Field Research with Early Prototypes 

Industry: Consumer goods 

Motivation: The client wanted to make their new product easy to use and store to ensure usage and increase sales. 


In order to inform the design direction, my team devised a customized home-based field study. A small team of us was sent to visit individuals in their homes. We brought two foam prototypes along with us which closely approximate the intended look, size, and features of a new product. 


Study goals:  

  • Better understanding of the constraints of the home environment and the possible effect of these constraints on product placement and use. 

  • Gather information about how users intended to integrate the product into their homes, specifically: 

  • feedback about the look, feel, and size of two different prototypes 

  • expectations around interacting with the product 

  • the user’s size, placement, and storage requirements 


Results/ Insights: 

The most valuable outcomes for my clients are often the unexpected discoveries that reveal how a product is really being used.  

For this field research, some of the most memorable insights regarding the two prototypes related to the size and space restrictions of user’s homes.  

Users showed us, using foam prototypes, where they would keep the product and the prototypes. These locations diverged, in many cases, from the intent of the design of the product often because of space limitations and anything that increased the size of the prototype would impact user’s ability to use the product.   

Having users place the two early prototypes in their homes illustrated the reality of the spaces being designed for and also drove home how the size would impact to the purchase and use of the product.  

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Impact/ Implication: 

Conducting user research in the field allowed us to gather data about features, size, and placement and provide the client with real-life examples of the product in the homes of users.  

We provided our client with examples of the real-life constraints of users with the different design options that they were considering moving forward with. This study is a great example of how field research with early prototypes reveal which design ideas to push forward and which design ideas to leave behind. 

Having user feedback allowed the client to adjust and justify their design direction early on with confidence and allowed them to focus on developing the best ideas from the prototypes at a much lower cost. 

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