Learn How to Prototype and Test your Application

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Prototype and test

This article is a transcript from the webinar we hosted on October 2nd 2020 on youtube.

In this article, we’re going to be talking about prototyping and testing. First, we’ll explore the three pillars of our approach to products and the main elements for prototyping and testing. Then we’ll go through an overview of the product process from ideation to go-to-market.

Note: If you find this interesting and you want to learn more about this subject, you can watch the recording of our webinar by clicking here.

The Three Pillars 

The three pillars are the elements we use when we brainstorm new products, a feature or an application.

3 pillars building an application

1- Creative 

What do we do when we already have a product? We look at the past and the present of the product and try to improve it. We also go outside of the industry and the product and try to find wild ideas where the best product and features come out, because you try to explore things you haven’t thought about with their current product or the current iteration of the product. And this is why prototyping is so important. Because you’re testing all these new ideas and you’re trying to figure out if this works.

 2- Logical

Now, we go into the logical right side of the brain where we research and analyze whether the ideas which we came up with in the creative part, are making sense or not. First, we should start with asking some key questions: 

-Do the features make sense considering the market?                                                  -Do we have the resources to bring it to market? 

It’s extremely important to evaluate your ability to execute these new ideas. At Algofields, we use a point system when we do this part to get some very good metrics on what we’re going to do with these features.

 3- Testing 

If the idea of how we’re going to bring the product to market stands to reason, then what we’re doing is testing.You’re validating all your assumptions made when you went through the creative and the logical steps. 

This is what we talk about in detail in the webinar.

So why do we do prototyping and testing?

why prototyping and testing

I think the answer’s pretty obvious, to save money, because you’re testing a lot of ideas and features which you wouldn’t risk developing or putting engineering money into. And you’re making sure these ideas make sense. So you’re saving a lot of engineering time by doing as many iterations as possible and you’re testing it with real customers before you  get it to development.

I always go back to a chair example when we’re talking about physical products. If you’re building a new chair, you want to make sure you test it. And if this chair doesn’t bring anything new to the market, you’re going to iterate it a couple of times. Same thing with digital products. You’ll spend a lot of time iterating in this phase. And for this reason, prototyping and testing is critical. 

Let me show you a video we created on prototyping and testing, hopefully it helps you to cement the importance of this process.

Prototype Elements

So now we’re going to be talking about the main elements you need when working with your designers or with a company like us. 

prototype elements

1- Overall Theme

The first thing you need to check for is an overall theme. If you’re using different shapes, colors, visual cues and animations throughout your prototype, it will be disruptive for the experience of the user. This why,you need to have a consistent theme across all your buttons and your features inside your application.

2- The flow

The second thing is the flow. And this is more for the visual application than actual physical products. But certain physical products, like, for example, a coffee machine will fit as well. You need a really nice flow to everything, to be able to get to the function you want as quickly as possible.

  •  The Two Clicks Rule

For digital products, there is the two clicks rule. You need to be able to get to a feature in two clicks or less. 

  • The Ease of Use

Do we need to be taught how to use it or it’s self-explanatory? You want to make sure people don’t need to be taught how to use it, therefore, every button should be well positioned to tell the story of your application. When you’re doing your testing, somebody’s always raising their hand and asking you, well, how is this working? Then you have something to fix.

3- App Stickiness

The next thing and this is a trick I really enjoyed from the book Hooked by Nir Eyal. Is the application sticky, which means does it bring back the user to the application? The best example is Facebook. There’s notifications which bring you back to Facebook because your friends are clicking on something you posted.

Why do you need your application to be interactive?

First to make the user enter information into the application and second to bring the user back to it. if you’re looking for one book to read on this subject, this is by far one of the best ones I ever read.

Testing Elements

testing elements

1- Build out a list of current and potential customers

If you’re testing out only your current customers, they’re used to your product. They may see the changes or the wild cards as something which is a deterrent for their current experience. So you want to introduce new potential customers to get feedback from both types of customers. 

2- Explain the purpose of the tests

Then, what you want to do when doing the testing is briefly explaining the purpose of the tests. You don’t want to explain how the prototype works, because if you did, it means there’s a problem with your prototype. Therefore, people should be able to go through every feature and understand just by looking at it.

