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 of answering these early questions and lowering that risk is through prototyping.
A digital prototype consists of a high-fidelity clickable mockup with an end result that is good enough to give a realistic impression of how it will be used. At Kickstand, we use prototypes like this to build out ideas, test with customers 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 Med Tech Incubator program in Sydney, Australia.
Their web-based data analytics platform had already seen great success in the pharmaceutical space, signing up clients including government agencies, pharma and device manufacturers, hospitals, researchers and clinicians, patient and disease support organisations.
The product (a web based platform) was comprehensive, able to derive enormously detailed and valuable information around drug usage, treatment plans and patient outcomes to their customers. However, the data set was complex and there was a desire to explore alternative approaches to data visualisation to make insights more discoverable.
The question was, for those customers who don’t know what they're looking for, how can we help them find it? 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 develop 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) Either way it’s faster, cheaper and way less risky 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.