Posts in "Usability"

Academic research project on collaboration

Global management and technology consultancy Accenture has named collaboration one of the top technology trends that hold the most potential to transform businesses over the next three to five years. Collaboration can help businesses improve their products, work more efficiently and deliver better service to their customers. With the right tools, collaboration can be a breeze, but not all tools work equally well.

A current research project conducted by Ilker Berkman at the Software Engineering Department in Bahcesehir University has taken this insight as a promt to assess the user experience of collaboration functions in various applications. One of the applications the study is looking at is Pidoco. In particular the study will investigate how the collaborative functions of Pidoco are perceived by our users. The collaborative functions of Pidoco allow users to invite other people to view and review prototypes. They also enable users to work on prototypes in real time as a team. The review process helps users share ideas with designers and clients, while collaboration through teamwork lets designers manipulate designs along with their colleagues.

The study will provide insights that will be valuable for researchers in the field of Human Computer Interaction but also for us at Pidoco as we strive to provide the best collaborative platform for our users. Therefore, we are happy to support the study and invite our users to participate in Ilker’s survey.

Ilker Berkman writes: “To assess the user experience related with the above collaborative functions, our research study aims to develop a scale. Usability scales, which are sometimes called standardized questionnaires, have been widely adopted in assessment of human – computer interaction for decades. Existing scales focus on the assessment of a single user’s perception of quality during her interactions with a computer system. However none of those scales are capable of assessing the teamwork aspects of collaborative systems. The aim of our research study is to develop a scale that is capable of assessing quality of use during collaboration.”

Ilker Berkman sees Pidoco as the best platform for this type of project, because of its collaborative functions and because of our worldwide users who are specialists in the field of usability and user interface design. Users who have experienced the collaboration features on Pidoco are invited to participate in the survey. Your experience and feedback is invaluable for the Pidoco team and academic researchers involved in the study, s we would really appreciate it if you could take some time out of your day to fill out the survey. Thanks a lot!

The longer you wait, the less you test

The following is a guest post by Reto Lämmler, CoFounder and CEO of TestingTime. Enjoy the read.

To get interaction design right, we prototype and test with users. It mostly starts with pen and paper, sketching a first prototype which gets tested with friends and coworkers. Once the first interaction flaws are discovered, we iterate towards HiFi prototypes using tools like Pidoco. Every iteration requires user testing in theory, but do we really do that? Do we take the time to recruit the right people?

I have done many prototypes and user tests in the past. For me, the best user tests are always those which give me the big “AHA” moment. When I discover a problem which I never thought would be a problem for test users. It’s an exciting moment and reinforces how important user testing is.

testingtime

Though, I discovered one interesting thing. Interaction and visual designers are not always keen to test their prototypes with users. Everyone talks about it but not so many really do it. Why is this? I have come to 2 conclusions:

We want to make it perfect, before we show it

We constantly think, it’s not good enough before we show it to anyone. The longer we wait, the more we get stuck in this mindset. We become afraid of getting critical feedback which may throw our work upside down and the invested time turns into waste. Our assumption of “perfect” is based on our mental model and usually doesn’t match with the one from your target users. Break that barrier as early as possible and make it a habit to show and user test your work starting with your first scribbles.

It’s too cumbersome or we are simply too lazy

We know that we should carry out user tests, but we don’t practice what we preach. Sometimes we don’t have time and postpone it for later. Recruiting test users can be very time consuming and cumbersome. This is why we invented a crowd-based recruiting service called www.testingtime.net. It’s takes you less than 5 minutes to order your desired test users for moderated remote user tests. It’s not only fast, it’s also inexpensive. Using TestingTime, you can carry out rapid user testing for every design iteration you go through.

Looking for test users for your next usability test?

If you need test users to test your Pidoco prototypes, why not try out TestingTime’s recruiting service to find test participants from your target audience without the usual hassle. Visit TestingTime or email support@pidoco.com for more information.

 

About the author: Reto Lämmler is CoFounder and CEO of TestingTime. He graduated with a BS in Computer Science and an MAS in Human Computer Interaction Design. Prior to TestingTime, Reto was Doodle’s VP Product Management. Reto also lived and worked for 6 years in the Silicon Valley, CA.

Why there is More to Usability than Just Checklists

The following is a guest post by Dominique Schmidt, UX consultant at Apliki. Enjoy the read.

Through our work as a Psychological IT-Consultancy for User Experience (UX) we are often confronted with the request to make sure the clients’ product “achieves overall usability”. Through further exploration of the expectations behind this assignment we usually come to the conclusion that people expect a checklist-like tool, to ensure they meet usability standards. Of course this somehow reflects the guidelines approach of the DIN EN ISO 9241-11 and a number of checklists aiming to give non UX professionals the opportunity to quickly enhance the usability of their product. Small measures can often change a lot for the better. Yet, this approach falls somewhat short of what real usability means. There is not one kind of usability. On the contrary, usability is highly dependent on the context of use of a product (DIN EN ISO 9241-11). Before we explore this notion further, let’s have a look at where this understanding of usability originates from.

What is in usability checklists?

The task of matching human behavior with machines is indeed a difficult one. For decades this question had been pretty much ignored and it is only in the relatively recent times of software development that the immense importance of this has gained widespread support. As a rule of thumb, one could say that the more potential mistakes there are for one topic, the easier it is to spot at least the most prominent ones. This also holds true for software usability. By following simple rules you can avoid the most common mistakes. This can be by avoiding certain UI elements that have proved to not work very well or by placing information in a structured format. These kinds of tips and tricks are especially well known because they can provide the answers to questions such as: “Does this work?” In addition, there are well known lists of usability heuristics (one of which is promoted by Jakob Nielsen). They provide more general guidelines to ensure “learnability” – defined as how easy it is for users to accomplish easy tasks on their first encounter with a design. The critical point is that these so-called heuristics do not work in a vacuum, but rather are dependent on the context of your software for valid application (remember the DIN EN ISO 9241-11). This leads us to the shortcoming of all- too simple usability rules.

 

Analysis of requirements, User Interface design, implementation, user test

What are you going to miss with usability checklists?

Software does not stand alone. It is built to fulfill a special set of tasks. These are to be done by a group of target users, bringing with them their very own skills, technology orientation, expectations and – not to forget – apprehensions. It does not end here. The product’s use will take place in situations loaded with influencing factors such as distracting noises, high stress-levels, shared office spaces or varying display sizes, to just name a few. All this (and more) is summed up in the context of use and without exaggeration it has to be named the central concept of user friendly software. It is only under the consideration of these factors, that the most important questions of true usability can be properly answered. To reframe the above question: “Does our product enable our target users in the specific situation of use to fulfill their tasks?”

How to get there?

The key to success in defining your specific usability goals lies in two factors: research and documentation. Asking the right questions and pulling together the best data available helps you gain a valid understanding of your users and their environment. This understanding is then put into artifacts such as personas, goal descriptions, scenarios and UI-prototypes ensuring the whole team shares a common understanding of the product’s focus. Using these documents as a basis for every decision and conducting user tests of your prototypes will make sure you achieve optimal usability.

Dominique Schmidt is a UX consultant at Apliki, giving workshops on the user- centered-design process and accompanying the development of software products. He writes about the psychology of usability engineering and UX design on the Apliki blog at http://www.apliki.de/uid/blog

Feel free to contact him in English or German at info@apliki.de

A New Year’s Compilation Of Usability & Wireframing Poetry

We have moved well into the new year, and this is a great time to briefly pause and look back at the year 2010, which has been a remarkable year in many ways. It’s been exciting, to say the least, with Facebook becoming the most frequented website on the world wide web, Google Android mixing up the mobile market, the number of mobile internet users growing massively, Twitter becoming a viable communication channel for established businesses, and cloud services really starting to take off as companies like Microsoft, IBM, or SAP have followed Amazon into the virtual world.

