Pancake/French Toast/Prototyping

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Why Prototypes?

Start here:

Established products succeed when they are carefully managed and steadily improved. In contrast, innovative products aiming for a new market are always created through an iterative process of experimentation and learning. Given this, a successful strategy for designing something in a new market looks different from a successful strategy in an established market.

You don't know what you don't know

Because you're entering a new market, you don't have the benefit of prior market experience. No charts, no graphs. If you want to gain some experience, you'll have to test your design and business assumptions against the real world.

Wasting effort and resources is never a good thing. This leads some teams to avoid testing their assumptions until all the pieces are in place. Using the playbook from an established product, they reason that their chances of success will be improved if the product is flawless.

But what if your assumptions are wrong? It doesn't matter how polished or pretty an app is if it doesn't serve user's needs. Placing all your chips on one bet can be catastrophic.

How do you check your design/business hypothesis against reality without wasting effort and resources?

Enter prototypes

The answer is to make the experiment smaller. If you plan on wading in a stream, you dip your toes in first to test the water temperature. This minimizes the risk and gives you the same information a freezing cold full-body plunge would.

That's what a prototype's job is. It lets you test design assumptions with real users before expending engineering and financial capital on a potentially wrong assumption.


Here's how we plan on testing Pancake prototypes.

  1. Create an interactive prototype in Keynote. Keynote is extremely low cost in terms of time and effort, meaning an entire prototype can be changed or scrapped if found wanting. Paper prototyping might be a better option here.
  2. Ask a volunteer to sit down for 30-45 minutes.
  3. Using a UR script, have the user explore a scenario using the interactive prototype. Take a think-aloud approach.

Prototyping goals:

  • Find out if design metaphors and app concepts make sense.
  • Find out how people outside the project view the interface.
  • Discover from sketches if we're emphasizing the right things in the designs.

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