DigiReactor’s journey has progressed to a stage where some of the participants have started to create the first concrete models of their idea. They are also planning customer testing with their first versions of sketches, mockups or prototypes. As stated in our previous blog posts, developing an idea into a product is a journey that potential users should be invited to join and a prototype is a model that allows you to test your ideas and assumptions.

Any developer eventually reaches a point in product development where the product idea is good enough to be prepared for testing. At this point, it’s finally time to take your prototype out into the real world. The goal is to get the prototype into the hands of as many people as possible, because the more people use your prototype, the more feedback you get and the better your chances of success. Creating prototypes quickly is an effective way to test the product under development and learn from users. Prototypes can be anything like just sketches on paper as long as you can use them to make your ideas more concrete. So, keep the design simple, take the draft out for testing quickly and remember that the goal is initially to get feedback on your idea, not to create a perfect product right away.

User validation is done to find out early on whether an idea makes sense and users like it, so it is often necessary to start testing solutions with potential customers before building them. For some ideas it can be good to create a nice visual prototype and try it out in user interviews and for some ideas it might be better use of time and resources to focus on solution variations with quick drafts. In the drafting phase of the product development process, alternative versions are evaluated and the most promising draft is selected. However, a round of drafting, prototyping and user validation may raise new concerns and reduce uncertainty only to a certain extent. In these situations, another round of prototyping and validation is often useful. It is possible that you may end up repeating the rounds several times, so do it fast.

Creating a prototype doesn’t have to be expensive either. When you consider what kind of prototype you need and find ways to create it inexpensively, you save money for future development stages and still get valuable information about your product. You can use free or low-cost solutions, as there are plenty of materials and software options available that can be used to create a prototype. For example, you don’t always need coders, because there may already be ready-made software and platforms that you can use in developing and testing your own service instead of starting completely from scratch. It is also possible you to learn how to use prototyping tools such as Figma, which is available online.

With the help of agile prototyping, you can quickly get to the stage of testing the chosen solution, where the testing can also tell you that the idea should be abandoned. Rejecting your own idea is not easy and the further you have progressed in the development, the more difficult it is. Ideas and choices that don’t work should therefore be quickly identified. Systematic user testing from the beginning of development helps you make better choices and focus on successful solutions.

Remember to follow DigiReactor on social media and check out the new LinkedIn group: Digital product developers in Finland. Whether you are an experienced expert or someone who just has an idea and wants to learn more, go ahead and join the community to share ideas, good practices and all kinds of information about developing digital products. Look for new ways to develop and test possibilities together, and remember that you can ask for support from active professionals in the field, such as the services of the Turku Business Region, the University of Turku or the Turku University of Applied Sciences.

Tero Vahanne

Project Engineer

Turku University of Applied Sciences