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Prototyping & Usability Testing

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Challenge introduction

A critical factor in building a desirable, successful product is testing your assumptions on the path to market. However, expending the resources necessary to build a complete product before you test it has the potential to be a dangerous decision. Instead, we prototype and test our most dangerous assumptions as we move towards the market.

A good prototype isn’t a faithful reproduction of everything you think your product should be. It is the quickest and cheapest thing you can build that will accurately validate or invalidate your hypotheses. By exposing your prototype to users and testing their interactions with it you can make informed decisions before wasting precious resources.

Background research

Challenge outline

For this challenge we’re going to iterate further on the result of your Bootcamp challenge project. Identify a remaining problem from your updated Bootcamp challenge, preferably based on an unexplored assumption. You will form a hypothesis regarding this assumption, identify the ideal form and medium for an updated prototype that will test this assumption, and run a full-scale usability test complete with video/recording setup and an assistant to take notes. To accomplish this I’d advise pairing up with another person so you can take notes for them during their interviews and vice versa.

Recommended process

  1. Start by going over the background research listed above. Discuss as a group and individually with your mentors.

  2. Work together as a group to go over the results of your Bootcamp and Challenge 2 work and identify large, testable assumptions in your individual projects.

  3. Conduct user research based on the framework created in the first challenge and the personas identified in the second challenge.

  4. Based on the assumptions you’ve identified figure out what your most dangerous assumption is and develop a test designed to validate or invalidate it. It’s important to note that your job is not to prove that you’re right. It’s to find out if you are right or if you are wrong. The difference in mindset is incredibly important.

  5. Design a usability test for your prototype based on the book Rocket Surgery Made Easy by Steve Krug. Pair up with another apprentice to run your tests together (alternately, the whole group is free to devise whatever method of pairing they think will be the most helpful). The person who owns the prototype should facilitate the testing of it. Everyone must test with at least 3 participants. Do not underestimate the difficulty of finding willing recruits for your test within the project timeline.

  6. Based on your tests outline next steps for product improvement, addressing your hypothesis and main concerns. You should also identify fixes and improvements beyond your hypothesis, prioritize some of them and reject others. You must have clear reasoning behind what feedback you do and do not think should be acted on. Not all feedback is good feedback.

  7. Write a case study for your portfolio on the process through bootcamp up to your final prototype. This will become a part of your portfolio.


  • An updated prototype designed to investigate your most dangerous assumption.

  • Videos and notes from your usability test, with key insights called out.

  • Next steps for product improvement, prioritized. Give reasoning behind your choices and any feedback you’ve decided not to act on (there should definitely be some).


3 weeks from the assignment of the project.