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Parallel Prototype


Every idea has many different prototypes that your team can build to test parts early ideas or proven concepts. As a team, knowing what questions you want to know about each prototype will speed up the prototyping process - you shouldn’t build everything at once, just enough to give your meaningful information to guide your next iterations!

Effective ways to do this include:

  1. Download the Build 1-pager to check out key questions that need to be answered to make a variety of tangible prototypes to communicate and test your ideas
  2. Set a date for testing with users and/or experts
  3. Review the ideas and prototypes that your team has already built.
  4. Review new ways to prototypes below:
    • Wizard-of-Oz
    • Roleplay
    • User-generated prototypes
    • Google for cool lo-fi prototyping ideas
  5. For each prototype, ask:
    • What do we need to learn from this prototype?
    • What questions do have that we want the answers to while testing?
    • How will this prototype test answer these questions?
  6. If you cannot answer the above questions for a prototype, ask:
    • How we can we break up each idea into works-like, feels-like, and looks-like prototypes?
    • What is the quickest and cheapest way to build these prototypes?
    • What can each team member make tangible?
  7. Prepare for Test
    • Check out "Prepare to Test" to check out different testing methods and mindsets

There is no ‘one way’ to build prototypes and talking to different people can show your team prototyping techniques that you may not have thought about before. The best part is that building the prototype and talking to users can be done very quickly. If your early prototypes take more than 2 hours to collect parts and build before you get feedback, find a quicker way to build your ideas. Some tricks for planning prototypes include:

  • Wizard-of-Oz Testing: For prototypes that require interactive computers, like voice prompts or complex responses to user input, have a team member fake the functions of your actual prototype. For example, instead of making motion sensitive lights for a prototype, you can have a team member turn lights on and off; or instead of developing a robotic toy dog that barks when a child stops reading, you can have a team member sit with a toy dog and a smartphone with a barking audio file that the member can play whenever the child stops reading.

  • Roleplay a service: All ideas, even services, can be prototyped. Acting out your service to walk your user through the experience is the best way to simulate solutions that aren’t physical products. Don’t forget key “characters” and use props to help set the context.

  • Have users make parts of your prototype: Have users generate the type of content or functions they would expect to see in a prototype. You can have people storyboard out what they would like a developed prototype could do or make things that would prompt them to do certain actions.

Network Best Practices

Make a Wizard-of-OZ prototype like DFA U of Illinois

In 2013, DFA U of I’s driver independence for older adults team focused on 3 concepts to prototype according to the feasibility, novelty, and potential impact of the idea (not to mention the team’s enthusiasm). One of their 3 concepts, Space lights was prototyped through Arduino linked to a RGB LED strip to give users a sense of spatial awareness.

Prototype multiple ideas and use multiple techniques like DFA UCSD

In Spring 2015, DFA USCD focused on reducing campus food waste and prototyped both of their concepts. Muir Mirrors, their 1st idea, were mirrors set up by the trash bins to make students more cautious of their throwing away foods. After sorting through the trash, the team found out that the ratio of trash and recyclables changed from 50-50 to 70% trash and 30% recyclables. Grounds for Removal, their 2nd idea, focused on collecting used coffee grinds and bringing them to community gardens for composting. The DFA UCSD team roleplayed their service and collected over 50 lbs of coffee grinds over 2 days to hand over to a local garden.