Kimberley Bottomley and James Salt on the UX and Test Cycle at Cocoon and the Building Blocks of an MVP
Kimberly Bottomly and James Salt both joined the Leeds based hardware startup Cocoon for different reasons. Kimberly is a long-standing UX specialist of some repute. She has been helping businesses improve their product usability for over ten years and also organises the super popular Northern User Experience community events in Leeds. James is a test lead who joined Cocoon to build their test system and strategy. However it wasn’t long before the pair realised a joint approach would be very beneficial to the fast and iterative way the Cocoon product was evolving.
Cocoon is a next generation home security device with an associated mobile software application. It’s an Internet of Things startup, that ran a crowd funding campaign that was 200% oversubscribed. They have been creating both the hardware and software for the past year with a target to release the product early in 2016.
To date they have been running closed user trials on their mobile application. James Salt: “it shouldn’t be a question of can we give this to users but should be given this to users” The answer to this question coming from the test data and learning from user trials. The entire Cocoon culture has been moulded around a lean thinking approach, hence the early tactic of validating their product idea with crowd funding.
Roadmap features move through their process steps from discovery through validation where tests are defined for both functional behaviour and usability, with regression tests added along the way. This is topped off with exploratory testing as needed. Kimberly Bottomly: “issues may be raised at any point through my user testing or James’ functional testing”. The issues and test results coming from early prototypes are fed back into the development cycle to inform the next design iteration.
Paper prototyping has been a useful technique to shorten their design cycle time and has become part of their ten day iteration time box with user testing given a day to produce feedback. Kimberly Bottomly: “simple guidance when doing your own early user testing is, whenever a user asks what something does respond with what do you think it does”
User testing subjects have been recruited from the Lean Startup Yorkshire community as well as Coocoon’s own twitter followers and sessions have been setup using the Doodle scheduling service. Lookback has been the tool of choice to capture user interaction and Invision to help with mockups and prototyping. Kimberly Bottomly: “I try to publish output from the testing as soon as possible to feed back into the team and the process within a couple of days”.
With a small startup testing team, finding defects can be tricky and working efficiently is important. James Salt: “as soon as I can reproduce a bug the steps are quickly recorded and a ticket raised, often with ten minutes”.
Overall their data driven, lean approach has guided the way the team does everything. James Salt: “discarding ideas at the discovery phase after early testing is so important to allow the developers to concentrate on the most crucial features and boost throughput dramatically”
A raft of questions from the audience followed together with much well wishing and thanks for the evenings insight into this growing startups process secrets.