The Point of Prototyping

Last week, our second Lunchtime Learning session focused on prototyping and testing solutions before rolling them out.

Prototyping comes in the Develop phase in the Double Diamond, after we have closed down to define the problem we want to solve and are opening out again to develop ideas and prototypes to test with users.

When we build a prototype, we’re not trying to build the whole product, system or service, but a quick, rough and ready version which we can give users to interact with as soon as possible. It is a tool to learn from and allows us to quickly and cheaply test our assumptions about a solution with users. This way, we learn immediately what works and what doesn’t, and take this information back to the design space to improve our prototype for the next iteration. Then we go back to users and the circle starts again.

Iteration cycle 001

There are a whole range of ways to prototype, and which one you choose will depend on what it is you’re designing. You don’t need to shell out big bucks on development to test a new digital service – a paper prototype can be just as effective. Equally, role playing a new assessment process will give you immediate feedback on how a service shapes the user’s interaction with it. These low tech testing methods can be easily adapted so that you can iterate in real time with your users, trying different options and getting feedback straight away.

The key is to get something tangible that users can understand, touch and interact with. As designers at IDEO say:

“If a picture is worth a thousand words, a prototype is worth a thousand meetings”


Find out more about prototyping using the links below:

Paper prototyping

Testing and prototyping

Testing appetite with a “button to nowhere”