In this article, we will focus on the 3rd step of design thinking, prototyping. It is about bringing to life the ideas you have developed during the ideation phase. We will present you several tools that will help you to develop a quality prototype.
Definition of a prototype
The OECD definition of a prototype is: “A prototype is an original model constructed to include all the technical characteristics and performances of the new product.” But in design thinking a prototype will not be totally (not at all?) functional. The prototype is the phase of a project that will materialize an idea. It will then be used to test your solution.
The prototype in Design Thinking
In design thinking we use low-fidelity prototypes as opposed to high-fidelity prototypes. Their advantages are that low-fidelity prototypes are quick to prototype and inexpensive, we can make several of them to test several options and modify them during the process to make new tests. Prototyping in design thinking should focus on the user experience to validate our solutions and not on the prototype being 100% functional. Do not focus on the technical aspects.
It is important to always remember what you want to test, not to waste time on technical details and always keep the user’s needs in mind.
Getting to the prototyping phase of the design thinking process does not mean that you are done with ideation. It is likely that you will go through the ideation phase again. After all, the purpose of a prototype is to learn from these failures at a lower cost.
Several methods will allow us to prototype in a quick way and always keeping in mind that what we want to test is the user experience.
This method allows you to illustrate the use of your product or service through the steps your user will go through. Storyboarding consists in segmenting your idea into several steps by drawing them. These steps will represent the user’s interactions with your solution. This allows you to detail who your typical user is, how the product or service will be brought to them, and then what their interactions and emotions will be when using the product or service.
Storyboarding will already give you an overview of the advantages and disadvantages of your solution. But often, it is used in addition to rapid prototyping.
Rapid prototyping is more concrete than storyboarding. This time we build a physical prototype. This will allow us to have a real interaction with the product. Be careful, the prototype remains basic and is made with simple materials like cardboard or paper. This allows us to test the shape and some aspects of the use. You can also use lego or to have a more precise prototype, a 3d printer. And for the more daring you can also use 4D printing!
You can make mockups, but it is also possible to draw your prototype, or to use software to have a digital prototype.
You can use the “prototyping role play“. This will allow you to put yourself in the shoes of your users. Imagine several scenarios of use of your product or service and play them like a theater play. This will allow you to compare situations, improve them and select the best solution. It’s also an ideal way to put your product or service in a situation and to get feedback from the different people involved in the project.