How to Conduct Effective Prototype Testing — Essential Tips and Best Practices for Maximum Impact Here are six essential tips you can use to optimize the prototype testing process.

By Sriya Srinivasan

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Amazon Fire Phone, Google Glass, New Coke and Nintendo's Virtual Boy: What do all these products have in common? They didn't sell.

Launching a product is hard — even for some of the biggest brands in the world.

This is why making ideas tangible via prototype testing is necessary to ensure products solve real problems and deliver seamless user experiences. Effective prototype testing can help you make informed decisions, explore possibilities, innovate and test assumptions.

In this article, we'll discuss best practices and tips so that you can make the most of this critical process.

Related: From Prototype to Production: 3 Things You Must Do

1. Be clear about what you want to test

Setting specific and quantifiable objectives is essential to achieving actionable results.

For instance, instead of thinking, "I want to know if the audience likes the design," find out if your audience can navigate easily through your app. Instead of figuring out if your copy is engaging, find out if the copy encourages your audience to purchase.

Clearly define what you want to achieve with your prototype and the metrics you will use to measure its success.

Tip: Creating user personas to understand how users might interact with your product can help you design based on user flow instead of product features. Consequently, you can build a prototype that closely simulates the intended end product.

Bonus tip: Create only the prototypes you need. Avoid getting too wrapped up in the details to construct the ideal prototype. Rapid prototyping is the name of the game.

2. Reach out to the right people

While there are various types of usability tests, selecting the right audience is a prerequisite for any prototype testing to be successful.

For instance, if you're testing a fitness app, you might what to reach out to people who exercise regularly. Or if you want to launch a hotel booking app, it would make sense to test the prototype design on people who travel and stay in hotels regularly.

Tip: Aim for a diverse collection of testers — not just people using your product now but people who could become potential users. This can emphasize the challenges preventing you from reaching a wider audience, particularly when developing a new product or feature.

Many market research platforms today will let you choose from a pre-screened pool of participants (panel), saving you time and allowing you to choose from a wider audience.

3. Choose the right prototype

Choosing a suitable prototype is integral to conducting effective tests. It is ideal to begin with low-fidelity prototypes before progressing to high-fidelity ones. Why?

Making adjustments at the final stages of product development is complicated and time-consuming. For instance, a sketch of your idea is easy to change. But it will take a lot longer to make adjustments to a design prototype that's functional.

Prototyping is an iterative process; each loop increases the prototype's fidelity until you achieve the intended result.

Tip: Choose from various prototypes — such as sketches, wireframes, interactive prototypes or realistic simulations — to find the one that best matches your objectives and your target audience's needs.

Related: How Your Prototype Can Make or Break Your Business

4. Test your product in different environments

A product has a genuine chance of succeeding in one setting while totally failing in another. However, the only way to know this is to put it to the test in a variety of settings.

Consider whether users want to interact with your offering on various platforms and devices. If yes, try to test your product in a variety of settings with a variety of audiences. Doing this will give you a better chance of identifying the settings that support and those that oppose your product.

Tip: Set up an environment that mimics your target users' real scenarios to understand better how your customers use your product daily. Conduct your testing in a quiet and distraction-free environment to increase feedback accuracy.

5. Create an actionable test plan

Set precise objectives for each of your testing sessions. While the aim of the testing procedure is to obtain insightful data, you can improve the speed and consistency of your testing by having a workable strategy in place beforehand.

Your test plan should outline the testing process, tasks and questions you will ask your testers. Ensure it is flexible enough to accommodate changes while ensuring consistent testing.

Test planning becomes a lot easier if you're using or planning to use an online (SaaS) market research platform. These tools come equipped with blueprints and prototype testing templates for different scenarios, making planning more straightforward and faster.

6. Gather unbiased feedback

Imaging setting up extensive testing, only to discover that the resulting data is unsatisfactory. Relying on self-reported data is a significant pitfall for gleaning accurate insights.

Focus on your testers' behavior rather than their opinions during your testing. Observe how they interact with your product, and identify areas that cause frustration or confusion. Ask them open-ended questions to gather qualitative feedback.

Tip: Even if you're only conducting quantitative research, it can be supported by various technology like click tracking, eye tracking (heatmaps) and facial coding (analyzing expressions/emotions). These technologies are integrated with many market research platforms available today, allowing you to eliminate bias by validating quantitative data.

Bonus tip: Analyze your test results to identify patterns and trends. Use both qualitative and quantitative data to better evaluate your prototype's effectiveness in achieving your objectives. Plan to invest in a robust tool that gives you actionable insights readily on a single dashboard, enabling quick decision-making.

Related: 5 Goals New Product Prototype Development Will Help You Achieve

Creating successful products is a cornerstone of continually successful businesses, making prototype testing imperative in product development.

By following the best practices and tips mentioned above, you can proactively identify weaknesses and make the necessary changes before launching your product, improving your product's chance of success. Remember to keep your testing focused on your customers' behavior and objectives and use their feedback to create a product that meets their needs.

Wavy Line
Sriya Srinivasan

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Content Manager

With a background in management, Sriya Srinivasan has been actively helping B2B startups scale their content engines. She is well-versed in transforming complex brand stories into simple and engaging content. She is also passionate about building content marketing and product initiatives.

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