What role do topics like user interface design or usability play in this setting? Well, with more and more services going “cloud” or mobile, most companies have noticed that traditional interface design concepts need to be reconsidered, not only because navigation patterns differ when you are using software in a web browser or on the small screen of a mobile touch device, but also because the competition is becoming ever more intense online and in the mobile market.

To pay tribute to the rising significance of great user interface design, we have started creating poetry that plays on the variations of UI design topics. Here are a few of the diamonds in this modern category of usability and wireframing poetry. Enjoy!

 

Ode to the Usability of Interface Designs

Though still unfinished pride of expertness

Thou wireframe of an interface design

A rapid paper prototype used to express

Ideas of layouts and navigation that lurk in the mind

What icons and buttons envelope thy shape

Of links and portals that strive with growth

through the fiber optic cables of an ISP

Streaming gigabytes of info with ease for you and me both

What mad pursuit ever since the struggles of Netscape

When the ripe World Wide Web became destiny

 

Interfaces designs are sweet, but those uncluttered

Are sweeter:  which is a reason why users stay on

When a website is clear it becomes more endear’d

Leading to increased visits and subjective satisfaction

Being used with great ease and not wanting to leave

Accomplishing tasks with minimum error scares

Knowing I can recover if something goes amiss

Though winning near the goal – yet, I do not grieve

For using this graphical user interface design is bliss

With a high level of memorability, this interface design is a breath of fresh air!

 

Based on “Ode to a Grecian Urn” by John Keats

 

 

Ode to a Skinned Interface Design

I went to the link my friend sent me,

And I saw what I never had seen;

An ad banner was built in the midst,

Where I used to click on the screen.

 

With no choice but to scroll down I did frown,

My friend’s interface design was upside down,

Like a tourist with no clue I looked around lost in town,

‘Cause there were no breadcrumbs to be found.

 

A millisecond too long I located local navigation,

Thinking ‘they sure could use a wireframe tool for their creations’.

With findability resolved these usability problems would dissolve

And, in tow, his search engine ranking would evolve.

 

Based on “The Garden of Love” by William Blake

 

 

Instant Interface Design Sorrow

My mother groaned, my father wept:

Into their shopping cart unwanted things leapt,

Helpless, overcharged but arrestingly proud,

Feeling like a fiend was hid in ‘the cloud’.

 

Who to blame when the mouse was in my father’s hands,

Well poor usability & interface design will hurt a brand,

Placing the ‘Cancel’ button a nanometer from ‘Buy’ is not best,

Especially with a return policy worse than the rest.

 

Based on “Infant Sorrow” by William Blake

 

The original idea behind these poems was to adapt famous poems and use them to shed light on issues that affect usability, wireframes, wireframing tools and user interface design. If you have some suggestions of poems that you would like for us to interpolate during the coming year, please feel free to leave a comment with your request in it.

 

Wireframe fidelity – Why does it matter?

Do you use wireframes in your interface design projects? If so, you may have found yourself debating just how detailed your wireframes should be. In this article I shall explore the concept of wireframe fidelity and how wireframing affects the usability of a user interface in software and/or website design. Deciding which level of fidelity in your wireframes would be most advantageous to you and your project can be pivotal in ensuring success. Experts are still debating the distinctions of wireframe fidelity and whether high or low fidelity is the way to go. In the following paragraphs I will go through the differences in wireframe fidelity and the benefits they carry.

Why use Wireframe Prototypes?

When designing websites or software applications paying attention to a great interface design is key, since the graphical user interface is the part of your software that users see first and use to interact with it. In order to achieve a great interface design, the use of wireframes during the design phase has become a valued method. A wireframe (sometimes referred to as website wireframe, software wireframe or application wireframe) is a visual representation of the projected content and structure of a graphical user interface and is an essential step on the way to a great interface design. It is easily understood by all stakeholders and can serve as communication aid. Much like an architect’s blueprint plans wireframes are an invaluable tool when creating software or websites with a solid foundation. In the same vein, they should be used long before the first bricks (or programming code in this case) are set.

Further Considerations of Using Wireframes.

