When designing a product, it is critical that project developers consider users and their feedback during the design process, as discussed in the product selection section and IDEO’s Human-Centered Design Toolkit. For example:

  • If customers usually cook food that requires intense stirring then the stove should be stable enough to withstand it.
  • If customers cook for large quantities of people, or large quantities of food, then the stove must accommodate the size pot that they like to use.
  • If customers are worried about their children hurting themselves then it will be important to insulate the stove so that the outside doesn’t get too hot to touch, and effort should be made to conceal sharp edges.

It is also important to consider what resources are available in order to manufacture product in an affordable manner. This includes a review of:

  • Locally available materials: Is it possible to access metal easily? Is clay a plentiful resource? If not, from where could these materials be imported and how much would it cost? What other alternatives are available?
  • Locally available equipment: The selected  design should not require machines which are inaccessible to the manufacturing location. It is critical to determine what equipment will be necessary now, versus what would be ideal to have in the future. From there, it is advisable to create an investment plan to prioritize procurement.

Once the design is planned, it is time to create a prototype (or several, if you would like to test varying product components).

Testing the Product in the Market

Product options or prototype should be field tested prior to launching purchasing or manufacturing at scale so that feedback from end users can be collected and any potential issues with the product in the field can be identified early. This feedback can be collected using the techniques from the human-centered design process, which overlap with the market assessment methodology. Selected tactics include:

  • Product Demonstrations: This is an opportunity to provide many users with a chance to cook with the product(s) you’d like to test and provide feedback. In addition to understanding how users interact with the product, it is also important to note any questions or concerns coming from the users so that these issues can be understood and addressed.
  • In-Home Tests: Select key users to be given the opportunity to cook with a product for a few weeks (i.e. 2-4 weeks). At the end of the test period, this  should be followed up with a survey to understand their experiences with the product. It may be beneficial to continue to leave the products with the users so that you can return over a longer period of time; for example, it may be worth following up with some customers every quarter to evaluate how their experience with the product changes over time and as it ages.
  • Sales Trials: At this stage, the product is brought to a market to replicate an actual sales scenario. This may include an open-market day where the sales team sells the product from a centralized location, or other approaches such as door-to-door or group sales. You may also choose to use a combination of approaches. Sales figures for each product should be recorded, and users who do not purchase should be interviewed as often as is feasible to understand why. It is important to record all trends and patterns.
  • Interviews: Key stakeholders such as potential customers, vendors and community leaders will provide vital product feedback throughout this process, so it is important to interview plenty to gather sufficient data around product appropriateness and appeal.

These trials can be done on any scale, and can be repeated as often as deemed necessary. In all cases, it is encouraged to let people interact with the product as often as they can, and to place special emphasis on asking questions and listening to what people have to say. It is critical to repeat the feedback process as many times as necessary until the design fits customer needs and production capabilities.

Note: In all cases, it is critical to get participant consent before surveying.