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The Testing Phase of Design Thinking

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Okay, so you’ve framed the problem, generated tons of ideas; the next step is deciding which ideas to pursue.

You do that by narrowing down and selecting the most feasible ideas–these are your potential solutions.

So you build prototypes for these potential solutions. You go to the user, get feedback for the initial prototypes, and identify which prototype works best as a solution to the problem.

Next, you iterate the design by incorporating users’ feedback on whichever prototype worked. You continue to incorporate all the feedback and iterate further.

At this stage you have a prototype that is as close to market as possible, but before putting it out into the market you need to carry out full-scale testing. 

Here the stakes are high. If the end users are satisfied, you go into production. If the end user is not satisfied then the entire process is repeated while incorporating feedback you’ve gathered to reframe the problem and follow the steps. 

Testing is the space for users to experience the prototype without guided questions from the team. It is the opportunity for the Design Thinking team to consciously observe and collect end process data.  

A Reminder of the Design Thinking Process

In the Design Thinking process, which we’ve covered over the course of five articles, testing is the fifth and final part:

Image source Interaction Design Foundation Website Interaction-designorg
Image source: Interaction Design Foundation

Why is the Testing Phase Important?

Testing is the chance to get a product out into the world, test it in real life, and test it in real time. During this phase you have a chance to see if you’ve framed the problem correctly. 

Your team can generate user feedback particular to the prototype, and this feedback in turn deepens your understanding of the users.

You’ll find ideas are generates that feed into all stages of the process during iterations. 

Lastly, observation during this stage will likely uncover needs that users had never before articulated. 

Set the Scene

When conducting testing, go the environment where the user will ultimately use the prototype. This is the users’ natural setting where they are most at ease and it’s as close to real life as possible. In this setting their feedback will likely be open and spontaneous. 

If it isn’t possible to conduct testing in this kind of normal environment, encourage the users to role play, demonstrating  how they would use the prototype in real life setting. 

Other Things to Consider

When you’re planning a testing scenario give users alternatives to compare. In this case build several prototypes that are different from each other. It’s easy for the user to tell you which they like and which they don’t.

Tell your users what problem the prototype is meant to solve and step back to let them experience it. Your job is to observe and take note. 

Get your users to talk about their experience of the prototype in their hand. Let them voice their thoughts. 

Observe how they use the prototype. How they handle it. This may help you modify it to make it easier to handle. 

When they comment, ask for further explanation to clarify what they mean.

Negative Feedback

In the Design Thinking process, negative feedback is your friend because it uncovers problems you might not previously have identified. It opens your eyes to difficulties the users is having with the prototype, offering you insights into users needs. Remain open to negative feedback!

Conclusion

In Design Thinking, the testing stage is where the solution gets tested by users in their real life setting. During testing the ultimate user experiences the prototype without explicit guidance. For the design thinker it is a time to observe how users react to a product, and listen to their feedback on different aspects. 

If the user is satisfied with the prototype then the Design Thinking process ends here. If the user is not yet satisfied you start the whole process again taking into consideration their feedback. 

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