Prototyping and testing concepts

After selecting some ideas to take forward, the next step was to prototype these. Prototyping is a way of trying out ideas and unearthing issues or questions that can be investigated through further ideation, prototyping or user empathy research. It is not about building finished solutions. A prototype allows us to ask questions, and learn by doing.

Our aim was to prototype quickly, building rough prototypes so we could test ideas and unearth issues before going too far down a path. It’s an iterative process – question, build, test, question, ideate, build, test, etc. At each stage we needed to create a prototype that was appropriate for the sort of questions we wanted to investigate. For example, a prototype may want to test a general concept such as whether a user puts coins in their wallet, or a specific concept such as what size wallet would fit in a jeans pocket.

Prototypes can take many forms, from physical models of 3D objects through to sketches, storyboards, video clips, animations, role plays or scenarios. They can be low fidelity (rough and ready, such as a cardboard model) or high fidelity (more realistic, closer to the finished product) or somewhere in-between. Our prototypes were low fidelity because we wanted to develop them quickly and get instant feedback, rather than taking the project to the extent of fully implementing a chosen solution.

For my project I used three different prototype methods to question and test variants of a concept that involved a means for our subject (Mike) to keep the stuff in his wallet safe and know what was in there.

Role play: Using a smart wallet

This involved acting out a scenario of going to a cinema and paying for a ticket, to find out what the process would be if Mike was using a smart wallet that would automatically scan and save items and show when items were added/removed. An ordinary leather wallet was theoretically converted to a smart wallet through the use of some simple coloured stickers to represent a camera and buttons/lock. This role play highlighted a number of issues and questions, such as whether or not he would put a movie ticket in his wallet, how the scanner would work in a dimly lit environment, did he need to have his phone with him for the wallet data to upload, and what was technically or physically feasible to include in a wallet.

Physical mock-up: Magic wallet

I created a mock-up of a ‘magic wallet’ that was not intended to be a practical solution, but was built to ask a question: how useful would it be for Mike to have a secure ‘vault’ – a safe place to put stuff that was in his wallet? The mock-up uses a simple trick where you put something inside and it magically moves to the other side when you re-open the wallet.


User journey sketches: Mike’s digital vault

Using the Invision app, I sketched out the concept of a phone app that scans and stores a digital copy of wallet items, providing a secure back-up and reducing the stuff Mike keeps in his wallet.

The process works as follows:

  • before putting something in his wallet, Mike can scan it using the app and file by type (bank cards, IDs, store cards, receipts, notes, etc)
  • Items are indexed by type/date/tags and stored in a secure online vault
  • Once an item is scanned, Mike can keep it in his wallet, throw it away or file it at home. He can manage his vault online to export or share items.

The app allows Mike to record contact info for all his cards, so if he loses his wallet he can go online to block cards, arrange replacements, or send a pre-formatted message with all relevant details to each card issuer.

It may be possible to combine this idea with the ‘Smart wallet’ so the scanning can be done by a wallet instead of needing a phone (which can then be used to access the app). That concept would need further prototyping.

Sketch of digital wallet process

(See the original sketch online here: Invision Freehand sketch)


The next stage from here would be to prototype the ideas further, developing higher fidelity app mock-ups once the underlying user process was optimised. Ideally, I would test the prototypes with our real user, Mike, or find users with similar attributes (such as people who have wallets full of stuff) to test the concepts. It could then be turned into an implementation project that includes user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design aspects, which could be refined further through an iterative design thinking approach.


If implementing one of these solutions, I would need to consider the business model behind such a product, and how it might integrate with or build on other products and services currently available (or in the pipeline). For example, blockchain technology is starting to address issues such as secure storage and personal ownership of verified information. There are already apps that do some of the things a digital wallet/vault app might do, such as the StoCard app that stores copies of store loyalty cards. There are also subscription services that register your cards so if you lose your wallet you only need make one phone call to block or cancel cards.

If implemented, a solution such as the digital vault has the potential to address our stated problem…

Mike has a backup of what’s in his wallet, so if he loses it, replacing its contents will be quicker and less stressful.

<< Back to Design Thinking index

Scroll to Top