Posts from "March, 2010"

Prototyping and Project Management going hand in hand

When managing a software project, a lot of the time goes into specifying what the software should do and what it should look like. Once the specification is written it is transformed into many small tasks that have to be assigned to different people working on this project. Designers have to develop some shiny screens, developers have to write the code in behind, maybe the UI has to be localized into several languages, just to name some. However, we all know that there is no project where the specification doesn’t have to be adjusted to new requirements. At this point many project try to adapt some facets of Scrum or other iterative approaches to keep the project manageable.

To date, there are many different tools available that support the project manager in handling all this, one of them is plan.io. We at pidoco use plan.io for quite a while right now and are really happy with it. Since we also use pidoco to create wireframes that represent the major part of our specification, it would be nice to have some kind of integration between the two systems. Having the prototype in the plan.io wiki where you can write some explaining texts around, but at the same time being able to click through the prototype to feel the intended interactions, would be great. In addition, when people comment the prototype using our review feature, most of the times it results in new tasks that we have to do in the next iteration.

From now on this becomes reality. We have developed a small plan.io app that integrates pidoco prototypes with the wiki with one click. In addition, there is a list of all discussions to the prototype, where each of the discussions can be transformed into a new task. On top of that we put all the discussions into the plan.io activity stream, which you can grab the RSS feed and get regular updates of new comments to your prototype. In order to try our plan.io app you need to have both a pidoco and a plan.io account, which you can both test for free.

As already mentioned above, there are plenty of tools out there and you are probably using a different one. However, if you let us know which one, it should be easy to integrate pidoco with your tool as well. While developing the plan.io app we also started developing an API, which we plan to publish soon, for those who would like to write their own integration. More on this is coming soon.

Synchronous, Remote, Real-Time, Internet-based Usability Tests … what for? – Part 3 –

The previous week, I posted part Two of this article.

toolsTools Which Facilitate (partially) Synchronous Remote Usability Testing:

Here I will be listing some of the tools which in some way would aid in conducting Synchronous Remote Usability testing. Most of the tools will only fulfill some of the requirements listed previously or only implement partially the methodologies above.

Online Conferencing Systems:
These tools allow screen-sharing and remote control of mouse movements and the keyboard.

Although those tools allow you to observe and control tests sessions they come with a few flaws:

  • Test-users are required to install the client software on their own system
  • Firewalls may block the software (5% of test-users experience this problem)
  • Real-time amendments of the prototype is not possible
  • The moderator can’t use his machine for other tasks whilst conducting a test (making notes is not possible)
  • Latency problems
  • Test-user can not work on a familiar desktop environment

Screen Capture Software:
These programs allow virtual recording of the test-users screen. Test sessions can be recorded and stored but hardware configurations are often insufficient which leads to lagged test results.

Video Conferencing Tools:
Video conferencing tools (Skype, MSN Messenger etc.) allow the moderator and test-user to communicate via live audio&video feeds. The downside is that the client software needs to be installed on both system. Also specific testing of prototypes is not possible and would require additional software which use-up additional bandwidth and system memory.

Presentation Softwares:
MS PowerPoint is a great tool for static presentations, is however limited in it’s collaboration and sharing features.

Video Editing Tools:
You can also create video snippets of your presentations ( MS MovieMaker, Adobe Premiere etc.) but it is a lot of hassle and will surely put you off quickly.

Online Questionaires:
Online questionnaires created with Google Form or Surveymonkey are great applications for getting quantitative feedback on your product. It is however difficult to organize and match the feedback to the right user and test session.

Since this overview on incomplete tools for Synchronous Remote Usability Testing tools could go on forever, I do not wish to withhold the solution for you guys!
A little self-promotion will follow:

pidoco° Usability Suite:
The pidoco° usability suite is an online, web-based collaborative platform which allows to create, share and test prototypes in an instance. It is a tool which combines rapid prototyping of fully interactive prototypes and has powerful collaboration features:

  • Prototype Creator (creates realistic & fully functional prototypes via drag&drop)
  • Reviewer (allows asynchronous work-flow and feedback collection)
  • Remote Usability Tester (Synchronous Remote Usability Testing with screen-sharing, live audio-feed and mouse-tracking)

Conclusion: success

It is possible to conduct user tests at an early stage. The aim for every company is to deliver their product on time and with the least hassle possible. Every year thousands of agencies spend a fortune on running all sorts of tests and still deliver products with flaws which need later amendments. The problem is that early-on, qualitative feedback is needed yet often not achieved due to budget limitations.

Technology allows us to connect to connect to people around the globe, so why not use this opportunity to run usability test session online. It will save us the cost of travel, give the test-user the comfort of staying in his home or at his workplace and create a greener world for all of us!

Product Release: Colors and Permalinks for your Prototype

This weekend we added two new features to the pidoco Prototype Creator: colors and permalinks. From now on you can choose the border and fill color for rectangles and ellipses to highlight certain areas of your prototype. We also added a semi transparent grey filling which you may use to create overlays and modal dialog boxes, similar to what you see on the screenshot.

Get a permalink to your prototype

For the second new feature we slightly modified the invitation dialog and added a new feature to the invite menu entry. In this new dialog you get three links, one points to a png image, one to the sketched html, and the third to the plain html version of your prototype. You can choose the page they will point to and copy paste the link into your wiki or send these links via chat to your colleagues.

UXcamp Europe opens tickets next Wednesday

The first European UXcamp will open the ticket lists on next Wednesday, 3rd of March. Be prepared to register and grab your ticket since we expect the tickets to be gone rather soon. However, there will be two separate lists, one for all Germans and one for our international guests, so there should be enough tickets for all foreigners. If you need some advice for booking your trip, please don’t hesitate to ask us.

To all of you who plan to give a presentation or workshop, please have a look at our Session Forum and add a note on what you want to talk about. We hope to see some very exciting sessions!