By Aaron Heskes

Sometimes you’ll fail, and that’s alright. Today I’m bringing you yet another prototype from a project that we’ve touched on earlier in this series. If you remember the “wearable” cad models from part 2, you’ll be familiar with this object. This prototype turned out to be ineffective because it didn’t replicate the effect of the concept.

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Once you’ve looked at a system, identified a problem and committed to a concept, wherein a concept is a changed system intended to solve the problem, you must test that concept. This is done more easily in certain situations, such as in interface design, where user testers can evaluate the experience via paper models. In more nuanced environments however, it becomes much harder to replicate the situation experienced by the user. Even more pressing is the issue of successfully replicating how the implementation of the concept changes the experience for that user. Your goal is to be able to evaluate how the changes proposed by your concept affect the user’s behavior.

Let’s define what implementing your concept means. First, I’ll provide some more background on the project we’re looking at today.

This wearable concept was intended for doctor’s waiting rooms. From our survey results we determined a need for a system that could provide more accurate ‘live’ data to patients about how long the wait would be until their appointments. Gathering data on average appointment durations and wait times in relation to the reason for the visits, time of day and number of people in the clinic was viewed as a valid method of providing useful feedback to patients and nurses at the time.

The output on the patient’s side of things via the wristband would be a soft estimate of the time until they’d be called into the exam room so that they could use their wait time more effectively. This is admittedly like the buzzing discs that the hostess at chili’s gives out. Because each patient would wear a wristband to benefit from the feedback it gives them, they would simultaneously feed metrics on the efficiency of the clinic for the hospital to evaluate.

Looking back on this clumsy attempt at a prototype, we can see that by replicating the lights and buzzing functions of the conceptual wristband, we weren’t offering the users the real value in that buzzer: The actual time estimate. A much better way to test this concept would be to control patient influx on a certain day and tell each person in the waiting room exactly when they’ll be due to come in to the exam room. This would have allowed us to observe the effect of that information in the clinic without the headache of producing testing equipment.