What is it good for?
- Working out how to test with your users
- Getting feedback on your ideas
- Making a decision whether to continue with your idea
When to use it
How to use it
A prototype is a way to test your ideas with users, it's a tool for bringing ideas to life. It helps you avoid wasting time, money and energy on building big things that don’t work. It also helps you avoid getting attached to ideas - something that’s more likely to happen when you’ve invested lots of time and energy in one idea. Prototypes come in all shapes and sizes. Some can be just a drawing on a piece of paper like the front page of a website or a series of webpages and how they link (called a wire frame) and others might be slightly more functional and designed. These days you can do this easily with no-code tools like Glide or Landbot. You could even use an existing service or product as a prototype and test it with your users to save building a prototype yourself.
It's worth revisiting the DigiSafe safeguarding resource from CAST and AVA.
Below you'll find a Prototyping Worksheet with all of the steps you need to get started with your testing. Simply make a copy of the worksheet, and you're ready to go.
How to prototype
1. Decide what to prototype
- Decide on the idea/s you need to test.
- Make a list of your riskiest assumptions about your ideas. Look at your Knowledge Board again. Which assumptions need to be accurate for the solution to work? What are the most critical criteria for success? What is the purpose of testing each prototype?
- Break down each solution into its different elements or component parts.
- Fill in the hypotheses template in the worksheet (See 'Get the Tool' section below)
- Keep each prototype simple. The most common mistake is to go too large and try to test the whole solution in one go. Instead:
- Test one element of each solution at a time
- Ask only one question at a time - each test will provide data that will add to your bigger picture
- Check what already exists. It will inspire you and could reveal an existing service you could test, or show you don’t need to develop something at all
2. Start making
- Create multiple variations of each prototype. This way you can iterate more quickly by swapping them around as you test. This will generate more feedback.
- Keep it simple and basic to start with. If a prototype looks rough and ready rather than polished you’ll get more honest feedback. Because people prefer not to criticise things that look like they’ve had a lot of effort put into them.
- Use the worksheet to help plan your testing (See 'Get the Tool' section below)
- Put your prototypes in front of your users and watch how they interact with them.
- Use a combination of observation, conversation and questions to gather feedback.
- Make sure your users understand you are interested in their honest opinion, to help you design something that is useful to them.
- Test multiple versions of prototypes alongside one another. This encourages conversation and comparison and leads to more useful feedback.
4. Synthesise, iterate and repeat
- Synthesise your learning
- Create some quick iterations
- Test again
Get the tool
Further reading on prototyping
- Example of using no-code