – you could have a prototype in your hands in less than a week!
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