28 Oct 2016

10 days, 4 service prototypes

We love telling the story of the projects we work on and our clients’ journeys. We hope that by doing so, we can all learn from each other. Sometimes, the requirements for confidentiality means that we can’t mention specifics but this project was so exciting that we decided to tell you all a bit about it anyway. We have removed all names and locations to preserve our client’s confidentiality, and we are grateful to them for giving us permission to share this story.

We have been designing a new and extremely complex service with an organisation. Late on a Friday, they emailed along the lines of:

“We’d like you to prototype what this service might look like, test it with users and frontline staff then tell the story of this prototyping and its testing journey. And by the way, we have 10 days.”

There might have been high levels of excitement going on. We love clients who aren’t afraid to build and fail quickly, to go to citizens with their early prototypes in order to get their feedback as early as possible. And we love a challenge.

So how did we make it work?

On the practical side – one day to plan, two days to design, two days to develop, two days to test, two days to synthesise and one day to incorporate feedback. Yes, it might seem like a tight schedule but we adopted an agile approach of being prepared to reduce the scope but to never compromise quality. We focused on the first three prototypes and only once they were well underway, did we tackle the fourth.

End users are not the only users

Our team scoped the four prototypes: where they would fit in the service, their aim, what they might look like, the intended audience and whom we would need to test them with. Taking into account a wide range of aspects, we made sure to engage both end users and frontline staff, methods including digital and in-person, and technological matters like being custom-built and building on already existing resources.

The research and design phase reached over 130 people in three weeks! As soon as ideas emerged, we started thinking about they might be prototyped and tested in the future.

Testing isn’t just about the shiny designed prototypes

It starts from the very first sketch. Why? Because they’re not the solution but a way of asking questions. In the case of this specific project, one of our prototypes presented in the form of paper rolls and wooden tech models allowed us to focus on questions around the whole service. It was crucial to understand and unpick insights about functionalities. This is much better done if we’re not distracted by the aesthetics.

Bringing prototypes to life

Our team of digital designers brought the prototypes to life extremely quickly. Here’s a quick glance through them. We’ve recreated the prototypes to protect our client’s confidentiality.

An online community roughly inspired from Facebook groups but adapted to the subject and moderated by experts. Real users inspired the content and photography. They would be able to scroll down the 10k px long image as if scrolling down a real social media platform.

A suite of posters to advertise a new potential service. They drove around Glasgow late into the evening, staged a teenager’s bedroom, recruited Charlotte as a therapist and recruited a mum and baby. The point was to make the professionally printed posters realistic enough to prompt users to imagine the holistic experience: how someone feels, uses and interacts with the potential service.

A mocked-up interaction between an end user and a member of frontline staff to explore new ways the two could communicate. The interaction built on existing platforms to explore the ways in which technologies used in our personal lives can be used in a professional context . The prototype explores issues around security, privacy, isolation among other issues.

Some might call it rough but there isn’t a final prototype after all. Our fourth one is a black and white sketch on a long paper roll threaded through a wooden tablet. This worked well for a particularly sensitive prototype that would change people’s ways of working. It allowed us to focus on the whole service and the functionalities without being distracted by the aesthetics.


Working together… and really speedily

Alex and Emma were our Testers Extraordinaires. We had worked closely with the client to identify where and when we could meet with the user groups and make the most of these two days. From participant information letters and consent forms to ensuring we captured this journey through film and photographs, we kicked off with the sessions.

Simultaneously, synthesis started back at base – going through all collated notes and materials and starting to analyse the insights. We make sure we constantly communicate with clients. In this case, sending drafts regularly was important to collaboratively shape findings from the start and get the most value out of the deliverables.

We left the 10th day for edits and feedback which was very useful. The clients seemed to like the film so much that they suggested we incorporated more footage.

We hope that one day, we’ll be able to tell you the full story and show you the prototypes and the film!