So I love research, but figuring out how to translate insights into actionable design and service direction is by far my favorite part of the process.
There are a ton of techniques that can be used to help envision future customer experiences, today I would like to talk about prototyping.
Building a prototype is something that anyone with an ID, ME, or interaction degree should be pretty familiar with. It is a low-fidelity model designed to frame a problem, and gather feedback. It is a way to fail fast, learn faster, and course correct as needed. Prototyping an experience works the same way.
In order to successfully prototype an experience you must first understand the context. This usually means going into the field to gain a deep understanding of your users and their potential challenges. Prototyping too early in the process may mean that you are not building a proper foundation of consumer understanding first.
After hitting the field, your team should determine what the goal is of the prototype they are creating and how much time and money should be invested into prototyping.
Prototyping for Empathy
This means creating a flexible prototype which is designed to grow with the innovation process. The first pass is at recreating the current state of the product or service so the design team can try to understand how the user really feels when they are interacting with the product or service. We did this when we created Herman Miller Compass. After weeks in the field, we came back to the office and built a full scale hospital room. Every member of the team spent a full day living in the hospital room as if they were a patient. Eventually this prototype was adapted to try out new design ideas.
Prototyping for Inspiration
This means creating a prototype that will inspire the team to try new things. After my infamous China trips, we created a prototype of a Traditional Trade shop. Each team member played a role like Shop Owner, Shopper, Wholesaler, Child, Gossipy Neighbor. The team was then presented with various scenarios to role play. After each scenario we brainstormed new product and service ideas. In this photo we were exploring what it would mean if we gave every shop owner an I-pad.
Prototyping for Evaluation
This means creating a prototype or series of prototypes with the goal of having users evaluate and offer feedback on the design. Staples actually has a full scale retail lab where they evaluate new concepts for merchandising and point of sale displays…I have been inside the lab but was told absolutely no photos! I have mocked up various retail spaces to understand how people shop for everything from toothpaste to bottled water. I find that putting a new product in the context of a store really helps users evaluate what resonates and what doesn’t.
Prototyping for Buy-In
This means creating a polished prototype. These are still made of foam core but will often incorporate real products, and actors who play out service scripts. This photo shows the new Holiday Inn Hub prototype created by Continuum.
Prototypes like this help internal stakeholders image how a space and scripted interaction will actually play out in the field.
Prototyping spaces and experiences is great way to understand product and service challenges, and helps us quickly re-frame ideas to move into product development faster. It also does its part to keep the foam core industry in business!
Have you ever worked on a full scale experience prototype? What did you learn from the experience?