“How can we ever create systems that enable equity, that share power, if we don’t practice what we preach in the creation of those systems?” – Laurenellen McCann

At our sixth workshop in the NYC BigApps Ideation & Prototyping Workshop series, we learned about different techniques for testing and prototyping products and services. We heard from two NYC-based entrepreneurs who have worked extensively with the communities they serve: Alexandra Meis, Co-Founder & Chief Product Officer of Kinvolved and Georges Clement, Founder of JustFix NYC and a previous NYC BigApps winner. The biggest takeaway of the session was that we need to build with our community constituents, not just for them – which includes prototyping, testing, and designing alongside our target user groups.


Before hearing from our speakers, Allie and Scott of Community x Design shared tips for moving into testing, and how to use a journey map to understand the journey that users go on when they use a product, service, or app. Allie and Scott talked through a few different ways to think about doing Prototype Testing:

  • In-Context – this type of testing is helpful to understand how users feel when they are in the context in which they would use your product or app. For example, if you are working on a transportation app, you could stand on the subway platform and get people to test your prototype as they wait for the subway. This type of testing provides real-time data and emotional information about a user’s journey.
  • Interactive Prototype – an interactive prototype can be anything from a set of wireframes or mocked up screens (built with InVision App, Marvel, Ionic Framework, or Bootstrap), a role play experience, or anything that a user can interact with to give you feedback as a designer or developer. The interactive prototype helps a team understand how users will interact with their product, service, or app either in a live, in-context setting or in a testing setting that you set up.
  • Landing Page or Website – a landing page or website prototype is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to prototype and test your concept and communicate language with users. Using a tool like Unbounce or a site like Wix, you can put up a landing page to see the response to your idea. You can also A/B test your language to see what is more appealing to potential users.
  • Draw a Journey Map – drawing a journey map of the experience of your user is a helpful tool for prototyping, as it allows you to understand the different interactions and touchpoints a person will have with your product, service, or app. We recommend using this as a tool for testing and prototyping, especially as it asks you to put yourself in the shoes of the user to describe what they are thinking, feeling, and experiencing at each touchpoint.


After highlighting these tips, we moved into our Speaker portion of the evening to hear about what prototyping and testing looks like for Kinvolved and JustFix NYC.

Kinvolved is an app working to address the attendance gap in high-risk communities in New York City and across the country by putting data in the hands of teachers, parents, and students. Alexandra shared that attendance is the strongest leading indicator of students graduating from high school, meaning this is a pressing issue for families, schools, and communities. Since launching in 2012, Kinvolved has increased high school attendance by 2.6%, which is over 13 times that of the average New York City high school. You can see more of their data online here and here.

Early prototype of Kinvolved app

JustFix NYC is a free service that helps New Yorkers get repairs in their homes through taking pictures, getting connected to community resources, and taking action through the JustFix NYC app. Georges highlighted the different ways that he and his team did testing with their app: through focus groups, interviews, and sitting in housing courts. Georges shared that ongoing feedback and community involvement is incredibly important to them which is why you’ll see Georges and the team integrated in the NYC Housing Ecosystem at all levels.


Alexandra and Georges walked us through their process of prototyping and iterating their mobile applications and what that journey looked like for both Kinvolved and JustFix NYC. The biggest takeaways from Alex and Georges were:

  • Prototyping is a constant process. The simpler the prototype, the faster you can iterate your product, app, or service.
  • Testing with your user group in a context in which they are comfortable and being sensitive of their needs is incredibly important, especially when working with a population that is at risk or often disconnected from traditional access points.
  • Prototypes should be built to be sacrificed. Nothing is sacred, and you should be quick to throw out something that isn’t working.  
  • Getting feedback is important to making your product, service, or app something that your users will love.


Join us at the last workshop on User Feedback & Learnings on April 19. This is the last workshop in our series where we will focus on live prototype testing with youth, seniors, and immigrants. Register here!