I’ve definitely learned the hard way that iterative design approaches are worth a shot. I’ve spent a lot of time co-creating with young people, painstakingly trying to see if a relatively small group can iron out design issues, only to realise that if we just tried out some initial versions of products, got them out there for further feedback and then improved as we went, then we’d probably have much happier outcomes.
The iterative approach is one we’re taking with the re-design of TheSite.org – the online service for 16-25 year-olds I work on at YouthNet. We’ll launch the new homepage and one of the core content areas first, and then roll out the remaining sections one-by-one being sure to take note of how the early designs are received. I’m also hoping to convince my colleagues that we should take the same approach with Madly in Love – a new website that the Labs are funding us to create. Madly in Love will be aimed at those who are affected by mental health issues in their romantic relationships.
At the recent Labs Startup Meeting I got talking about iterative design with fellow project developers – including technical developer Harry Harrold who is helping build the Labs’ Doc Ready. Harry and others helped me come to the conclusion that taking an iterative approach to digital product development is one of the best ways to co-design with young people. Here are four reasons why:
1. It helps prioritise ideas
Young people are likely to come up with a heap of cool ideas based on their personal tastes. How can you tell whether or not these are representative of the wider audience? And which are based on personal whim? Create a wall of ideas (post-it notes anyone?) rate them, and get some of the most popular out there and see what happens. It will help you both recognise how their input is valued.
2. It builds empathy
If you’re getting young people involved in iterative methods, this should mean acquainting them with technical developers who may not automatically have a personal connection to the cause. This is something we explored in Monday’s meet. Get the young people talking about what the features they’re asking for mean to them e.g. how would having a ‘hide my visit’ button change their use of the website and impact positively on their life?
3. It turns theory into reality more quickly
As much as we hope young people know what we mean when we explain our vision for a product, it’s often when it’s out there that the real feedback begins – “Ahh, the drop downs work like this? I couldn’t really imagine them before.”
4.You won’t get bored of iterative design
Young people tend to get bored waiting to see their work come to fruition. If you give them a long drawn out launch then they’re more likely to expect perfection when the product arrives (aren’t we all?). By building and releasing in smaller bursts you take the pressure and tedium out of building towards one defining moment.
And finally, the golden nugget about iterative processes, straight from the mouth of Harry: “Iteration means you can fail fast.”
And faster failure leads to faster improvement.