Parallel Prototyping for Beginners

“HVAC in a Hurry” (HinH) is now itself in a hurry. After decades of happy existence as a prosperous regional supplier of heating & air conditioning services, its industry is consolidating. The CEO, Mary Condor, feels they need to either scale, combine with another firm, or gradually be out-competed into insolvency. Scaling is her first choice.

She’s brought in Frangelico DeWitt to lead a change management and digital transformation program. His charter was to take the best of what HinH has learned and to use it to improve existing operations and facilitate rapid expansion into new regions (possibly through a franchising model). While resources are scarcer than he would like, DeWitt feels up to the challenge (with a first name like Frangelico, you have to be resilient).

Frangelico and his team are working on their first digital transformation challenge: making it easier for the field technicians to find out about the availability and pricing of replacement parts. Based on their customer discovery, this was a persistent difficult for technicians in the field.

Moving Fast, Working Smart

So far, the team has drafted user stories and researched a set of user interface comparables. Now they want to push themselves to test two parallel user interfaces concepts. They know that this is common practice for high-functioning teams at places like Google, and they want to push themselves to really consider (and test) multiple possibilities now before they invest resources into development.

Based on the user stories and comparables, what are two (or more) parallel concepts that cover the entire functional space/user journey described by the user stories below?

Exhibit A- User Stories

Currently, the jobs of identifying a part, determining its pricing & availability, getting agreement on ordering it from the customer, and planning next steps were cumbersome. Frangelico and his team were currently focused on this epic user story:
‘As Ted the HVAC technician, I want to identify a part that needs replacing so I can decide my next steps.’

Based on their observations in the field, Frangelico’s team thought through the user experience of the epic with the following storyboard: hvac-epic-story

From the storyboard, they detailed out the following child stories:

User Story

Test Cases

‘I know the part number and I want to find it on the system so I can figure out next steps on the repair.’ Make sure it’s possible to search by part number.
Make sure descriptive info. appears as the search narrows (photo?) to help avoid error.
‘I don’t know the part number and I want to try to identify it online so I can move the job forward.’ Make sure it’s possible to search by make/model of units
Make sure it’s possible to search by type
‘I don’t know the part number and I can’t determine it and I want help so I can move the job forward.’ Make sure an estimate of the turnaround time for an expert to review is available
‘I want to see the cost of the part and time to receive it so I decide on next steps and get agreement from the customer.’ Make sure it’s possible to dispatch a request by email to the customer in case they order their own parts and/or carry their own inventory of spares.
NOTE: How would the customer respond so we can help structure the next steps as we would otherwise?
Make sure it’s possible to indicate priority
Make sure cost associated with priority delivery are available

Exhibit B- User Interface Comparables

Once the team has stories they feel are clear and investable, they should be asking themselves ‘What established interface pattern that our users knows will map most naturally to these narratives?’. Answering this question requires exploration and disciplined experimentation.

The team comes up with the following four ideas on functionally comparable areas:

  1. Online Shopping: This has the comparability of searching and selecting items based on both relatively general and relatively specific criteria.
  2. Used Car Purchases: This is somewhat similar to the above, but has more structure/similarity between items, which we think may be more comparable to HVAC parts searches.
  3. Photo Search: The team knows that all the searches have a visual component- even if the tech knows the part number, they want to (or should) validate the part visually against what they have in hand.
  4. General Record Search (CRM, Email): This might be interesting since it’s very robust relative to searching lots of records.

They question they’re trying to answer is: What patterns and comparable’s are applicable to our user stories?

Starting with area #1 (online shopping) they study major online shopping destination, looking at common patterns to determine what users are likely to expect:


A few things they notice across sites and which you can observe, for example, in the Amazon screen shot is the ability to see and modify the search while you’re looking at a list and the default of sorting items by popularity:


In fact, they observe many of those same patterns but with more structure/similarity in the used car shopping examples you see below. From this, they get a few ideas about how to tighten up their search ideas since HVAC parts will have much greater consistency than the breadth of items in a general purpose online retailer.



Now, the team wants to execute at least two distinct directions so now they move to area #3, photo search. Just to draw attention to the contrast with the used car search, they search for cars (Ford Focus) on these photo sites: