The Future Of Digital Experimentation
To get your digital product or service right, you need to understand your customers. Sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it? But it’s harder than it seems. Bringing together diverse perspectives, looking beyond the status quo, experimenting to get to the best approach are as exciting as they can be daunting. And everyone is weary of change including designers.
Experimentation sounds scary. It means people need to get out of their comfort zone and face the possibility of failure. But there is no development or improvement in playing it safe either. And a well-designed experiment helps us think differently, test our biases, and gain new insights. Essentially, it’s a small-scale way to test and learn with relatively low risk. Experimenting in a professional context means prioritizing long-term gain over avoiding short-term losses. An experiment with clear learning objectives, success factors, and key measures can provide certainty and evidence-based answers, helping us make better decisions and ultimately create new value.
The first part of this is to foster a safe environment for experimentation. So how can you do this?
Experiment early and often
Our designers use the experimentation mindset whenever they can. Experimentation doesn’t only occur during the prototype phase; at Mind Katalyst, we experiment throughout a project. We’ve worked with many organizations that have embraced experimentation, engaging stakeholders, customers, and employees with an attitude of “what can we learn?” and “how can we learn it fast?”
The business case for experimentation
Individuals make decisions and implement new ideas in organizations every day, some of which can have an outsized impact on the bottom line. Imagine if your company built and launched a product without getting any customer feedback. It’s only after launch that you find out your customers don’t actually care about the challenge you’re trying to address. When we’re unwilling to invest the time and money early (and often) in the design process to gather feedback, we often end up wasting both.
This is why a prototype is so important. It is the measurable way to quickly and cheaply test your assumptions and get feedback from your users to enhance the final product or service.
Whether you’re creating a product, service, process, or experience, experimenting and prototyping can help your team avoid costly mistakes. Often, you’ll end up with valuable insights on your customers and the product-market fit of your idea — and maybe even brand awareness for your new offering!
Things to consider when experimenting
If you want to experiment, you need a prototype. But before you design a prototype and run your experiments, you’ll also need to identify learning objectives, success factors, and key measures. Before you start doing any of those things, you need to ask the following questions:
- What is the purpose of my experiment?
- What is the idea or hypothesis I want to test?
- What assumptions do I have about my idea?
- What are the things I’m trying to learn?
- What behaviors or outcomes indicate success or failure?
- What are my measures of success?
Once you have answers to the questions above, you’ll have a better understanding of what your prototype needs.
You can expect for the prototype to change as your team moves deeper into the design process, going from low fidelity to higher fidelity as you iterate. What you learn from testing a paper prototype might help you create digital wireframes. Roleplaying can turn into building a pop-up concept in a physical location. With each experiment, there is a lot of relevant feedback and information you can use to generate insights that will guide your decision-making for the next steps.
Three paths for experimenting and prototyping
When you’re creating a digital product…
…there are many aspects that would benefit from prototyping — the user flow, the type of interaction and accessibility. Your experimentation journey might look a little something like this:
- You might start out with drafting the user flows to test if the navigation you are building is actually how a user might interact with your digital product.
- You might then move onto paper prototypes to test your assumptions around your designs (like navigation) and continue to increase the fidelity by playing with the amount of content presented.
- Next, you might take your static paper prototype and create something dynamic using tools like Axure, InVision, Adobe XD, or Sketch .
- Finally, after multiple rounds of experimenting, testing assumptions with users, and fixing problems through iteration — you’ll be able to create a high-fidelity prototype! Coded prototypes with real data, content, copy, visuals, and interactions should look and feel like the final product.
When you’re creating a non-digital product…
…experimenting and prototyping can take many forms, depending on the final product and how you intend it to solve your user’s problem. Again, you will use different fidelity levels to test first the concept and product-market fit, and then sort out things, such as materials, tactility, and functionality.
- For non-digital products, you might start with sketches, storyboards, and mood boards to catch potential problems earlys.
- By the time you reach your mid-fidelity prototype, it should start to resemble your final product and help you test specific assumptions. This might mean using 3D visualization software, 3D printers, or AR/VR to further explore how your product might fit into a specific environment, or how your users might interact with different designs.
- High-fidelity prototyping for non-digital products can be expensive, but the idea is be to create a comprehensive, fully functioning product and focus on fine-tuning the details until your product is ready for pre-production.
When you’re creating a service…
…every aspect can be prototyped. However, there are challenges to designing experiments around a service, as it’s intangible and often exists as a moment of human-to-human interaction. Although service experiments are most useful when conducted live, there are steps you can take to test concepts and value proposition.
- At the most basic, you can use tools like body-storming, desktop walkthrough, and experience maps to quickly reveal assumptions and identify the “moments that matter”,
- After initial iteration on the concept and value proposition, you might move on to creating physical objects and environments using props and detailed mock-ups, real environments, and trained staff to more realistically test the service aspects.
- Once you’re ready, you can move on to testing within a real business environment, introducing a pilot, or launching a pop-up concept.
No matter where you are on your innovation journey, experimentation is a tool that can unlock many opportunities. Testing boundaries, posing new hypotheses for validation, and gathering feedback will strengthen your ability to explore and help you build something beyond what you initially imagined.
Learning the tools for experimentation
For your organization to embrace experimentation, you need to go one step further than prototyping; you need to foster a culture of learning, encourage asking questions, and normalize calculated failures. Want to learn more about prototyping techniques? Join the tribe via our website www.mindkatalyst.com for announcements regarding our virtual accelerator coming in 2020!