Iterative prototyping and feedback for better UX design

4 min read
Margaret Kelsey
  •  Sep 25, 2015
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Lean startup is a methodology that can help your company articulate hypotheses better, identify the fastest ways to test those hypotheses, figure out what minimum viable product (MVP) to build, test that MVP with customers, learn and iterate, and ultimately to achieve better and better product market fit.

While many product teams are excited about lean startup ideas, they often run into challenges when trying to adopt lean principles because they lack specific guidance on what to actually do. So, we hosted a webinar with Dan Olsen, Product Consultant and author of The Lean Product Playbook, on how to use prototypes and user testing to create better designs in less time.

Watch the full recording below, or read on for our short recap on Dan Olsen’s tips for iteration.Twitter Logo

Dan’s model of product-market fit has 5 components in a hierarchical model where the layer above depends on the layer beneath.

“Your product should focus on customer needs as well as needs that aren’t being served.”

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Starting from the bottom, the market consists of your target customer at the base layer of the pyramid. The second layer is the target customer’s underserved needs. Your product should focus on that sweet spot of not just customer needs, but needs that aren’t currently being served.

On the product side, the pyramid starts with the value proposition: how will your product be better or different from ones already out there? The second tier is the feature set of your product. Last comes the user experience—it brings that feature set to life.

“User experience brings your product’s feature set to life.”

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The Lean Product Process walks you through from bottom to top. During each layer, you’ll form hypotheses and then test your hypotheses with customers—the part of the process that Dan focused on in the webinar. Once you’ve gone through testing, you can move onto the next layer of the pyramid.

Creating an MVP prototype

Let’s hop up a few levels of the pyramid. Once you identify your MVP feature set, create your MVP prototype to test with customers. At this stage, you need to start thinking about UX design.

Dan likes to think of UX design as an iceberg, because customers tend to only look at the visual design, but below the surface there’s other work necessary for a successful experience.

For example, when the founders of Quicken were designing the software, there were a lot of other personal finance products on the market, but none were easy to use. Their hypothesis was to make the UI look like a checkbook so that the learning curve was much smaller.

Dan recommends the following workflow for creating a product:

  1. Hand sketches/whiteboarding
  2. Wireframing
  3. Clickable mockups
  4. Test those mockups with customers
  5. Create the live product (alpha or beta)

Conducting the user test

There are 3 types of user tests that you can employ to get feedback on your design: in-person moderated, remote moderated, and remote unmoderated.

Dan reviewed his “Ramen User Testing” schedule, which strips down everything except for the essential parts of the testing experience.

10-15 minutes: Warm-up and discovery
Make time to get the user comfortable—small talk is a surprisingly important part of the user testing processTwitter Logo. Then, ask them questions about their needs and priorities as a user. Finally, discuss the current solutions they use to solve their problems, including what they like and dislike about them.

30-50 minutes: User feedback on a prototype
Show the user the product and allow them to use it. Dan doesn’t recommend giving users a specific task to complete, so you can also test product-market fit. For example, a user might be able to complete a task, but the product will still fail if they have no desire to complete that task. You can ask questions about why users are doing certain behaviors to gain understanding.

5-10 minutes: Wrap up
Respond to questions or issues that popped up during the user testing session. Point out features you’d like them to be aware of that they may have missed. Then ask them if they’d use the product instead of their current solutions.


Dan’s webinar was a wealth of information and tips. I urge you to watch the recap above for more information about how to prioritize customer needs, the dos and don’ts of user testing, and a product-market fit case study.

And ultimately, we love the way that Joseph summed up the process:

Collaborate in real time on a digital whiteboard