Love your ideas, but first…Prototype them
By Ivone Sousa | Business Designer at Monday
We have all been guilty of falling in love with our ideas — a sort of love at first sight. We can all agree that the ideation phase in a design thinking process is one of the most enjoyable phases as it creates a space for exploration and open-mindedness. However, we are not doing much justice to our ideas if we don’t validate them with our users and bring them to life.
Within a Design Thinking methodology, prototyping emerges to support design teams in exploring, validating, and communicating ideas. It also sets the stage for the testing phase, where teams look into understanding user behavior with a new or improved product or service.
As projects progress and ideas are all on the table, you will find a need to identify the important aspects of your ideation process, evaluate which solution works best for your user and create a shared understanding to improve communication with the different stakeholders.
Prototyping becomes an essential activity to reduce risks and uncertainty looking to learn and fail quickly — this is especially important to lower initial investment, allows you to explore new ideas and inspire innovation within your organization.
Including prototyping in your projects can also improve the quality of your result: as you iterate your prototype through testing you will uncover new insights that will better inform your decisions and foster more confidence within your team as well as your stakeholders.
When it comes to teamwork, prototypes are a powerful communication tool, and some may find it difficult to express an idea through speech or a written description in an email — a lot can be lost with this approach that can reduce the potential of your idea. When you materialize it, you can improve communication, collaboration and the feedback you receive will be with a much greater level of comprehension.
How Prototyping has become multidisciplinary
You may be familiar with prototyping within the design, architecture, or engineering realm, yet as methodologies encompass more and more multidisciplinary approaches, other industries have benefited from prototyping tools and methods — such as service and business.
As innovation flourishes in complex multidisciplinary environments, many teams have recognized the value of prototypes. At Monday, we have helped ambitious leaders innovate in their industries — from digital products to management.
By using low and high-fidelity wireframes we get closer and closer to the final digital product through informed user feedback and team collaboration. To support new and existing businesses, we facilitate workshops using business model canvas, prototype ecosystems, and business value.
There are many methods you can use to prototype your ideas, nevertheless, I’ll leave you with some methods that don’t require specialist skills for you to look into and get started:
Prototyping process and experiences
- Desktop Walkthrough — A simulation of the end-to-end experience at a small scale;
- Investigative Rehearsal — A 1:1 scale prototype inspired in the theater to inform the emotional side of an experience through full-body role-play.
Prototyping physical products
- 3D prototyping — a 3-dimensional representation of any object. Depending on the level of fidelity needed, you can start with a cardboard prototype all the way to 3D printing.
Prototyping digital products
- Paper prototyping — A perfect and quick prototype for non-designers where you hand sketch the screen of a digital interface;
- Wireframes — As you progress and need to add more fidelity to your prototype you can use this method to create a non-graphical. representation of the interface for your team and test user interaction.
Prototyping Business value
Business Model Canvas — A co-creation and visual method to test and refine the components of your business model.
The Prototyping Mindset
Now that you are aware of methods you can use for each type of project, it’s important to work on your mindset and plan for your prototype.
Planning is crucial at this stage to gather as many insights and answers to your prototyping questions to later iterate and refine your prototype. You start defining your prototyping goals right after the ideation phase and before building anything. Your plan will determine what’s the purpose of the prototype, the answers to the prototyping questions and finally you will consider the fidelity — how much detail — you will give the prototype.
Define the purpose
Exploratory prototypes appear at an early stage of the concept or idea, we can see it as a more tangible way of ideating and thinking with our hands.
This type of purpose is more suitable to use within a team and not to show stakeholders. Choose rapid and low fidelity methods to quickly explore ideas.
We evaluate prototypes when there’s a solid base of work developed. Here we can assess what we have built from the perspective of who will use the product/service.
Creating prototypes for evaluation helps us to converge and reduce the number of options and narrow the focus of the project.
These evaluation sessions require preparation work with well-defined questions, the right choice of users, and defined metrics to understand the success of the prototype.
Prototypes are also an excellent communication tool.
In this scenario, we bring stakeholders to discuss important aspects of the project.
We create activities around the prototype to help reduce misunderstandings and maintain a structured conversation with the team or organization, around the most important topics for the product/service.
Define your prototyping questions
Prototyping happens in iterative loops where you build something, review and test it with users and refine your initial prototype into a new one.
To keep the loops informative you need to state one or various prototyping questions. These revolve around 4 perspectives.
- Start with value — How does this product/service create value?
- Look & feel — What does it look and feel like?
- Feasibility — How do you make it work?
- Integration — How does it all work together?
Define how refined your prototype needs to be
As you define the previous topics you will have a greater understanding of your prototyping needs, and as a result, you’ll know with how much fidelity you should build your prototype.
A good tip to follow and decide the level of fidelity is to consider the purpose, the deadline, the budget, the skills of the team involved, and the maturity of the project.
As you iterate through prototyping loops your level of fidelity will increase until you reach an MVP or a final product/service.
It is very common to fall in love with an idea — sometimes the first one — , however, that does not mean that this is the best solution for your users.
By materializing these initial ideas, exposing them to people who will gain value from the product/service, and observing their interactions, you will raise questions and consider other perspectives that ultimately create better products.
As a creative person, I encourage you to fall in love with your ideas but challenge you to explore them and to opt for a more refined love over time.
Thank you for reading.
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Monday is a Business Design Consultancy based in sunny Lisbon. We co-create with ambitious leaders to build better businesses. We use strategy & design to transform businesses from within.
This core philosophy stands at the center of everything we create.
Clients include: Mercedes, EDP, Red Bull, Banco de Portugal, Microsoft, Sumol+Compal, Fujitsu, Galp, among others.