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Amazon Fire Phone, Google Glass, New Coke and Nintendo’s Virtual Boy: what do all these products have in common? They didn’t sell.
Launching a product is difficult, even for some of the biggest brands in the world.
Therefore, making ideas tangible through prototype testing is necessary to ensure products solve real problems and provide seamless user experiences. Effective prototype testing can help you make informed decisions, explore possibilities, innovate, and test assumptions.
In this article, we discuss best practices and tips to help you get the most out of this critical process.
Related: From Prototype to Production: 3 Things You Must Do
1. Be clear about what you want to test
Setting specific and quantifiable objectives is essential to achieving actionable results.
For example, instead of thinking, “I want to know if the audience likes the design,” consider whether your audience can easily navigate your app. Instead of figuring out if your copy is compelling, find out if the copy encourages your audience to buy.
Clearly define what you want to achieve with your prototype and the metrics you will use to measure its success.
Tip: Creating user personas to understand how users might interact with your product allows you to design based on user flow rather than product attributes. This way you can build a prototype that closely approximates the intended end product.
Bonus tip: Only make the prototypes you need. Don’t get too caught up in the details to build the ideal prototype. Rapid prototyping is the name of the game.
2. Reach the right people
While there are different types of usability testing, selecting the right audience is a prerequisite for successful prototype testing.
For example, if you’re testing a fitness app, you might want to reach out to people who exercise regularly. Or if you want to launch a hotel booking app, it makes sense to test the prototype design on people who travel regularly and stay in hotels.
Tip: Aim for a diverse pool of testers — not just people who are using your product right now, but people who could become potential users. This can highlight the challenges that keep you from reaching a wider audience, especially when developing a new product or feature.
Many market research platforms now allow you to choose from a pre-screened pool of participants (panel), saving you time and allowing you to choose from a wider audience.
3. Choose the right prototype
Choosing a suitable prototype is an integral part of conducting effective tests. It is ideal to start with low-fidelity prototypes before moving on to high-fidelity prototypes. Why?
Adjustments in the final stages of product development are complicated and time-consuming. For example, a sketch of your idea is easy to change. But it will take much longer to make adjustments to a design prototype that is functional.
Prototyping is an iterative process; each loop increases the reliability of the prototype until you reach the intended result.
Tip: Choose from a variety of prototypes — such as sketches, wireframes, interactive prototypes, or realistic simulations — to find one that best meets your objectives and the needs of your target audience.
Related: How Your Prototype Can Make or Break Your Business
4. Test your product in different environments
A product has a real chance of succeeding in one environment and failing completely in another. The only way to find out is to test it in different environments.
Consider whether users across platforms and devices want to interact with your offering. If so, try testing your product in different environments with different audiences. Doing so will give you a better chance of identifying the institutions that support your product and those that oppose it.
Tip: Set up an environment that mimics the real world scenarios of your target users to better understand how your customers use your product on a daily basis. Run your tests in a quiet and distraction-free environment to increase feedback accuracy.
5. Create a usable test plan
Set precise objectives for each of your testing sessions. While the purpose of the testing procedure is to obtain insightful data, you can improve the speed and consistency of your testing by having a workable strategy in advance.
Your test plan should outline the testing process, tasks, and questions you will ask your testers. Make sure it is flexible enough to accommodate changes while ensuring consistent testing.
Test planning becomes a lot easier if you use or will use an online (SaaS) market research platform. These tools are equipped with blueprints and prototype test templates for different scenarios, making planning easier and faster.
6. Collect unbiased feedback
Imaging sets up extensive tests, only to find that the resulting data is unsatisfactory. Relying on self-reported data is a major pitfall for gathering accurate insights.
When testing, focus on your testers’ behavior rather than their opinions. Observe how they interact with your product and identify areas of frustration or confusion. Ask them open-ended questions to collect qualitative feedback.
Tip: Even if you only do quantitative research, it can be supported by various technologies such as click tracking, eye tracking (heatmaps) and face coding (expression/emotion analysis). These technologies are integrated with many market research platforms available today, allowing you to eliminate bias by validating quantitative data.
Bonus tip: Analyze your test results to identify patterns and trends. Use both qualitative and quantitative data to better evaluate the effectiveness of your prototype in achieving your objectives. Plan to invest in a robust tool that gives you actionable insights right on a single dashboard, helping you make decisions quickly.
Related: 5 goals The development of new product prototypes will help you achieve
Creating successful products is a cornerstone of continued successful businesses, making prototype testing a necessity in product development.
By following the best practices and tips listed above, you can proactively identify weaknesses and make necessary changes before launching your product, increasing the likelihood of your product’s success. Remember to keep your testing focused on your customers’ behaviors and objectives and use their feedback to create a product that meets their needs.