How to Conduct Effective Prototype Testing — Essential Tips and Best Practices for Maximum Impact

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Amazon Fire Phone, Google Glass, New Coke and Nintendo’s Virtual Boy: What do all these products have in common? You haven’t sold.

Bringing a product to market is difficult – even for some of the biggest brands in the world.

Because of this, making ideas tangible through prototype testing is necessary to ensure products solve real problems and deliver 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.

See Also: From Prototype to Production: 3 Things You Must Do

1. Be clear about what you want to test

Setting specific and quantifiable goals is essential to achieve actionable results.

For example, instead of thinking, “I want to know if the audience likes the design,” find out if your audience can easily navigate through your app. Instead of figuring out if your text is engaging, find out if the text encourages your audience to buy.

Clearly define what you want to achieve with your prototype and what metrics you will use to measure its success.

Top: Creating user personas to understand how users interact with your product can help you design based on user flow rather than product functionality. As a result, you can build a prototype that accurately simulates the intended end product.

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Bonus tip: Build only the prototypes you need. Avoid getting too bogged down in detail to construct the ideal prototype. Rapid prototyping is the name of the game.

2. Reach the right people

Although there are different types of usability tests, choosing the right audience is a prerequisite for the success of any prototype test.

For example, if you’re testing a fitness app, you should target people who exercise regularly. Or if you want to launch a hotel booking app, it would make sense to test the prototype design on people who regularly travel and stay in hotels.

Top: Aim for a diverse collection of testers—not just people who are now using your product, but people who could become potential users. This can highlight the challenges that are preventing you from reaching a wider audience, especially when developing a new product or feature.

Many market research platforms today allow you to select from a pre-screened pool of participants (panels), saving you time and allowing you to select from a wider audience.

3. Choose the right prototype

Choosing an appropriate prototype is essential to conducting effective testing. It’s ideal to start with low fidelity prototypes before moving on to high fidelity prototypes. Why?

Adjustments in the final phase 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 working design prototype.

Prototyping is an iterative process; Each loop increases the fidelity of the prototype until you get the intended result.

Top: Choose from different prototypes – such as sketches, wireframes, interactive prototypes or realistic simulations – to find the one that best suits your goals and the needs of your target group.

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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 while failing utterly in another. However, the only way to find out is to test it in a variety of settings.

Consider whether users on different platforms and devices want to interact with your offer. If so, try testing your product in different environments with different audiences. This way you have a better chance of identifying the settings that support your product and those that disapprove of your product.

Top: Set up an environment that mimics your target users’ real-world scenarios to better understand how your customers use your product on a daily basis. Conduct your tests in a quiet and distraction-free environment to increase feedback accuracy.

5. Create an actionable test plan

Set clear goals for each of your testing sessions. While the goal of the testing process is to obtain insightful data, having a workable strategy upfront can improve the speed and consistency of your testing.

Your test plan should describe the testing process, tasks, and questions you will ask your testers. Make sure it’s flexible enough to accommodate changes while ensuring consistent testing.

Test planning becomes much easier when you use or plan to use an online market research (SaaS) platform. These tools come with prototype blueprints and test templates for different scenarios, making planning easier and faster.

6. Gather unbiased feedback

Set up extensive imaging tests only to find the resulting data is unsatisfactory. Relying on self-reported data is a significant pitfall for gaining accurate insights.

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When testing, focus on your testers’ behavior, not their opinions. Watch how they interact with your product and identify areas that are causing frustration or confusion. Ask them open-ended questions to get qualitative feedback.

Top: Even if you only conduct quantitative research, it can be supported by various technologies such as click tracking, eye tracking (heat maps) and face coding (analysis of expressions/emotions). These technologies are built into many market research platforms available today, allowing you to eliminate bias from validating quantitative data.

Bonus tip: Analyze your test results to identify patterns and trends. Use both qualitative and quantitative data to better assess your prototype’s effectiveness in meeting your goals. Plan to invest in a robust tool that gives you actionable insights and fast decision-making in a single dashboard.

See also: 5 goals you can achieve with the development of new product prototypes

Building successful products is a cornerstone of consistently successful businesses, which is why prototyping is essential in product development.

By following the best practices and tips above, you can proactively identify vulnerabilities and make the necessary changes before you launch your product, thereby improving your product’s chances of success. Remember to focus your testing on your customers’ behavior and goals, and use their feedback to develop a product that meets their needs.

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