I started up Balsamiq and added the first elements to the screen. Soon I pulled up my phone and looked up the UI of some apps that could give me good ideas about UI conventions.
But then I stopped. Why did I just look at other apps to build something from scratch? Maybe prototyping was still too complicated, and there was be a faster way to test my idea?
So I started looking at existing apps. Popular and unpopular apps, for browser and mobile, on Android and iOS. But I wasn’t looking for “competitors”, I was looking for an app that had already built what I wanted to test.
The key was to abstract from my idea. How could I use the functionality and interface of an existing product to test my idea? Could I use a certain function and mix it with mockups or another app or just a narrative to create the use case and user experience I was looking for?
Need a prototype? Abstract, and just use what’s out there
In the end, I used a popular messenger app and immediately started the user testing. All I had to do was setting up a few new user accounts, creating some “characters” in my user story, and tell a new narrative to put the test user in a different scenario. I used some mockups as a replacement for functionality that the existing app couldn’t provide.
Faster and easier to communicate
Compared to a mockup based testing, my “hacked together” solution was way easier to communicate. However, it still had the “era of a draft” so that my test users could easily criticize the idea.
Ultimately, I ended up changing the concept and looking for new ways to quick test it.
Learnings: Creativity can save you time and effort
I’ve since used my “prototype hacking” approach a number of times.
Recently, I designed a new packaging for a bottled tea. I didn’t even bother trying to create the packaging. Rather, I looked for an existing packaging and combined it with part of a packaging of a completely different product. It took me an hour - and I was ready for user testing.
As with so many things, creativity can save you lots of time and effort. And - as in my examples - it works in both the entrepreneurial and corporate world. Just give it a try!
What’s one idea you always wanted to go after? And how could you create something that does looks and/or works like your idea based on what’s already out there? See how much time this would save you?