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When you DON'T need conceptual prototyping

Hint: When you don't need conceptual prototyping is when you've got something like Chase's program to give businesses their credit card payments next day instead of in 3 days. The ad's good for a chortle...

I bring this up because the other day Michael Dolenko, our resident financial industry expert and co-head of our innovation group, was talking about how much disruptive change is going on in financial services, as opposed to the many incremental changes that used to be par for the course:

It used to be, back in the day, the changes were less dramatic. Let’s say we were doing product development research on a new credit card. We’d get our respondents recruited — they’re all 20-somethings with a certain income — and I could basically show them on a sheet of paper or present to them in a few sentences what the new product was: “The interest rate’s going to be 12%. If you use it at these merchants you’ll get a special accelerator. The spending limit is X.”

That in turn had led to discussion about how conceptual prototyping can make the difference between respondents understanding or not understanding.

One of the most effective things we’ve done is present respondents — for example in this robo-advising category — with a concept that’s a little more interactive and a little more built out. Working with the client, I had the UX team put together a concept that could show “This is how I might set up a portfolio” or “This is how they might get information about me and my time horizon.” The respondents sat and interacted with this. It’s not like there was any back end, and we weren’t at all testing UX elements, like which button should go where — it was purely conceptual. But because we had something that could demonstrate how robo-advising could work, we were able to get much richer feedback in a shorter amount of time.

But you don't need conceptual prototyping for everything. If it's an incremental change, often just a write-up or an oral description will do. The Chase product improvement is a perfect example.

If you want to read more about conceptual prototyping, you can download Michael's case study from the banking industry.

H/T to Bank Innovation for the video.

Written by Steve Hansen

Steve Hansen, MBA, is the President of Phase 5 US. With almost 2 decades of experience in client-side marketing strategy, market research, and product management, Steve brings a client’s mindset and drive for actionable results to each project. He has extensive experience in capturing the view “from the outside” with a special focus on product and service innovation. Steve is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.