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Iteration and the cyclical process

You’ve tested your prototype and, through discussing with others, you have discovered some problems. What do you do next?

You iterate.

Iterating is the process of reworking and adjusting your ideas after feedback to make them better. The success of a design will depend on the person who will use it, so testing again will help you understand if the changes you make are working.

montage showing build, learn and test

It’s common to test and iterate on an idea several times. In the early stages this helps you to learn if your idea is good. Later in the process it helps to find any problems with what you’ve made.

Testing prototypes and designs can be hard. It’s easy to get attached to your ideas and throwing them away can be difficult. But human-centred design is about finding the right design for the person who’ll use it. Iterating and changing will help you find something that fits.

Sometimes you’ll have a big list of things to change and fix after testing, with limited time and resources to fix them. Ask yourself which things are most important.

  • Which are must haves to make your design work and which are just nice to have?
  • Which problems affect the end user and which are just a stakeholder’s opinion?

Prioritise the ones that affect the most people using (or paying for) your product. Which changes will have the most impact or take the most effort? You can use the techniques from Step 2.8 to prioritise changes.

Iteration isn’t just about re-designing a prototype after a test. The human-centred design process is non-linear and you can jump between phases and repeat them out of order.

Have your changes made your design better, or worse? You will need to re-test your design to check, but learning about your users during the test might mean you go back to the empathise phase to discover more needs. Perhaps you might need to do some more research, ideate to get new or different ideas, or make another prototype to test a new approach.

Even after a product is launched you may need to iterate your design. Mobile apps might need updating to run on new phones or OS versions. Perhaps the market changes and you find that your sandwich finding app would be better if it also catered for vegans. As more people use your solution, feedback from them might show you better ways of doing things. Your beginner’s mind will help you see your own designs and products in a new light and understand their strengths and weaknesses when you see them being used in the real world, by real people.

Have your say:

  • Have you ever reworked an idea or an approach to a task in your every-day life?
  • Was iterating helpful to you?

Share your insights about how staying flexible and open to change can help you do better work with other learners in the Comments.

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This article is from the free online course:

Get Creative with People to Solve Problems

University of Leeds