Prototype, Test, Rinse & repeat


The value of iteration.

Switched-on digital agencies understand the value of user testing with early stage website mockups; ironing out sticking points and identifying opportunities to improve interaction design early, before committing to code.

During a day of back-to-back user interviews, ‘quick wins’, like changing a navigation item can be made in seconds and validated (or not) by response from subsequent research participants.

…But how possible is this rapid-fire iterative improvement in the design of physical products?

Lately, I’ve been helping a Christchurch company take a User Centred approach to refining the design for a new type of mouse.

The industrial designers at 4ormfunction produce fresh batches of prototypes using shaping compounds then scan & print in 3D. This makes for quick builds of fully functional prototypes. They look a little sketchy, but are perfectly suitable for user research where ergonomics are being explored.

Continuous customer feedback = continuous improvement.

This ‘turn on a dime’ flexibility allows an iterative approach; Designers respond to insights and observations from natural use with potential customers, build a new round of design variants, then put these prototypes through the next round of user research to further refine the design.

It’s not as quick as shuffling pixels, but It’s a great realisation to me that such complex objects can realistically be put through a quick cycle of: prototype / user research / analysis / …repeat.

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