Effective prototyping takes a little bit of creativity. During my 'Ideas for Impact' workshop, I discussed the Odon Device – an invention by Jorge Odón that has the potential to save lives during child birth.
The Odon Device
Jorge prototyped his initial idea on his kitchen table using a large glass jar, his daughter's doll and a fabric bag sewn by his wife. This was enough to demonstrate that his concept would work in practice.
"I would like to book in for a 'understanding my child's mental health' workshop" – they will do this by picking a workshop from a list on my website and booking in.
I would argue that this part is easily tested with your target market. In fact, I would simplify this process and remove this from needing to take any development time at all. First, setup 3 mock event on Eventbrite. Now ask 5 people from your target market to try to book onto an event on a specific date after being sent the links by you in an email.
If you wanted to test a more high-fidelity version of this you could add 3 buttons to a webpage together with some short copy about each event. Then, send the link to the webpage to 5 users with a request for them to book onto a specific event.
This would test if, for your target user, Eventbrite would suffice as a booking platform for your course.
Wherever possible, look for shortcuts to development. Eventbrite reduces your costs as you no longer need to pay for the custom development of an event booking feature for your service.
The 'during' feature
"I would like to get some useful tips for having better conversations with my son" – I will work through topics on X, Y and Z, and leave them feeling confident to have their first conversation.
Testing this feature takes a bit more ingenuity.
You could test if the chosen topics gel with a small number of test readers. You can do this by interviewing users one-on-one or by running a focus group with multiple users going over some of the material with them.
A more creative way to test topics could be to create a pack of cards with the topics in and send the packs out to test users. Ask them to remove the cards they don't like and add in any suggestions they wished were in the pack.
Creativity goes a long way. The limitation of the in-person test is that in one-on-one tests the interviewee may want to please you and that might skew the results, and for the focus groups, one person may dominate the group dynamics making it difficult to know, truthfully, what a wider group might prefer. The card idea better removes outsider influence but isn't true to your planned format of service delivery. None of these tests are time consuming so I'd probably do one-on-one interviews, focus groups and the card test.
The 'after' feature
Testing user confidence
To test whether your users leave the session feeling confident enough to have a conversation, I'd await the results of the topic tests and then pick the best performing topics and host a small one-of workshop with some test users. Afterwards, I would simply follow up and see if any of them had a conversation.
Interestingly, if you did this, you would in fact have essentially piloted this concept not just prototyped it. With small projects there is often overlap between the piloting and prototyping phases.
Notes and extra
Prototyping does not need to be complicated. It also does not need to be time-consuming. What it does do is it lowers the barrier to getting something live and in-front of real users.
Prototyping does not need to be isolated to just your core features. In fact, some easy and valuable areas to test are:
How the language you will use chimes with your user group.
Whether your users are able to acheive a goal on your website (sounds straightforward but it is extremely easy to overcomplicate website experiences and thereby make acheiving even the simplest of goals frustrating).
Whether anyone would sign-up to use your service or product. This can be done with a simple landing page with a email sign-up to 'register your interest' in this service.