Ben Holliday

Thinking about iteration

Making incremental changes to prototypes isn’t iterative.

Ben Terrett explains:

“A good measure of iterative is that you can prove you’ve thrown something away because user research showed it wasn’t working.”

When we’re designing prototypes and user journeys to meet user needs we’re not going to get this right first time. We learn more about user needs as a result of designing and testing possible solutions.

In fact, we often talk about starting with the assumption that the first thing we build will be wrong. We need to test different design approaches.

How you approach iteration is part of the Digital by Default service standard. You should be able to talk about what you’ve thrown away. Not just your latest designs or prototypes.

Throwing things away that aren’t working

There’s more than one reason to iterate:

  • We need to iterate to find the most appropriate solution
  • We then need to iterate to improve this solution

The problem is we don’t focus enough on first getting to the most appropriate solution.

It’s important to design and test different design approaches to the problem. This means that we quickly throw away things that aren’t working and move on to something else.

With our approach to prototyping in government the cost of throwing things away should be outweighed by the value of what we’re learning.

It’s only when we’re then confident enough about how well a design approach meets user needs that we should be looking to improve or iterate on this user journey.

This is my blog where I’ve been writing for 18 years. You can follow all of my posts by subscribing to this RSS feed. You can also find me on Bluesky, less frequently now on X (formally Twitter), and on LinkedIn.