How to test your ideas

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We're on the hunt for UX researchers, developers, designers, and writers to join our team of guest bloggers. As a guest blogger, you'll be invited to write about...well, just about anything you find fascinating, or specialize in, within the UX industry.

In honour of the occasion, I thought I'd share with you my technique for establishing whether my ideas are worth exploring for potential research — or baseless and best left unexplored.

Writing and brainstorming help you to separate the worthwhile from the waste

I have lots of ideas — for articles, for research, for collaboration, and for sharing information. Some of these ideas are hazy and unformed, others are a bit sharper, but regardless of how clear they are in my head, I admit that I often feel pretty chuffed at their potential for success.

It's only when I write my ideas down and try to expand on them that I'm brought crashing back down to earth — because not all (and perhaps not most) of my ideas stand up to a critical eye.

You can only turn a critical eye on your ideas if you can see them for what they are. Writing them down and pulling them apart  is a good test of whether they have substance.

Here's a process I go through sometimes to test whether my ideas are worth exploring further. It's not scientific, and parts of it are certainly not original. It's more of a critical thinking approach than a paint-by-numbers. It's purposefully broad and abstract. It is what you make it.

Follow these steps to test your ideas

1. Write your idea down

Aim for only one sentence of about 10–15 words.

2. Make your idea bigger

Expand your idea out by brainstorming, mind-mapping, listing, whatever you want to call it. Unpack each noun and verb in the sentence you've written to pull out all the nuances and see how many different avenues or significant points your idea coughs up. Don't edit yourself as you do this, because you'll get to throw a lot of it out.

(If you can't make it big or pull it apart, it may be because there ain't enough there.)

3. Make your idea smaller

Circle the 3–5 most compelling or robust points/examples/phrase/words that you've uncovered from your brainstorming. Banish the rest. Take your 3–5 points/examples/phrases/words and arrange them logically.

4. Punish your idea

Write down all the reasons you can think of why your idea is not feasible, original, or useful. Argue against yourself. Google opinions that are different from yours. Do your best to disprove your theory or your take on a topic.

Once you've established that your idea can stand up to detractors, you know you've got something solid to work with.

To publish or not to publish? If yes, we have a great platform for you

There are lots of reasons why it's worthwhile to test, expand, and write your ideas, even if you don't publish. Writing forces you to confront the things you know and assume but don't often look critically at.

If you do want to publish, the platforms are myriad, well-established, and available to you. Our blog is just one of them — and it's a good one.

Our guest bloggers write on a range of topics, and have both opportunities to complete UX research we commission, or to come up with their own ideas and topics. Here's some examples of writing by our guest bloggers:

Get in contact with us

Send an email to kathryn@optimalworkshop.com if you're interested in writing for us. We'll pay you for your content (of course) and you'll be joining a great community.

Published on Aug 06, 2014
Kathryn Reeves

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