I cannot over emphasize the importance of developing prototypes and reviewing them with your target audience when designing anything for people.
As much as you may like to believe that you can think through ever scenario and really know what is in the minds of your customers, you can’t. And the more time you spend developing your design, the worse you are at looking at it objectively or with the fresh eyes of a person experience it for the first time. This is why the best designers – and the best experience makers – create the most prototypes and review them often.
One of the great experience makers, Apple, develops more prototypes and conducts more review than most any other company. And they are not shy about sharing this. Here is the Apple guidelines for prototyping and iterate:
Before you invest significant engineering resources into the implementation of your design, it’s a really good idea to create prototypes for user testing. Even if you can get only a few colleagues to test the prototypes, you’ll benefit from their fresh perspectives on your solution’s experience.
In the very early stages of your design you can use paper prototypes or wireframes to lay out the main interactions and to map the flow. Although you can get some useful feedback from testing wireframes, their sparseness can mislead testers. This is because it’s difficult for people to imagine how the experience will change when wireframes are filled in with real content.
You’ll get more valuable feedback if you can put together a fleshed-out prototype. When people can interact with your prototype, they’re more likely to uncover places where your solutions doesn’t react as they expect, or where the experience may be too complex.
To learn more about how companies like Apple determine, develop and deliver their experience, please read The Customer Experience Revolution.