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Pocket Smoke Test

A Pocket Smoke Test is a method for testing mobile apps or physical products by making a simple prototype and getting hands-on feedback

Jordan Duff avatar
Written by Jordan Duff
Updated over a week ago


Method category: Evaluative market experiment

How to Use This in GLIDR

A Pocket Smoke Test is a great method for testing mobile apps or physical products by making a simple prototype and then showing the customer that prototype to get hands-on feedback.

In GLIDR, this test should correspond to an Experiment to figure out something specific about your product's purpose and usability. After you've created an Experiment, connect it to ideas that you think are relevant to this test, then run the Experiment and create a piece of Evidence - Interview for each person who tries out your prototype, adding detailed feedback or a recording to each one. Finally, assess the results of your Experiment and figure out what to change and continue testing in your project.

Learn more about each of those aspects of GLIDR:


Pocket Smoke Test

Article excerpted from The Real Startup Book

In Brief

This smoke test applies to physical goods or products with hardware components -- at minimum a mobile phone. It entails interviewing a prospect or customer, then physically pulling a prototype out of your pocket and using the prototype to drive further discussion and exploration.

Helps Answer

  • Am I building the right product?

  • Does the product have the right features or characteristics, relative to the value proposition?

  • Does the user understand the product and its structure/architecture?

  • How does the user expect to interact with the solution?

  • Does the user understand how to achieve their goals using the product prototype?

  • What constraints does the user have?


  • Solution

  • Design

  • Value proposition


This type of smoke test helps validate whether the type of solution is appropriate for the problem you want to solve. It's meant to start a discussion. You can lead with a number of questions, particularly to confirm the problem(s) you want to address.

By showing a specific solution to a voiced problem, you can go in much greater depth with questions. You can also observe how the user expects to use the product.

This is a smoke test. Treat the prototype as a conversation piece. You are focusing on the main "happy case." Is it something users want? Could it believably address their problem? It's fine for a prototype to be ugly, as long as you use it to learn something you didn't already know.

Time Commitment

Varies significantly on the actual product. On the low end, it's easy to use mobile phone mockup software to show the average person on the street a mobile phone app prototype. This takes a few hours in the hands of a decent designer using software like InVision or Prototyping on Paper (POP).You can create a simulated version using simple materials like wood and plastic, to discuss form factors for instance. On the high end, it might take a lot of time to design and source custom parts, in order to build a prototype that addresses a specific pain point.

How To

  1. Roughly sketch how the product should look. This can be very simple or a full electronics blueprint.

  2. Build or assemble the product (manually, 3d printing, Arduinos and Raspberry Pis, sensors, breadboards, etc)

  3. Show it to prequalified customers who have the problem you want to address.

Interpreting Results

Ask lots of questions about what the user would find valuable. Hone in on how your prototype differs from how they solve their problem(s) currently.

Potential Biases

You don't need to be able to mass produce the prototype in order to run this smoke test. Scaling requires a different set of tests. Also you don't need to be overly concerned about production costs and revenue at this stage. You just want to get an idea of user expectations.

Field Tips

Case Studies


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