Prototyping: how to present an idea and collect valuable feedback
Describing ideas for innovative products and services with just words (and no illustrations) may bring several risks:
1. Not all of us are natural born speakers. Some of us tend to speak unclearly, drift into digressions or are simply boring.
2. Words are never as engaging as images.
3. With no visuals, the audience may interpret speaker’s ideas differently — not always the way they were intended.
4. Feedback rarely gets more elaborate than „It’s interesting“.
What are prototypes?
First of all, prototypes (also called low fidelity models) require no visual skills, so anyone can produce them easily. Service Design based methodologies use them for creating quick and low-cost models of new products and services. A shoebox, play-doh, LEGO and Post-its will help create a much more illustrative story about a new kindergarten concept than a lengthy speech. Sketching five screens of a mobile application will make it more tangible than listing its functions. Two people playing a short scene between a customer and a bank consultant introduce a concept of new client service standards quicker than hundreds of written conversation scripts.
What’s important — when interacting with a prototype, people tend to give much more detailed feedback, as a tangible object provokes many questions and improvement ideas. At K2 Digital Ventures we use prototyping as a useful collaboration tool — this phase prompts many important discussions, helping us to elaborate on a shared vision of how a product or service should work.
How to prototype?
There are many prototyping methods that can be used for visualising different types of products and services. Most common include
- Paper 2D: pens and paper sheets are all it takes. This method is perfect for sketching interface elements for web design or to create simple storyboards (some consumer journeys are best explained in comic strips telling a story of chatacters using products or services).
2. Paper 3D: with shoeboxes, play-doh, cardboard, and LEGO (especially human figures) everyone is capable of creating an engaging and interactive prototype, much more realistic than a 2D type (these types can be easily combined). It takes a while to assemble, but helps collect very useful feedback.
3. Business Origami: created in Hitachi Design Center, this method is a set of paper cut-out icons that help visualise even most complicated systems consisting of many users, devices, organizations and interactions between them.
4. Scenes and scenarios: for many non-digital innovative solutions the best way to explain them is playing a short scene — for example to present an entirely new check-in procedure at the airport. For more complex solutions, 2D and 3D prototypes can be used here too.
Author: Zofia Smełkówna is a Digital Group Head in K2, a psychologist and a service designer.