The loop is created with the idea of being non-linear, the idea here is to start anywhere and cover all bases in a loop fashion. For instance, the need might arise from the customer success and it is then tested, before we further define it with the help of a prototype. As you see from this statement, the design started as soon as the customer sucess team could empathize and then we moved to testing and prototyping, so that we can further define and iterate over the intial concept.
Empathy in my process includes understanding people, these can be your users, your managers, executives anyone and everyone invovled with the design or who will be impacted by it.
Defining goals, outcomes, hypothesis to be tested, etc. all of them are important steps as they allow me to understand my assumptions better getting me closer to the desired results.
Prototyping can include any fidelity from drawing on a tissue paper, to testable prototypes in XCode. The range is bizzare and is totally dependent on the constraints for the project. How much time do we have? How much money do we have?. The goal of the prototype is to get feedback faster, so we can further improve the user experience.
Testing everything is a must. We could be testing our initial assumptions of the empathy, or defintion, our prototypes, etc. Testing is a way to move the conversation ahead and get feedback or spark new ideas. When I’m testing a prototype, the goals are usually defined i.e. the reason I’m here testing, what am I looking for?