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Rapid Prototyping Techniques for CX Design and Product Innovation

Explore rapid prototyping techniques and how they can enhance the customer experience design process.

Published on
April 29, 2024
Tabitha Chor

The Craftsmanship of Customer Satisfaction

What poses the most significant challenge in innovating a product or experience? Whilst many assume it's the 'Ahah!' moment of inspiration, the reality is that generating ideas, even transformative ones, isn't the primary hurdle.

As Steve Jobs said, "To me, ideas are worth nothing unless executed. They are merely a multiplier. Execution is worth millions."

The real stumbling block for organisations is crafting a product or experience so profoundly satisfying that customers become advocates for your brand, effectively marketing your product on your behalf. As Steve Jobs further elucidated, "...There's just a tremendous amount of craftsmanship between a great idea and a great product. […]".

What does this craftsmanship entail?

Great execution requires a different mindset. 

Creating exceptional products transcends mere flashes of brilliance. True desirability is created in the meticulous execution of the product or customer experience. This process demands a mindset not commonly found in big organisations: a readiness to discard ideas or features that don't enhance desirability, a relentless pursuit of customer feedback, and a fearless approach towards risk and uncertainty.

The Importance of Rapid Prototyping in CX Design

Amongst other elements, Rapid Prototyping is a vital component of good design craftsmanship. Its primary goal is to swiftly create and test early iterations of designs to gather valuable customer feedback and insights. By rapidly evolving and refining prototypes, designers can pinpoint and rectify any issues or pain points early on, leading to a more valuable and intuitive experience for customers. This can be applied at any stage of the design process, any customer journey.

The benefits of CX Rapid Prototyping 

One of the key benefits of prototyping is that the idea's weaknesses can be identified early on. Whether this is a weakness in the value proposition, channel, pricing, or user experience, prototyping early often allows businesses to make informed decisions before investing too heavily.

Rapid prototyping enhances the chances of success by optimising opportunities for growth and scalability. It can determine whether a product will have a lasting impact or a short-lived presence in the market.

Different Rapid Prototyping Techniques

There are various rapid prototyping techniques, each offering unique advantages and applications. Below are a few examples:

Testing the Value Proposition 

Value proposition Testing involves presenting potential customers with concise statements or rough sketches that articulate the value proposition of an idea. This includes posing a variety of statements to potential customers and enquiring whether they would engage with the idea. This technique seeks to understand whether customers would alter their existing behaviours and mindsets for this value proposition. It also explores what must be true for the proposition to remain valuable over time or in different scenarios.

Quantifying customers' responses, such as on a scale from 1-5, helps identify the most successful idea. Yet, understanding WHY something is valuable is even more crucial. A favourite question is: What would make you stop using this? This question uncovers more about how the idea must be executed to succeed. For instance, a search function on an intranet site might be widely used if available. However, users might abandon it if the search results were not ranked by relevance, only returned items from some databases and not others, or took more than 30 seconds to load.

The advantage of this technique is its simplicity and speed. The more ideas you can test, the deeper your insight into what truly is and isn't valuable. Testing between 50+ ideas in one session is a good benchmark. Employing this technique early in the project prevents putting effort into a concept doomed from the start.

An example slide for testing the value proposition of an idea, and testing different executions of that idea.
Testing Interfaces or Touch-points

This technique involves creating low-, mid-, or high-fidelity prototypes of a customer experience touch-point. Low-fidelity prototypes might be created using pen and paper (i.e. paper prototyping). Mid-fidelity prototypes include more details like layout or content (i.e. wireframing), and high-fidelity prototypes might consist of testing interactivity, emotional impact, and even technical performance (e.g. clickable prototypes or even role-play with a real service person). This technique helps you to determine whether the execution of the idea can preserve what customers value. The questions this technique addresses include: Does it operate as customers would expect? Is it understandable and accessible? Is it likely to produce the emotional, mental, or physical outcome for an individual?

Choose your fidelity depending on the questions you need answered and where you are in the product life cycle. At a broad level, these questions may help you to choose the right level of fidelity:

Low-fidelity: Are the steps correct? Does the structure match the customer's mental model?

Mid-fidelity: Is the content helpful and understandable? Is the customer getting the feedback they need to be successful?

High-fidelity: Does this make the customer feel how they need to feel?

Image of a CEC researcher testing paper prototypes
Testing a service 

Service staging involves simulating the design in a close-to-real environment to assess how it impacts behaviours and timings in realistic scenarios. You can simulate with real customers or stakeholders early in the project or later when the prototype is more advanced. The technique can answer questions such as whether customers will adopt the service, if it can scale, and if it can handle many use cases simultaneously. 

For example, CEC set up a 'pop-up' concierge desk for a service that didn't exist yet. The prototype involved a fully branded station with someone playing the role of a service concierge in the middle of a busy shopping centre. This prototype was used to test everything from the concierge's script, tone, and delivery to the process of engaging with customers. The designers could determine whether the execution still preserved the value proposition based on customers' reactions.

Prototype early and often

The essence of Rapid Prototyping lies in the continuous testing of your idea, early and frequently. These 'swift' methods ensure its value and potential adoption as you work towards its execution.

Embracing rapid prototyping showcases the maturity of a customer-centric organisation. Leaders who value CX understand that although prototyping may require additional time and resources, it is far more cost-effective than the fallout of launching an untested product to market.

CX prototyping is the craftsmanship that Steve Jobs believed transforms a brilliant concept into an exceptional product.

Are you curious about how prototyping can elevate your innovative idea? Let's connect and explore the possibilities.

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Lauren Terry
Head of Design
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