A UX Guide to Learning through Prototyping | Kendra Cooke | Skillshare

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A UX Guide to Learning through Prototyping

teacher avatar Kendra Cooke, UX & Research Specialist

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

9 Lessons (15m)
    • 1. Intro

    • 2. Prototyping early ideas

    • 3. When to start gathering feedback on your prototype

    • 4. Make fearlessly, learn fearlessly

    • 5. How to test concepts that are not yet complete

    • 6. Getting the most out of your research

    • 7. Techniques for conducting interviews

    • 8. Sharing the learnings to iterate again

    • 9. About the class project

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About This Class

Prototyping is a useful strategy to design for impactful connection with your target audience, whether you’re designing products, services, or experiences. It’s a scrappy process that provides early and ongoing opportunities to test hypotheses, and solicit input from others.

This class will not get into the specific how-tos of user testing. Instead, students will learn:

1/ methods for rapid iteration

2/ how to get the most learnings from your prototyping

3/ effective mindsets for user interviews

4/ how to form meaningful goals for testing your prototype

This class is not just for UX designers, or “creatives”—it’s for anyone who wants to test their ideas and learn from them. Students will walk away with a greater understanding of how the principles of prototyping can be applied to any project to create a continuous cycle of learning and improvement.

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Meet Your Teacher

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Kendra Cooke

UX & Research Specialist


My professional experience spans nearly 20 years of design, research, and product development in the ever-shifting digital landscape — helping me become both expert and ongoing student in all things digital.


As an Experience Director at SYPartners, I strategize and execute research efforts as well as help build digital solutions for our clients. What brought me to SYPartners was the firm’s solid belief that we can make the world better by applying creativity to our greatest problems. Being part of a company with that mission in mind is one of the worthiest pursuits I can think of.

Prior to joining SYPartners, I worked at a variety of agencies, e-commerce startups, and organizations, including Euro RSCG MVBMS, Universal Studios, Kaplan Inc., a... See full profile