Wireframes allow a project’s stakeholders to have a vision of what to strive for and are particularly useful in the collaborative process as they ensure that team members can easily understand a software concept and can keep track of a project’s workflow. Popular use cases for wireframes include improving usability through early user tests, involving non-technical key stakeholders early on in the development process, or communicating with developers and designers for planning purposes. The level of detail in a wireframe prototype is referred to as wireframe fidelity and can be in either of two main guises: low fidelity or high fidelity. (Some even distinguish three types, including medium fidelity wireframes.) Knowing which fidelity to employ is of crucial importance as the investment in creating them in terms of time, cost and expertise required varies tremendously.

What are Low Fidelity Wireframes?

Low fidelity wireframes are wireframes that focus on the essentials of a user interface: layout, structure, Information Architecture –  and not graphic design! Low fidelity wireframes evolved onto computer screens from rapid paper prototyping wireframes which emerged in the mid 1980s to become a popular Blue Chip company tool by the mid 1990s. Rapid paper prototyping involved the creation of rough sketches (often drawn by hand) of graphical user interfaces as prototypes of software applications to visualize and test usability long before the coding process began.

Example of a low-fidelity wireframe

What is an example of using Low Fidelity Wireframes?

A real life example of successful paper prototyping stems from the mid-90s when e-commerce was beginning to take off and Priceline.com was introducing a service that allowed consumers to submit a bid for a plane ticket along with a credit card. How could they convince users to trust their credit-card details to an as-yet-unknown website? Paper prototyping showed the team that their initial design would have been a failure, allowing them to correct the problems before launching the site. They also discovered that users didn’t need some of the hard-to-implement features they had included. Paper is a readily available resource, but not easy to change or adapt. Hence, nowadays, digital solutions like “digital paper prototyping” with specialized wireframing software are often used in iterative processes as they tend to be more efficient.

What are the benefits of using Low Fidelity Wireframes?

Low fidelity wireframes have many benefits. By eschewing many cosmetic factors they are relatively inexpensive and quick to create or alter. This allows for collaboration as suggestions and refinements can quickly be added to a number of variations very cheaply. Furthermore, low fidelity wireframes are useful in gathering great feedback because their rather rough appearance makes it clear to viewers that they are talking about a draft that is easy to change, rather than an almost finished product, thus inviting honest and unrestrained feedback. In addition, the lower level of detail allows you to focus on fundamental usability issues of your product. When using low fidelity wireframes for usability tests, testers can also give you qualitative feedback that really focuses on usability rather than being distracted by, say, the color of the fonts used. Yet, some critics caution that the level of abstraction may be difficult for inexperienced users. Once usability has been tested and polished, beautiful designs may be added onto a solid foundation that maximizes user experience.

Here you can find an interesting article on sketched wireframes.

What are High Fidelity Wireframes?

High fidelity wireframes (often referred to simply as high-fidelity prototypes) are very close in design to the true representation of the final user interface design. As such, they tend to include slick and polished design features and even go as far as simulating in much detail an application’s workflow or even logic. Despite pixel-perfect good looks a high fidelity wireframe remains but a prototype, however crisp it may look and feel. Due to their high level of detail, high fidelity wireframes tend to be more costly to create and usually take much more time to compose. They may also require more experience, sometimes even technical expertise, and can hinder the feedback process as testers or clients may be distracted by design features rather than focusing on usability. In addition, test users as well as clients may be more hesitant to critique a design done by a professional, which looks like it would require a significant amount of time to change. Fears that such changes may result in higher project costs are not uncommon and may skew feedback, which makes it very important to explain the purpose and method used in creating high fidelity wireframes before soliciting feedback. Advocates of high-fidelity wireframes find that aside from running usability tests, they enable quicker understanding of decision makers.

An examle of a high-fidelity wireframe.

An examle of a high-fidelity wireframe.

What are the benefits of High Fidelity Wireframes?

