Evaluating ideas for a design concept

By Emeka Ewule    |    June 2018

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The phrase ‘design concept’ refers to the solution or plan you have put together to address a design problem in front of you. It's the underlying logic, thinking, and reasoning for how you'll design an app or website. Your concept would have been determined by your choices in color, type and layout. But before you proceed to put it in front of your stakeholders, you need to validate its suitability.

Validation is necessary not only upon completion of your concept but throughout the design process. Start with validating assumptions about customer needs and expectations. Later, review concepts, drafts, and prototypes. At the end of the design process evaluate how well your solution fits the problem. Note, if you don’t test your solution before a launch, you will test it with real customers, which is something you want to avoid.

Define your questions

Begin by collecting and formulating questions to be answered, for example about your customers, the problem you are trying to solve, or your (envisioned) solution. This can be done by yourself or together with other stakeholders. Use input from the following methods: personas, jobs to be done, customer journey mapping, trend analysis. After you have compiled a list of questions, prioritize them from critical to least critical. 

"Your customers are the judge, jury and executioner of your value proposition. They will be merciless if you are not on point"

Choose validation methods

Next, you need to define how these questions can best be answered. There are various validation methods allowing you to validate assumptions, identify and mitigate risks, as well as discover potential for improvement. Some of them need expert support; some of them can be done by anyone. Some require customer participation while others can be done without. Qualitative methods yield insights about underlying motivations and reasons of your customers, while quantitative methods allow you to get statistically significant information.

Start with methods that will provide quick results, especially early in the design process. Choose more extensive methods later in the process. Select the best suited validation methods from the method set. Prepare test material, such as prototypes or interview guidelines.


Evaluate

Keep an open mind during validation. Look for areas of improvement and gather new insights especially when customers are involved in the validation session. Test different concept variants to find out which aspects work best. Docu¬ment your findings and ideas for improvement.

Turn assumptions into insight

Present and discuss the findings in a meeting with stake¬holders to get a common understanding and to define next steps. Adjust your assumptions if needed. Improve your concept or solution based on the findings. If possible, re-evaluate several times throughout the design process. Finally, share your findings with colleagues as input for similar products or projects. 

Conclusion

A properly validated concept will save you time in the long-run and provide you with valuable data to refer back to at other stages of the lifecycle.