Photo: Linn Uhrstedt, founder of unco.amsterdam
Prototype early, prototype often, and keep iterating toward the right solution. The best way to develop a product or service that meets a market need is to use your potential customers as your collaborators. By involving them early in the process, you will understand their challenges, needs, and drivers, and they will help you create something that is truly valuable for them.
In our Booster Program Service Prototyping, we guide you through the entire process of prototyping your idea. This blog post aims to give you a few examples of different methods that our previous participants have been using.
The purpose of a prototype is to learn more about what the final solution should look like. By getting feedback early and often, you are able to steer your solution in the right direction. Your idea will be more likely to succeed and you reduce your overall risk and investment. Early on in the idea development process, your prototype should be as simple and inexpensive as possible. You just want to get your idea out of your head and into the hands of the people you're designing for.
Different methods of service prototyping
Using trigger material early in the idea development process is a great way to deepen your understanding of your users and their needs. Trigger materials are illustrations or other artifacts, that trigger a response from the user. By adding visuals to the discussion, it is easier for the user to put words on abstract thoughts. Important here is that the aim with trigger materials is not to get yes or no answers for the ideas but to understand what is relevant for the user and how THEY would develop it. Trigger material should therefore always be accompanied by open-ended questions.
The picture shows one of the trigger materials that Susanne Ringström used early in the development process of Möbelbiblioteket (Furniture Library). The idea is to visualize how lending furniture impacts the environment, Susanne wanted to know how important this question was to them when choosing to use her service.
Co-creation workshops with feedback stations
Hosting co-creation workshops is another way of prototyping your service. These workshops let you collect feedback on several parts of the service at the same time. Linn Uhrstedt hosted 6 co-creation workshops during the development of unco.amsterdam. The workshops took place at her house, and she invited the users to give her feedback on her idea. At each event, Linn created a few stations; one for the brand, one for the product, and one for the customer journey. The co-creation workshops helped Linn to get a holistic user perspective on her idea. She ended up developing something very different from her original idea.
Linn's best advice is to keep it simple and light and let the users tell you what they want and don’t want. You just need to listen, document everything, and, voilà, you will be able to develop something that will definitely be used by your intended audience, says Linn.
A live prototype is a way to explore how your users would experience your service in a live setting. By designing only a few important details of your service and let the target audience test it, you can learn a lot about how your service will be perceived.
Susanne and her team from Möbelbiblioteket also performed an experience prototype. Möbelbiblioteket is a digital platform, but their experience prototype was non-digital. They put up a table at a local market in Stockholm with a few pieces of furniture available for a loan, along with a simple loan agreement. People who strolled by became curious and the team got many interesting conversations about furniture and owning versus lending or renting. After a few service prototypes, Susanne and her team were ready to develop Möbelbiblioteket on a digital platform.
How to plan for your prototype
Your idea will have lots of testable components, and there will be many ways to prototype it. Try not to test too many things at the same time. You can follow these simple steps to prepare your service prototype:
Get clear about what you need to get feedback on, and why
Pinpoint the target audience for your prototype
Draft a few key questions
What elements in your service are necessary to get the desired feedback? Keep these elements and eliminate the rest
Choose your method
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