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Build and test prototypes with customers

In part two of our design thinking series, we show how to use this technique to test products or services with your customers.

Last month we introduced the first steps of the design thinking process, a business technique used to develop products or services that meet customers’ needs.

Using the Employment Agreement Builder (external link)  (EAB) as an example, we set out how we worked with small business owners in our customer group to:

  • gain empathy and insights
  • pinpoint problems.

This month, we’ll walk you through how we brainstormed solutions and tested them with small businesses to create EAB.

This step-by-step guide will help you apply design thinking techniques in your own business.

Step 5. Explore possible solutions

Having identified customers’ needs, it was time to come up with lots of ideas about how those needs might be met.

When we brainstormed, we:

  • came up with as many ideas as possible
  • gave ourselves permission to think outside the box
  • resisted the urge to judge our ideas.

We then honed in on those we thought would be most desirable for our customers — and viable for Business.govt.nz.

Step 6. Build prototypes

Using these ideas as a springboard, we began to shape a new employment agreement builder.

We started by sketching samples of how EAB might look, work and feel. These eventually evolved into fully functional online prototypes.

As we designed each prototype, we asked:

  • Does it meet our customers’ needs — to make hiring less stressful?
  • Does it meet Business.govt.nz’s needs — to bring together government tips, tools and advice to help small businesses comply with employment rules and thrive?
Prototypes are a powerful way to try out ideas. Even if hand-drawn, they should be life-sized and built in a way that immerses customers in the experience.

Prototypes are a powerful way to try out ideas. Even if hand-drawn, they should be life-sized and built in a way that immerses customers in the experience.

Step 7. Test with customers

We tested each prototype with members of our customer group.

We tried to pick holes in each prototype by asking about what worked, what didn’t and why.

We then refined each prototype based on customer feedback — and then repeated the process all over again.

Throughout the testing phase, we continued to think about how EAB might best serve the needs of business owners, hiring managers and employees.

Step 8. Deliver a customer-centric solution

What began with customer stories eventually developed into an online tool.

Since EAB’s April launch, businesses have used it to complete more than 11,000 employment agreements. It’s been embraced by business owners and hiring managers, with feedback such as “a great resource — very user-friendly and a good end product”.

By working with our customers, we were able to use design thinking techniques to deliver a solution to help them hire with confidence.

Get involved in future projects

If you own or work in a small business and want to offer your insights as we develop new tools and content, join our customer group.

You can help us understand what it’s like to run a small business, so we can continue to deliver resources that meet your needs.

We’re keen to involve all industries — including trades, retail, property services, and medical — and advisors who work with small businesses.

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