On the positive side, high fidelity wireframes share many of the same advantages with low fidelity wireframes in general but have their own benefits in particular. High fidelity wireframes are usually used in addition to low fidelity wireframes, and after the latter have been used to resolve the most impactful and fundamental usability or interface design problems of an application. Being eye-catching and less costly to create than full-fledged applications, high fidelity wireframes can be used to impress clients who have to sign off on a concept quickly. Since they tend to require less programming knowledge than coded prototypes, high fidelity wireframe prototypes can be composed by users with limited programming knowledge. As they are closer in design to the final product, clients can quickly understand the final look and feel of an application without extensive verbal explanations. The high level of detail reduces the amount of abstraction required by non-technical stakeholders, which – depending on personal experience – may be important in some scenarios. In terms of your development team, high fidelity wireframes allow you to collectively bring an interface to life. This helps in keeping a project’s budget manageable which in turn further satisfies clients. Whether or not high fidelity wireframes are necessary or beneficial depends on the particular project at hand and your goal in using them. One should think about the costs and the benefits of creating detailed high fidelity wireframes beforehand. Sometimes, it turns out that it is faster to go from low fidelity wireframes to programmed code directly.

Which type of Wireframe should one use?

As can be seen from the short portrait above, each type of wireframe has its own advantages. It is often not an “either or“ decision which type of wireframe to use. Instead, both types are useful for different purposes and can be used consecutively in a project. It really depends on the goal or use case at hand and the budget of a project. Yet, if you have to choose one type, the low-fidelity wireframe tends to offer a better cost-benefit ratio as it is quick to create and sufficient to resolve the most urgent usability issues in user interface design which may be the most decisive factor affecting the success of your software. Or you could try “real wireframes” – low-fidelity wireframes augmented with some graphic design elements that help a user who is not familiar with the project understand the wireframe more quickly despite its abstractions.

What fidelity do you prefer in your prototypes?

More on when to use low vs. high fidelity:

http://www.uxmatters.com/mt/archives/2007/03/wireframing-with-patterns.php

http://www.boxesandarrows.com/view/what_an_ia_should_know_about_prototypes_for_user_testing

A nice slide show on wireframes:

http://www.slideshare.net/piksels/wireframes-and-interaction-design-documents-presentation

Synchronous, Remote, Real-Time, Internet-based Usability Tests … what for? – Part 2 –

So What About Synchronous Remote Usability Testing?

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

In order to integrate the user into the design process at the earliest possible date, it is customary to develop a low-fi prototype which will allow initial evaluation of the overall design. We are however faced with a problem if we want to combine the qualitative feedback of synchronous usability testing with the advantages of non-biased remote testing. How can both approaches be combined?

Yet again, technology should hold the answer to this question:

rut-en

Requirements for Synchronous Usability Testing:

  • test-user and moderator need to be connected via the Internet
  • a shared screen needs to be in place for both to view the prototype
  • a live audio connection should be in place for synchronous communication
  • the data of the test-session needs to be recorded (audio, video recording of all mouse movements)
  • recorded data needs to be stored for instant retrieval

Optional requirements which may increase the quality of the session:

  • information and tasks should be visible to the test-user
  • moderator’s ability to integrate questionnaires which the user can fill in his own time
  • the moderator can change parts of the prototype whilst conducting the test
  • comments and annotations can be included on-the-fly
  • test-user and moderator can be connected via a live video-feed

Usability Test: Methodologies

The overall test should allow the following methodologies:

  • Thinking Aloud (test-user must think aloud and express what he thinks or misses in the prototype)
  • Wizard of Oz Prototyping (the prototype can be changed on-the-fly for instant ratifications)
  • Team Observation: (the rest of the production team follows the usability test, make notes and come up with alternatives)
  • Formal and Informal Tests
  • Click-path Analysis
  • Use of Questionnaires

Next week, part THREE of this article will follow.

Synchronous, Remote, Real-Time, Internet-based Usability Tests … what for? – Part 1 –

The article will be posted in 3 parts -which should be released a week after another.

Developing a software application is a creative and complex process. It becomes specially challenging when trying to design an interface which suits the end-user. Designers, project managers and programmers all have different views on how to approach their common goal: a successful, stable and user-friendly design.

gantNow let’s be honest: how many of you have met their targets on time and within budget? How many of you have spent sleepless nights because of unforeseen problems which came up in the very last minute?

