Through testing, you and your team are getting a prototype into the hands of your users. In the early phases, by using concept testing with low-fidelity prototypes, you can determine how users feel about your product.
Design thinking is situated at the early stages of the innovation funnel, where new ideas about how to deal with complex challenges still have to be sorted out and developed. Testing in design thinking can be more accurately described as concept-testing, where you discover how users evaluate the approach your team adopted to the problem situation. Testing will reveal whether you are on the right track or whether you will need to alter the unique design vision (point of view) that has been developed.
In subsequent phases, when you have gathered sufficient evidence of the value of your approach and the corresponding prototype, testing can then focus on refining the prototypes. In any case, the results/feedback of testing are used to inform a next iteration of concept- or prototype development. Thus, testing is an advanced form of empathy where you get in touch with your users or stakeholders not by observing or studying them, but by observing them while they experience ‘your solutions to their problem’. This may reveal unexpected insights.
At first glance, testing may appear to be a simple activity of simply putting your prototype in front of your users to see whether they like it or not. However, to enrich your testing, respond first to some questions that will focus your testing. Before you show your prototype(s), answer the following questions in your team:
–Who will test your prototype? (team-mates or people close by for rough feedback/feedforward; extreme users for incisive and detailed feedback). Note that this diverse range of ‘test-audience’ means that you and your team must make an active selection of appropriate testers according to your needs. **
–What exactly are you testing for? You will need to aim for clarity on the specific aspects or functionalities which are the most important to get feedback on.
–Where will you be testing? Will your team’s working space suffice or should you transfer the experience to the user’s environment? If your prototype is a physical object, you can ask users to actually take it with them to use in their normal routines. If it is an experience, you can try to create a scenario in a location that would simulate the potential situation.
** In the early development stages, feedback from users is important and sufficient since you aim to find out how users feel about your idea. In later stages of your project, you should also get feedback from stakeholders/experts so that you are simultaneously working towards implementation of the prototype, which enables you to determine whether it is an appropriate fit in the specific organisational context(s).
Questions to ask stakeholders/experts include:
— What resonates with you?
— What surprises you?
— What do you think is missing?
1. In the early stages of the project, let users compare several prototypes. Bringing multiple prototypes to the field to test will avoid tunnel vision since you are still in the phase of understanding whether your approach is valuable. Note that comparison can reveal the best feedback given that users may find it hard to be honest and critical towards only one prototype.
2. Track your feedback. Be systematic while observing and listening to the users experiencing the prototype. Use the feedback/testing grid where you will want to record, verbally or visually, the following information in each of the four quadrants:
— what users like
— their (constructive) criticism
— new ideas you got, suggestions from users
— questions that the testing experience raises (either by you/your team or the users)
During the testing, take advantage of the opportunity to easily organise your notes on the points raised by the users or things that you and your team come up with.
3. Capture the rationale of the feedback. After the feedback session, get together with your team and use sticky notes that you will post on your team wall to discuss/share what pivotal aspects of the feedback can be used for the next iteration.
4. Don’t explain everything. Carefully watch and listen as your tester interprets the prototype then ask why and other follow-up questions. This approach will capture your user’s reactions to your prototype more accurately while avoiding the temptation to give an explanation about what your user is evaluating. You can opt to only tell the users what problem your prototypes are meant to address and then step back and observe before asking your follow-up questions. Be sure to refrain from ‘selling’ or defending your idea.
5. When you let users voice their thoughts while experiencing the prototypes, you must also remain open to eventual negative feedback.
1. Consider distributing roles for you and your teammates during the test:
The host can give users the basic context they need to understand the scenario
Players can role-play parts in the scenario your team creates
Observers can do just that: watch and take notes while the users experience the prototype.
2. You can frame a more realistic situation by giving the users a specific role to play or a task to carry out with the prototype. Conduct the test in the user’s natural environment in the best-case scenario but, if it is not possible, encourage role play to demonstrate how the prototype would actually be used in a real-life setting.
3. Stimulate users to contribute ideas that build on your prototypes. Ask your users for suggestions as to how the product or service could be improved.