A digital prototype is a critical component of the startup designing process to visualize your product, its functions and how your users will interact with it.
Most importantly, though, rapid digital prototyping helps test the waters without overcommitting and risking a lot of money and resources on an idea.
A myth prevalent in the startup community is that you need developers and coding expertise to build a digital prototype. In reality, you only need to know about a few key components laid down below and any of the preliminary prototyping strategies discussed further.
Let’s dive in.
Critical Components of the Testing Process
People – Who is your product for? And who needs to observe your ideal users interacting with your product idea? Define the customer persona and internal teams who will be involved in the prototyping process.
Location – Where will you carry out the prototype testing process? Does it simulate the environment your app users will be in when interacting with the product? Lay down the possible settings your ideal customers will be in when using your product.
Objects – Will your ideal customer interact with anything else while using your product? Lay down a list of objects your customers will be in touch with when they interact with your product.
Interactions – What other interactions will your customers be having when using your product? Define all digital and physical interactions that may be happening simultaneously.
These four components are vital to the prototype testing process. They offer insight into the user on a deeper level to facilitate a design that resonates with them at any given moment.
5 Ways of Developing a Rapid Digital Prototype
Sketches and Diagrams
Sketches and diagrams help people in all walks of life convey complex ideas with simplicity. Why not for startup founders, too?
This earliest form of prototyping can help you illustrate ideas and processes and share them with your teammates for further discussion. Once a sketch or a mind map can lay down the structure and system of your idea, you can refine it with external input to reach something that can be translated into a product’s first working version.
Besides, sketching an idea can help you find anomalies, gaps, bridges and relationships that you may not discover while working out a concept in your mind. Leverage journey maps, flow diagrams and other mapping and diagramming tools to scope complex ideas and build on them.
Storyboards are another low-fidelity way to refine and validate concepts and obtain early and inexpensive feedback before writing functional requirements for a product. The process involves defining the user scenario along with their intent and goals first.
Then you start sketching concepts using a whiteboard and markers or a pen and paper. Next, you create the screens using a simple PowerPoint or Slides tool. Use those tools to illustrate each step a user goes through with your product and find interaction points as well as hurdles.
Test and iterate!
The differentiating factor about storyboarding is that you take the entire user journey into account and capture it in sketches or diagrams with empathy. Generating the user story and journey sparks the right conversations around user experience.
The success of Lego hinges on the imagination of its users. Since Lego makes building, tweaking and dismantling prototypes child’s play, it can be an effective tool to build them. Lego prototyping is extensively used by the best and the most prominent firms worldwide to follow design thinking.
As a company, Lego takes its product’s ability to spark creativity seriously, investing in research and development to build methodologies such as Lego Serious Play that aims to improve creative thinking and problem solving skills.
Use Lego bricks to build a product prototype or Lego characters to outline the user’s journey and experience.
Wizard of Oz
The Wizard of Oz prototyping method requires three components:
The user may or may not know that the tasks are performed by a human and not by a finished product. Just like the wizard of Oz in the fable, a person will mimic aspects of the product’s functioning for the sake of prototyping and gathering feedback.
The most common use of the WOZ method could be in prototyping a digital system where users are made to believe that system responses are computer-driven but are actually human-driven.
The user-driven prototyping method turns the tables. Instead of developing a prototype yourself and then presenting it to the user for input, you let the user create a prototype and observe and draw insights from the process.
As the user designs a solution, you learn about the basic assumptions they made and the approach they took. The purpose here is not to build upon the prototype developed by the user but to draw learnings from their approach and thinking.
The key here is to ask users to develop something that lets you understand how they think about certain things- challenges in their life, perceptible solutions, etc.
Which Prototype Makes Sense for You?
With such a wide range of ways, it might get hard for you to choose one to create your prototype. Consider mulling over your product idea, things that you want to learn about your users and how you want to approach the designing.
Decide based on those pointers as to which prototyping process would work best for you.
The rapid prototyping process can form the cornerstone of your success as a startup owing to a prototype’s usefulness in validating an idea, garnering early support and funding and demonstrating value to early customers.
Make sure you choose the right rapid prototyping partner. Speak to us at KiwiTech for our software prototyping services.