When beginning a new app, website, feature or idea there are often many unknowns. How will it look? How will it work? Will customers like it? Will they understand how to use it? One thing is for sure though, launching something that doesn’t work for customers is risky, and expensive.

One way to mitigate that risk is through prototyping.

A digital prototype consists of a high-fidelity clickable mockup with an end result that is realistic enough to test with customers. A dummy, if you like, that could almost be the real thing. At Kickstand, we use prototypes like this to build out ideas, validate that they work and reduce the risk of launching something that your users don’t want.

An example of a project like this was our client, a healthcare data startup working out of the Cicada Innovations Incubator in Sydney, Australia.

Their web-based data analytics platform had already seen great success in the pharmaceutical space. The product was comprehensive, but complex to navigate and there was a desire to explore alternative approaches using data visualisation to make insights more discoverable.

This is a great idea, as presenting graphs and imagery rather than raw data offers a more digestible way for people to absorb and drill deeper into the data you are presenting. However, coding this kind of data visualisation is time-consuming and costly, so we want to make sure customers love it before investing that time.

How do we do this? You guessed it…. a prototype.

Kickstand’s process begins by interrogating the data. In this case, diving deep into the nuances of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS), the Australian government-funded schemes which subsidise prescription medicines and medical services, patient outcomes, treatment persistence, drug utilisation and more. It’s a steep learning curve to really understand a product like this but boy do we love this stuff! To truly be able to craft solutions for customers it’s essential to understand the complexities of the data, it’s limitations and motivations.

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
– Albert Einstein

Feeling informed – but not quite on Einstein’s level – then begins the sketching…. So. Much. Sketching.

Collaborating with the entire team was crucial during this ideation stage. The Engineers, Product Owners, Data Scientists, and CEO joined us in scribbling on paper and whiteboards and engaging in healthy debate.

Hot Tip: if you ever want to get in a fight with a data scientist, just show them a pie chart and ask them what they think.

Once sketching is complete (and all evidence of pie charts has been destroyed) we then move on to more detailed visual design. This process includes refining the user interface and data display to be beautiful, functional and on-brand.

Kickstand then created a prototype for testing with customers. It doesn’t have to be a fully functioning product – it just needs to look like it is. Just enough so that the customers brought in for testing can believe this is a product that they can use.

 

Now the feedback gathered through user testing can be applied to the new designs long before any front-end development begins. This gives us the flexibility to adjust, tweak, revise, refine or go back to the drawing board! (it happens sometimes). In this case the concept designs presented in the prototype were received well by customers and could be scheduled for development.

Even if this were not the case it’s faster, cheaper and way less risky to spend time on a design and prototype than developing a fully functioning platform and waiting until launch before hearing that feedback.

This is sometimes referred to as a Customer Centred Design approach… and this is what Kickstand is all about.