3- Record videos 

You want to see their reactions as they go through specific feature. If there’s something they don’t understand or they really like, you’re going to see it in their expressions.

4- Quantitative and qualitative metrics

You also want to have quantitative and qualitative metrics.You can find tools out there for this purpose.These testing tools, like the one we’re using, provide all these metrics which you can give a lot of data to understand what exactly you should improve.

5- Exit interview

When you’re done, have an exit interview. you want to ask questions such as writing their experience, the ease of use, the comprehension of the product, pricing, etc. Ask all these questions, but also take it with a grain of salt, because sometimes, the testers may not be as honest as the live expression recorded with video as they were testing. So take the videos of their reaction as the true indicator of how the experience was with your application. 

6- Gathering information

And finally, you want to gather all the information and decide what to do next.

The full product cycle from ideation to GTM

 So here we’ll explore the full process from beginning to end.

product development cycle: prototype and test

1- Identify

The first one is to identify the product or feature. Start with your “WHY”:

-Why are you doing this product? -Why are you starting the company?                                                                    -Why are you motivated to do this product? 

2- Ideation 

This phase is where we brainstorm and start drawing some ideas, doing some mock-ups, really trying to define the ideas: 

-What is this product? -What is this new feature going to be about?

3- The research 

This is the phase when we evaluate with a point system. Do we have the resources, do we have a market for those features? We evaluate everything with a very, very fine print.

4/5-Prototyping and Testing 

This is the phase we’re talking about today. I often tell clients it’s going to cost you a little bit more to do more prototypes, but it pales in comparison with actual product development later. 

So if you spend more time prototyping and evaluating every feature and testing it and making sure you have a market for it and the clients are understanding it, you’re going to thank yourself and us because you’ll save money in product development.

 6- Product development

We’ll go in depth about this specific stage in this article.

 7- Go to Market (GTM)

Once you’re done with the product, the very next phase is critical, the go-to-market plan.Are we doing the right pricing for this product? What’s the competitive landscape and how do we market it? What are the distribution channels? If you’re planning on launching it and doing a tour around the world, we can help you define which channels and how to present it. 


 If you’re hiring a designer or a firm to do a prototype, you expect to go through at least a second iteration and maybe a third, because sometimes your assumptions of the designer aren’t what the market is going to tell you.

 With this approach you’ll make sure when getting through the application development, which we talk about in detail in our webinar, you’ll have something which is as close to reality as possible. Also, the developers won’t waste time going back and forth between different versions because you’re doing the iterations while you’re developing with engineers. 

You can run the numbers very quickly in your head; about 70K to 120K for engineers depending on the expertise. So if you’re looking for specialties like artificial intelligence, machine learning or data science, you’re gonna pay a bit more versus somebody who’s doing plain old JavaScript. 

Accordingly, if you have two or three developers who are averaging 70 K you’re already talking about a 200K to 300K phase or cycle for your product. If you’re a startup which is an expensive cycle. If you’re a large company, it’s even more expensive because you might be building bigger features related to hardware, such as the time I was at HP where we had to build a platform related to hardware so all the pieces had to speak to each other. 

So prototyping before going into development is crucial because otherwise you will get to development, then get back and forth between the hardware division and then the software division and this delays the product and therefore your cycles. So it’s essential to spend as much time in this phase.

Manny Henri
Manny Henri
Emmanuel Henri grew up in Chambly, a city in the tail of Quebec (Canada) near Montreal. He’s an established technologist with 25 years of experience in the world of programming and design, and also published 125 courses on several platforms such as Linkedin Learning, Pluralsight and O’reilly. Since his teens, he always had a knack for storytelling, especially monster-driven tales, and has compiled a boatload of Sci-Fi, Fantasy and horror ideas he’s thrilled to put into words. To keep his head sane and healthy, especially after his close call with cancer in 2020 (now in remission), he’s pledged his body to a strict diet and rigorous exercise plan. He’s currently working on his novel "Ashes" and editing “From the mist” and several short-stories, such as “The Agency”.
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