Rapid video prototyping

Prototypes are essential for many design processes. There are prototypes, and experience prototypes. While a prototype aims at building the thing right, an experience prototype aims at building the right thing. From product design point of view, experience prototypes can be created as rapidly as within hours, whereas prototypes usually require weeks to be completed. Experience prototype is also a great tool for service designers when new services are to be developed and tested, especially when physical products are part of them.

Experience Prototypes can be created in multiple ways:

  • Media from the future: write and iterate a press release for the new service (or product) in order to answer the questions what it should be and if it makes sense; and only after that develop the corresponding actual service (or product)
  • Storyboards: to answer questions like where I am and what I do with the new service (or product)
  • Physical props & acting out: roleplaying with the help of physical props what the user would experience with the new service (or product)
  • Wizard of Oz: have a human act out what the to-be-developed application would do
  • Video prototypes: combine all of the above in some way

Focusing on video prototypes, this year’s Interaction conference offered a workshop “Rapid Video Prototyping for Connected Products” which I attended on March 1, 2016. Connected products become increasingly important in our surroundings and they will help to add new service elements to traditional products, or to entirely transform products into services.

The workshop had teams developing their own video prototype within an hour. The team I was part of got the task to prototype a digital fishing rod. None of the team members were in any way familiar with fishing, which made us go for developing a fishing rod designed for beginners. After drawing a quick storyboard what the day of a fresh fisherman would look like, we moved on to deciding what our digital fishing rod should do and how.


Photo of the fishing rod cardboard prototype

We decided that we wanted to incorporate all the digital elements to the rod itself and to build in a small screen to it, comparable to the kind of screen simple fitness wearables have. Short text pieces and color-coding would be used to let the fisher know where the fish was and how to get it. We neglected technical details like what sensors would be used to detect fish in a lake or river and where those would be located. This helped to first think limitless out of the box about what would be useful for someone who is new to fishing. Furthermore, starting out with plain imagination to develop a new service/product would later on provide foundations for actual technical specifications.

The next step was to create the cardboard prototype for the fishing rod. Once that was built, we moved ahead and filmed our video that showcases its functions. The video was shot straight through Instagram – which came with the limit that the video could not be longer than 15 seconds. Using the “stop trick” we paused the video to change elements on the fishing rod and continued filming with the new settings in place. Like this, the ready video showed how the color coding on the rod’s screen changed when fish were detected and how the screen gave brief commands like “use this bait”, “throw 20m left”, etc.

Rapid video prototypes are great for showcasing all functionalities of the actual service/product and therefore are and therefore a potent way to communicate ideas in an easily understandable way. They can be used to convince investors, to test the desirability of what you’re developing, to articulate a joint vision, to define design requirements and to iterate and refine the service/product design. They deliver many rough but powerful answers, with little cost and time.

Some of the workshop videos can be found on Instagram with the hashtag #IxDPrototyping.

– C. Maiwald, SID14



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