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1. Intro : A big challenge facing design teams today is creating experiences that really connect with their audience. In today's Skillshare, I want to dive into the mind-sets of creating experiments through prototyping. In prototyping, you're creating these high level ideas and then you're putting them out in front of people and then you're learning from them. You're going to test and iterate and learn is going to be somewhat scrappy. But it would be really useful for when you're really trying to get the most out of your ideas in a short amount of time. I'm Kendra Cooke, I'm a designer research specialist. I'm also a self-proclaimed prototyping Sherpa. I'll get more into that later during the class. I worked for SYPartners, which is a design and strategy consultancy. Here, I work with teams to structure and strategize how they're going to learn and the types of things that we create here, whether it be a website, a book. This type of method that I'm about to talk to you about today can work for pretty much anything. It's very flexible, and it could be something that you implement on a small project or a large project. Now I'm not going to go too deep into Research Methodology specifically, I'm going to talk about the mind-sets and things you should keep in mind when you're structuring the type of learning that you want to do, and I'm also going to teach you new ways of prototyping that might work for your project. 2. Prototyping early ideas: The best way to get into a prototyping mindset is to simply start making. There are many ways to create prototypes. You can create mark-ups, you can create sketches, you can even create lists or different types of modeling. The best part and the best thing to think about is, it doesn't always have to be pretty, especially in the beginning stages when you're just trying to get your ideas together and put them out into the world for feedback. In our class project, we are going to dive into using a cross section of different types of prototyping methods. We are going to experiment with them. We are going to get comfortable with them, and we are going to learn the power of them and how they can be used in our effective day-to-day lives. There is another misconception about prototyping, that it's limited to people in the creative industry, when in fact, it is just about anybody can create and learn from a prototype. 3. When to start gathering feedback on your prototype : A very important thing you should keep in mind when you're ready to start learning from your prototype is, it's never too early to get feedback. Knowing where to begin can be the hardest part, but we usually have to begin with as a hypothesis. An idea of what you think will work or what will be the right solution for whatever user you're creating. That is in fact the perfect time to start floating your ideas out into the world, because that can guide you on to what to exactly create, sometimes form, and what shape that your idea is going to take in the long run. Calm during this stage and so you can actually test and prototype different approaches. If you're going out into the world and you're talking about your ideas and your hypothesis and your sharing them with others, you could start gathering initial feedback on whether or not the idea makes sense or whether that really solves the problem that you're trying to solve. An example of this method that I can give, in references to some work and swipe partners has done with Starbucks. On May 29th, Starbucks close their doors so that their employees can have a conversation about racial equity and public spaces. They came to us as partners to help them figure out how to design the day for their employees. During that time, we worked together with Starbucks to design what we thought would be the major beats of the day. What people would do, what types of videos they might experience, what type of things might they read and workshop together. We had a very early idea of what the day would be like, literally within a few days, and we decided to be brave and bring those ideas to the employees themselves and ask them how they felt about it. We went around the country, we sat with them, we spoke with them, we understood where they were and what their impressions were of it. Those types of interviews and those types of meetings helped us form what was a five hour experience for them the day on May 29th, and thankfully, we had the ability to co-create and learn the entire time. 4. Make fearlessly, learn fearlessly : The wonderful part about exploring concepts earlier on, is that it sharpens your gut. With each iteration, you should be growing your confidence in deciding on which idea is really holding water, and which one you want to move forward with. Now, I don't want you to get rigid about the process, you should be rather fluid you should be able to look broadly. In the early stages of prototyping you can create more than one prototype that solves the same problem and you can test them and learn from them, and then refined from there. It can be quite scary, putting things that are unfinished in front of people to respond to. I like to call this, 'make fearlessly, learned fearlessly', it takes a certain level of bravery to put it out there, and to get it back in. However, you can do that somewhat seamlessly. If you think about doing that with a team and dividing and conquering in order to bring it to life. It's not a requirement that you recruit a team or have a team in order to do any of these methods. But, it does help you, actually, move a little faster, or more seamlessly, because one team can be creating a prototype, and the other team could be running parallel, thinking about how to learn from it. Setting up the people to interview with, recruiting them, actually planning the script, and the other team during that time is still refining and finishing touches on the prototype that you're going to put in front of this group. Having a team to run along with, if you have it can work very well, if you happen to be an individual, you can still, maybe in a little bit more of a waterfall fashion, be able to do your prototype, setup your learning objectives, put it out there in front of your audience, and bring back that information to iterate again. 