Why (and how) do we prototype and test every feature?

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At DigitalBridge user research, understanding our users and prototype testing are at the heart of everything we do and every decision we make.

We’re out on the road testing paper prototypes, clickable prototypes and of course the real thing every chance that we can get.

But, why is it so important that we close the feedback loop, keep iterating and keep changing?

One of our core team values is Continuous Improvement, it flows through the veins of the organisation. We never stop trying to make things better for all of our stakeholders, clients and most importantly our end users.

In order to do that, we need to keep challenging the assumptions that we’ve made and revisit the research we’ve done to date. Research and testing never ends and iterating quickly becomes business as usual.

We follow a design research process for every feature that’s on our backlog, that’s working its way to being developed, built and pushed live. We make sure that we’re not only building the right thing, but building the thing right.

If we’re not going out and testing our designs and what we’re building, how can we continually improve what we’re producing?

We use a heap of different tools and techniques to make sure we’re listening to our users, but below are some of the keys things we’ve done to get us to the where we are:

Jobs to be done

We take our designs and ideas out to our users early and always refer back to our “Jobs To Be Done” research. We know that the majority of our users want to:

  1. Design an efficient bathroom
  2. Leave their personal stamp on their room

With both of these in mind, we consistently test and challenge the ways that we’ve interpreted the Jobs To Be Done, through our designs and code. Jobs To Be Done is a tried a tested method of making sure you bring your users goals, ambitions and motivations with you on every step of the journey.

Jobs To Be Done, underpins our foundations at DigitalBridge so that we’re consistently designing, building and developing with the user in mind.

Interviews

To get to our Jobs To Be Done, we went out and did one to one interviews with a huge spectrum of people who had recently had their bathrooms renovated. Interviews are the perfect way of building a relationship with people and getting a deeper sense of what’s working and going wrong in a journey.

We carry on interviewing people as we design and build, so that we continue to test against the assumptions we’re making. We make sure that our Jobs To Be Done stack up against the numbers. But the fun doesn’t stop there, we make sure we’re talking to people constantly asking for thoughts, feedback and most importantly understanding their behaviour when it comes to what we’re building.

Surveys

If you have qualitative research on one side of the coin, quantitative research is on the other. We use surveys to help us understand the full picture of what’s happening and to give some statistics to go alongside the stories that we can tell.

A tale of two halves, the strongest evidence for our decisions are when we can see how the numbers back up our quotes. When that magic happens, we know we’re moving in the right direction.

Every decision we make is based on a story. That story is full of numbers and words — a happy relationship between the two. If we used one with out the other, the scales would tip. We want our work to be sturdy, strong and long lasting so we make sure we have both the numbers and the insights to back up our work.

Card sorting

We use card sorting better understand how our users prioritise. Card sorting is a tool that puts users in the shoes of an information architect. People talk through the different ways that they place importance on structure and words. We take a website architecture offline and place words on cards in front of people, and essentially ask them to play and see what makes sense.

Once we understand how our users see things and what makes the most sense to them, we can start to build a product that is intuitive and easy to use.

Paper prototype testing

Playing with our work becomes a big theme throughout prototype testing. We’re never precious (albeit very passionate) about the things that we’re building, and we want people to openly criticise our designs and user journeys.

When people have paper in front of them, rather than a screen, they’re much more likely to be a critical friend. It’s easier to challenge and improve something that doesn’t feel finished, than something polished.

Paper prototypes are one of the easiest to access tools to help us get ideas out there quickly. We only take a couple of days (if not the same day!) to go from the ideas board to the user. Paper prototypes help us get feedback in a timely manner so that we can make sure we’re on the right path from the get go.

Clickable prototype testing

Once we have a better idea of what our users want and need, we spend the time making it clickable. Clickable prototypes can be hard coded, or simply done in Sketch or even through a powerpoint presentation.

The format doesn’t matter, but it’s the experience that we’re trying to test. We want to understand how people interact with a journey. The design team at DigitalBridge will ask questions throughout the process so that we can really understand the thought processes and thinking that sits behind why and how people have made decisions.

Watching closely, making notes and asking the right questions we get a clearer and better understanding of the why’s that sit behind the user’s motivations and behaviours. We turn those why’s into insights that help us iterate our design and figure out what we need to test next.

We put this whole process into action, for every. single. change. we make to our product. It helps keep us on track, but most importantly ensures that we’re building a product that our users not only need, but want.

This blog was originally posted on Vim's medium account.

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