Testing and Receiving Feedback

27.03.2018 |

Episode #9 of the course Introduction to design thinking by Lee-Sean Huang


Yesterday, we learned about low-fidelity prototyping and how we can use cheap materials to quickly make a design concept come to life. The key lesson here is to show and not just tell. Create a story or skit to help users understand the context of the prototype and how it would be used in real life.

Once you have created a prototype and crafted a way to present it, you will want to show your prototype to other members of your team and your potential client or customers. Today, we will address ways to test a prototype.


Learn to Let Go

While you were building and refining your prototype, you may have engaged your “prickly” mindset to make some specific design and craft decisions. Now that you have completed one iteration of your prototype design, it is time to adopt a more “pliant” mindset again.

Remember that we are prototyping to learn, not necessarily to validate. Even if we learn that the prototype does not work or resonate with potential customers, we have only spent a little bit of time and effort creating our prototypes. The point of low-fidelity prototyping is to allow us to bring concepts to life cheaply and easily, without too much emotional attachment to them. It’s easy to “kill” a cardboard prototype and go back to the drawing board. If you have spent thousands of dollars and person-hours on research and development, then it becomes much harder to “kill” a design. We become too emotionally invested. That is why it is better to start fast, cheap, and low fidelity, test with users, and then design prototypes with more fidelity in the future.


Go to Your Users

If at all possible, get out of the building and bring your prototypes to your test users and potential customers. Just as with contextual inquiry, you want your test users to be comfortable, which often means meeting on their turf. Explain to them that they can be as honest as possible with their feedback—no need to hold back.

When testing your prototype, it is helpful to demonstrate how your product or service will work to your users, or perform your skit to show them the prototype in context. Once you have finished the explanation, then you can physically turn the prototype over to your test user.


Structure User Feedback

Invite your test users to talk through their feelings about the prototype. This can be a fairly free-flowing natural conversation, but if the user needs some more structure and prompting, you can structure the conversation in the following ways:

1. What works? What about the prototype effectively addresses the user’s needs?

2. What needs work? In what ways does the prototype not adequately address the user’s needs?

3. What questions or concerns does the user have about the prototype?

4. What ideas does the user have that could improve the prototype?

Take detailed notes of the user’s feedback. Use this as inputs to iterate on your prototype. Based on the feedback, you may be able to create an improved version of your prototype, or you may have to return to the drawing board. In any case, thank your user for their time and feedback. Remember that the session is not a sales pitch. Resist the temptation to try to “sell” your test user on the merits of your prototype. Just engage the “Silent Sponge” and listen. You do not need to “defend” your prototype from criticism either, although if the test user has questions, you are welcome to explain the rationale behind your design choices.

We have now gone through the cycle of design thinking from Discover through to Test. Tomorrow, we will wrap up our course with a review of the key concepts we have covered.


Recommended book

Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation by Tim Brown


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