5. How to test concepts that are not yet complete : We spoke a bit about testing early, gathering feedback when you don't have a full prototype created. But what about making sure that the conditions for testing early are as good as they can be, why you're getting feedback. We start building an idea, as we mentioned, we don't always have everything figured out. We don't have all the pieces built. We don't necessarily have the entire story written down and all the touch points outlined on our map. It's important that we understand that if you know what the narrative arc is going to be, you can actually make it come alive for your participants so they can give you more authentic and better feedback. Two things that I like to incorporate in early iterative user testing is the idea of story telling to fill in the blanks and sometimes personas that people can absorb so that they can actually give feedback from a different place. If you have the luxury of bringing people in that are representative of who's going to be the inevitable audience for your prototype, then you might not necessarily have to give them a certain persona to take on. They'll be able to respond as their natural selves to your work. But sometimes you need to gather feedback and you need to understand if your idea is what you intended it to be and has the reaction that you would expect it to have, you might have to give the person that you're talking to a frame of mind or persona. A good, for instance, of this is a project that I worked on, that we were creating innovation curriculum that was going to be launched in Japan. Now, I didn't necessarily have a team here that work in Japan and that were born and raised there working together. I had to bring together people and say, we're creating innovation curriculum, and the target audience is a team in Japan. This team in Japan, right now are working different locations and they don't have the luxury of coming together and working on things together. I need you to think about that as you're responding to this, would this work for a mostly remote team? What would it be like to do this if you were working for a banking industry in Japan. I had to give them that frame of mind to sink themselves into, so that when they're looking at it whether it be a critical eye or just a natural response, that they're holding that truth in their head and that they're able to maybe respond a little differently to it, which again gives us this nuanced responses that might help propel our work even further. 6. Getting the most out of your research : Creating clear goals for testing is critical. Be prepared to create these goals and then also evolve them during the duration of your project. What I mean by goals is there are really two types of goals that I like to set for myself anytime I'm trying to learn something into a prototype. One is a major overarching set of goals. These are your big questions. These are the things that are really not that highly changeable moments. I want to know whether or not my brand messaging is clear to people that come to my website. I want to know if they can find the sign up page so that I can then have people sign up for my product. These are things that are somewhat fundamental and probably won't be changing. Then there is a set of goals that are a little bit more refined and nuanced. Now, do certain words resonate? Does that specific button actually attract attention? So they fly at different levels, but what they both do is combine to help you write a testing script that allows you to understand clearly what you want to find out when you're speaking to somebody. It's highly important to understand that every time you go back into learning, you might not be asking the same questions. You've might have built out more to your prototype. You've might have made a pivot in a different direction because of something you learned from the last prototype. But as long as you go back to your goals and come back to the center, you'll be able to really have meaningful conversations with people about the thing that you're trying to create. 7. Techniques for conducting interviews : Now that we spoke a little bit about goals and how that may affect how you write or construct your user interview questions, I'd like to speak a little bit about the technique and how you ask the questions. So what kind of conversation you have with the people that you are getting feedback from. One of the hardest parts of conducting interviews is knowing to sit back and listen versus interjecting with questions. We always want to know more, we have a long list of questions we want to get through and things we want to find out. But you have to remember interviews can feel really one-sided. You want to find something out from that person. That person has knowledge you need or has feedback that you want to hear, but it has to be a little bit more organic in a conversation because there's going to be things that come out of a more natural conversation that might not come out of a straight interview. Something to think about why you're doing this is sitting back a little bit, thinking about, is this the moment where they're looking at something and I need to get their natural reaction to it? Is this the moment where they're speaking about something that they need to talk about because they see something and that invokes a certain type of emotion or thought? Knowing when to lean in and get more out of that person or to sit back and say, "Okay, I want to hear about this because it might be enlightening me into a different way of thinking about the problem I'm trying to solve," is hugely important. I like to call this listening with intent. The reason why we create those goals is so you can have some guard rails in order to know how to maneuver the conversation because you're going to be speaking maybe to one person or to 20-30 people and you'll want to know that are there certain patterns to their feedback? Are there things that they're all saying? Are there things that they're not saying? Understanding that, that means you have to have some baseline and objectives. But in that, you also have to have a rich conversation and you want to get the most out of that conversation. So really understanding the type of conversation you want to have, the goals of that conversation and whether to lean in or sit back are hugely important. 8. Sharing the learnings to iterate again : We spoke about planning interviews, setting goals, how to conduct interviews. After you're done with all that, you're going to have a lot of great information to bring back to your team. Today we want to speak deeply about synthesis and what it's like to look at a large amount of feedback and then try to find the patterns, but we will suggest that that be part of your process. What I do want to talk about is how you now convey what you've learned in a simple, meaningful way, back to your team and back to your product stakeholders so that you can move your work forward. In today's class, we will have a few exercises. Hopefully they're fun that you can do and ways of prototyping that you can practice. Also there's going to be a dashboard that you see here, that helps you collect the information and thinking about important questions that you need to think about and when you're communicating back the things that you found out from your research. For instance, what were the focus areas for this particular study? What are the things that worked? What are the things that did not work? What are some of the enlightening moments that you had? Maybe some of the blue sky moments that came back from your audience and the people that you spoke to. This is going to be a great tool for helping your team move your prototype forward. 9. About the class project : In this class project, you begin to take the ideas that are in your mind and put them into the world and get feedback on them. This is what prototyping is all about. You're going to use materials that you have at your disposal, you're going to make your idea, you're going to put together a way to learn from it, and you're going to go gather feedback with people that you can find and you can talk to. When you're finished with your project please be sure to put it on the class page. I cannot wait to see what you come up with.