A4 Launching probes

Concrete prototypes elicit a very different kind of feedback than storyboards because the subjects are acting as real users, not giving opinions. For this project, students will learn how to mature their ideas further by creating and testing various kinds of prototypes. Specifically, teams will create a brand identity and perform web marketing to discover the potential audience for their concept. Teams will also perform a service enactment to evaluate the basic service concept with real users.

Learning Goals:

    • Creating a brand identity
    • Evaluating customer desire for service
    • Choosing cost-effective prototyping methods for services
    • Launching web marketing strategies
    • Enacting a customer service encounter


    • Lectures
      • Branding
      • Prototyping
      • Growth models
    • Required reading (see important links).
      • Stine, 2013, 9 Principles of Branding
      • Ries, 2011, The Concierge Minimum Viable Product
      • Dow, 2011, Parallel Prototyping (short)
    • Optional readings and video
    • Think-aloud Observation

What to do:

1. Decide Which Hypotheses to Test

Revisit your business model and hypotheses, possibly introducing more, to guide your continued exploration. Decide which hypotheses are the most important to test right now by considering (1) their ultimate effect on the services success and (2) your uncertainty about how true they are. The general strategy here is to test the assumptions and stakeholders that create the biggest risk to your service concept.

2. Perform a branding "probe"

Create alternative brands and run a live marketing campaign without the providing service.

    • Design branding materials for your company idea. This should be an exploration of different ideas for the name, color scheme, iconography, and catch phrases that capture the essence of your service concept. Each team should create a mood board, typography exploration, and a large variety of rough alternative brand ideas, before narrowing this down to two options to compare during live testing.
    • Create a landing page describing your service and asking visitors to take some action, e.g. register an email address or otherwise express interest. A tool like unbounce.com can be used to create alternate landing pages, each of which can display a different branding alternative and/or different description of the service and/or two different service concepts. Your landing page could have a place for interested parties to enter there email address if they wish to learn more about the potential service.
    • Evaluate your brands through an authentic A/B test designed to help you test your hypotheses. You will create a marketing campaign to attract people to the landing page. Advertise your service to a particular stakeholder class through different advertising channels and measure responses by directing the ad to your landing page. Here are the key steps:
    • Think about the audience you want to reach. List out characteristics like age, income, geographic location, etc.
    • Write down an extensive list of search terms that customers/stakeholders might search for when trying to fulfill the needs you identified in Assignment 3. These search terms will be used in creating an online ad campaign.
    • Write ad copy. This is the text that will appear in your ad(s) when someone happens to search the terms you listed above.
    • Create an account on one or more of the following platforms for web ads:
      • Twitter ads
      • Bing ads
      • LinkedIn (promo for $50 in free ads)
      • Google AdWords (promo for $75 in free ads when you spend $25)
      • Monitor your ad campaigns and adjust search terms as necessary. Track the click rates through the ad platform and on the Unbounce page. Be ready to report on the overall interest in your service idea(s) and to compare your A and B version of your splash page.

3. Enact service encounters

Evaluate the delivery of the service through a concierge MVP (i.e., a minimal viable service).

  • Recruit three volunteers that can serve as "earlyvangilists" in a live role-play of your service over some extended period of time. Your team's volunteers can be from different classes of stakeholders in your value flow model, or from the same stakeholder class (e.g, primary users).
  • Provide a "concierge service" for the potential customers. See the reading on Concierge MVP for an example of this type of prototype. The team is essentially "wizarding" the core service and attempting to learn what works and doesn't work. For some team concepts, it might be necessary to improvise a scenario (e.g., "Imagine you just got in a car accident, and you have this app on your mobile phone.")
    • Volo Service Enactment Prototype (to determine travel style)
    • Create photo/video documentation of each service encounters and interview your volunteer after each encounter. Between each encounter, teams should analyze what happened in the trial run and interview, and then revise the process and the rough user interface.
    • Volo Service Enactment Data Collection (Traveler from Chicago Looking to Visit Germany)

Notes: Please avoid recruiting volunteers from other teams or close friends. Stretch your team to recruit actual potential customers.

There are several options for the "interface" to the service, varying in their fidelity:

    • Face-to-face. Simply work directly with a volunteer with no interface.
    • Paper. Draw screens that volunteers use to enter input and select actions. The screens can include design features or just be wireframes.
    • Electronic screens: Create screens on a laptop or phone that support basic interaction, using tools like Balsamic, Cacoo, and Flinto.

All these prototypes build towards a minimum viable product that provides a complete, but rudimentary service that can be released to the target market. (Preview of Assignment 5: each team will create an interactive prototype—such as a Flinto app— that you can demonstrate on a mobile device during the final poster session. You can start to work towards this in A4, but it will not be required until later. )

Key roles for team:

To help your team consider how to divide the work on this assignment, here's a list of tasks to be done:

    • Create branding materials (moodboard, type exploration, logo design, color, design language)
    • Design Unbounce landing pages
    • Write lists of audience, search terms, ad copy for web ads
    • Setup campaign in a Web ad platform
    • Analyze and summarize the marketing probe
    • Devise UIs and procedures for service enactments
    • Recruit potential customers for service enactments
    • Analyze and summarize the service enactments
    • Prepare presentation for class


In your team's Google folder place, include folders for the following:

    • Branding probes
      • All materials for brand identity (moodboard, typography exploration, logo designs, color scheme, design language, catch phrases, etc.)
    • Multiple versions of your unbounce landing page
    • A/B testing materials, including:
      1. Web advertisements,
      2. Plan for where to advertise
      3. Language used for search engine optimization
      • An analysis of the results: ad data and landing page data
    • Service enactments
      • A description of each service enactment (who, what, where, why, etc.)
      • Photo/video documentation of each service encounter
      • A document that describes the results and design implications from each service encounter
    • Team presentation
      • Talks should be no longer than 6-7 minutes
      • Describe a scenario that illustrates the unmet need/desire and your unique solution to this.
      • Show your landing page(s) and say why you created your two versions. Describe your how you performed your A-B test. Share your data. Interpret the results.
      • Show and tell about your service enactments. Include photos and videos to illustrate what you did and what you learned.
      • Note any changes to your value flow or envisioned user experience.
      • Talk about your choices for the final design direction for A5.
      • Volo Presentation Example

Sign up for a presentation slot using the link on the important links page.

  1. Draft of branding materials due on Tuesday February 13th before class.
  2. Two final branding alternatives, Unbounce landing pages, plan for service enactments due on Tuesday February 20th before class.
  3. A4 Presentation due on Tuesday February 27th for in-class talks.

Grading rubric :