How Prototype Testing Can Level Up Your CX Game


Marketing Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for Marketing pros

Monday, July 18, 2022

What is prototype testing, what are the benefits, and how could you make a start on implementing it?

Article 5 Minutes
How Prototype Testing Can Level Up Your CX Game

Picture the scene: you have a great idea for a product that you’re sure is going to be a massive hit and could change the face of your industry forever. But the problem is that it’s so different you don’t know whether other people are going to love it too.

How can you be certain that your instinct will pan out and the product won’t flop like an Apple Newton or New Coke? After all, research has shown that the vast majority - possibly as many as 95% - of product launches fail every year.

But what if there was a way of ensuring that your product avoids this and is proven to be fully operational, functional, and beneficial for would-be buyers before it arrives on the market?

This is where prototype testing comes in. Let's take a look at what this process involves, why it’s important and how you could be missing out by not using it.

What is prototype testing?

Prototype testing involves putting your product in front of prospective end users with the aim of validating design decisions before it goes into development and production.

It’s the best way of knowing how something might perform in advance of a full launch because it allows you to establish design intent, identify potential problems, and take a proactive approach to tackling them.

Why you should consider prototype testing

Prototype testing could be hugely beneficial for any product launch because it gives you the chance to:

  • Spot major stumbling blocks and go back to the drawing board to fix them
  • Identify issues that you haven't noticed because you’re too close to the design process
  • Resolve conflict between design team members who have opposing views on the product
  • Gain confidence in launching your product by seeing that it really works
  • Spot opportunities that arise from feedback and hadn’t been considered before
  • Avoid negative feedback post-launch, which could damage your company’s reputation
  • Build consumer loyalty, as those recruited for prototyping may subconsciously commit to the product
  • Save money in the long term, as it’s cheaper to fix a product in the design stage than it is to pull and fix one that’s already out there

6 steps to test your prototype

Prototype testing needn’t be expensive or complicated. You can make it easier by following a structured, step-by-step process.

1. Be specific on what you’re testing

Focus on the goal of what you're trying to validate before you begin, as this will influence what type of prototype you need to create and how you’ll test it.

So, for example, instead of saying ‘I want to test my travel app’, say ‘I want to see how easy it is for new users to book a hotel on my travel app’.

2. Work out what type of prototype you need

The stage you’re at in the design process will help you decide on the sort of prototype you’re ready for and its ‘fidelity’ (or level of detail and realism). At the earliest stages, a low-fidelity prototype comprised of a paper model or basic wireframe may suffice, while a feasibility prototype tests specific features of components.

At the final stage in the design process, a high-fidelity complete mock-up will help to validate your final iteration and spot last-minute issues right before launch.

3. Find the right participants

You should recruit participants who represent your target audience – but include individuals who haven’t interacted with your brand before, as well as those who have.

This is because completely green users are more likely to focus on high-level problems that could affect purchasing decisions, while those who are more familiar with you could provide more nuanced and detailed insights.

4. Decide on testing methods

Will you be there to moderate while participants test your products or not? Will you invite participants to come to you or send your prototypes to them? These are decisions that need to be made after weighing up the pros and cons of each option.

5. Ask the right questions

To avoid polite, one-dimensional responses, ask open-ended questions about why participants like or dislike particular aspects of your product. A great tip is to also ask them what one thing they would change, as this might allow for the contribution of more focused ideas.

Offering fictional scenarios is another good way of getting participants to use a product as they would in the real world to see if it helps them achieve their goals.

6. Analyze the results

It’s vital to act on feedback, so make executive summaries after test sessions and set up email discussion groups and workshops for design team members to review what was learned. This way, you should be able to see what worked and what didn’t, mull over new questions, and consider the overall response.

If you follow these steps, test your hypotheses, and find your product achieves its goals, it’s more likely to be a success in the real world.

What’s more, by making prototype testing a habitual part of the design process, you can use the feedback of potential buyers to create better products and innovate more creatively – and that will really level up your customer experience game and help you stand out from the competition.

Further Reading

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