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Preparing For A Challenge Prototype

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Cansu Akarsu is our current volunteer Challenge Community Prototyper. You'll see her popping up across the Women's Safety Challenge with handy tips about prototyping. Below she outlines her prototyping process for this challenge.

In the coming weeks, I will guide you through the process of selecting an idea and building a prototype from start to finish using a human-centered approach. I invite you all to prototype together with me in order to take your ideas further.

Part 1: Experience mapping

Every idea, whether it is a product or service, has a usage scenario. Breaking down the user experience into each step will help you discover several questions: how does someone hear about the idea, how does he/she use it and how does the experience end?


Let’s follow the 20 minute activity sheet created by for building an experience map of your idea.

Pen and paper saves the day again! Each step of the experience can be visualized with a rough sketch along with a short description on a post-it note. Be aware of the potential for a user to misinterpret the prototype throughout each step. Prioritizing the most essential questions around how someone uses the product/service. This helps you to understand what to brainstorm and how to ask for feedback from stakeholders.

Part 2: Building a prototype

''Prototype: a question rendered as an artifact.'' says Scott Klemmer.

When asking for feedback from an international community, stakeholders from various disciplines, or users with different levels of education, you'll discover that prototypes create a common language. The selected questions from the experience map should form into tangible objects/drawings/experiences for everyone reflect on.

In many cases, a single prototype is simply not enough. Consider that you might need 2-3 prototypes so users have the chance to compare and give more reliable feedback. Check out’s Prototyping Guide to see how the team used multiple methods of prototyping on various projects.


Here’s a few ways to make prototypes:

- Create a model: use paper, cardboard, pipe cleaners, fabric and whatever else you can find and make low-fidelity prototypes of objects.

- Create a mock-up of your service: sketch out the screens on paper then stick on an actual computer screen or mobile phone.

- Role-play the idea: try on the roles of the people that are part of the situation and uncover questions they might ask. This method is especially useful for prototyping Opportunity Areas.

- Create a fake advertisement: promote your idea as if it were real in order to collect people’s responses

In addition to tangible ways to prototype your idea, using digital tools might also be quick and powerful. Are you suggesting an online community as a solution? No need to wait, you can use the existing social media tools to create a group and test people’s response. Do you have an app or a website idea? Using existing and free tools such as Weebly or Balsamiq is an easy way to create digital mock-ups that are easily sharable with the whole OpenIDEO community.

Part 3: Collecting feedback

The most rewarding step of prototyping is returning to your users and observing their interactions with it. To maximize your impact, consider the setting where you meet with your users and ask open ended questions to collect the feedback you need. For example, depending on the community you work with, it's always a good practice considering what settings help people in these feedback sessions feel most comfortable. Check out Janice Wong’s inspiration - the steps she outlines to promote women's participation can be taken into consideration when testing prototypes as well.

Throughout the process, take notes, photos, videos, and share with the OpenIDEO Community :)


Alright, whew. That was a long post but I hope you enjoyed it. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions about the process or want to get involved.

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Community Champions , Women's Safety Challenge


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