I bet there are a few of you and one of them is me!

Most problems come up at a stage where a lot of design and programming work has already been invested. These problems become apparent when the test-users start getting their fingers dirty and as soon as they uncover flaws with your work, a lot of heartache will follow. User-tests are necessary yet are often deployed when it is ‘nearly too late’. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a keen supporter of usability tests but I believe that the traditional ways of running such tests are outdated.

The user should be included in the production process as soon as possible. The sooner this happens, the less time and money you will spend on conducting usability tests since you will be able to spot the flaws at an early stage. Makes sense, right?

So why do we keep insisting on setting up expensive test labs and pay thousands of dollars for expensive equipment and spend time and money in finding the right test-users? I want to present you a different approach to user-testing, a way which may very well change your attitude towards the established forms and also a way which can save you from those troubles mentioned earlier.

In order to gain the feedback you need, it always helps to gather qualitative data of users which can test your product in the right environment. Having housewifes, students or seniors sitting in your office and trying out that new e-commerce website for your client isn’t the way forward, or is it? Well, i think it is defenitely more safe and reliable to let them stay at home and do it from their own desk. Why ruin that new test-rig if you can get your test-users to work remotely?


Remote Usability Testing

Remote Usability Tests are conducted in the natural environment of the user (e.g. at home).

The fact that it is conducted remotely and not in a lab environment has a lot of benefits:

Synchronous Usability Testing

Laptop Handshake 2

Synchronous Usability Testing is a well established approach for running qualitative Usability Tests.

As the name suggests, synchronous testing is done on a one-to-one basis and in real time. The test-user will be running tasks set by the moderator which then can be closely monitored and recorded. The moderator’s difficult task is to interpret and evaluate the test-user’s problems with the product. This is not an easy task and it takes a lot of experience and well refined ability to use the feedback in the most effective way possible. This is why synchronous Usability testing is often done with low-fi prototypes – therefore early testing is possible.

The advantages of Synchronous Usability Testing are:

  • allows moderator to guide the user
  • produces qualitative feedback
  • questions can be solved on the spot
  • UX flaws can be spotted at an early stage

Next week, part TWO of this article will follow.

UXcamp Europe 2010 taking place in Berlin next May

UX Camp Europe 2010
The first UXcamp was a huge success if you read some of the blog articles from last summer (read the review from centigrade or have a look at the German blog feedback). That was encouragement enough to lift the UXcamp to the next level by opening the event to an international audience. This makes it UXcamp Europe 2010.


We still follow the BarCamp principle to bring together the European community for User Experience, Information Architecture, Usability, Interaction Design, Visual Design, and everybody who feels himself dedicated to the user of products and services. In case you fit somehow to that description, please join the UXcamp network and prepare yourself for a trip to Berlin on 29th and 30th of May 2010. The registration for the single days and the UXcamp party is planned to open next month. The concrete date will be published in our network once we decided which day.

Since we want to welcome participants from hopefully every country of Europe, we introduced the concept of Country Ambassadors. If your country is not yet represented by an ambassador, please let us know. The only thing you have to do as an ambassador is to spread the word and connect your local community with our network. We are sure this will be an exciting event to be for everybody!

Usually, a BarCamp is free to the participants to provide everybody with the possibility to join the event and participate by giving a session, discussing with the others, or simply by giving a hand whenever necessary. However, this requires us to cover the expenses with sponsorships. If your company is active in the User Experience field, or if you think your company should get active, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We are thankful for every support we can get!

If you  are still in doubt whether you should travel to Germany next May, there is also the International UPA Conference, taking place in Munich from 26.-28. of May, which is right before the UXcamp Europe. Oh, and two weeks before there will be the (German) IAKonferenz in Cologne. And if you’d like to extend your stay in Berlin, right after the UXcamp Europe there will be the Webinale, another gathering for all the Web geeks. So, plenty of events to go to next May.

The Beauty of Web-Based Paper Prototyping -Part 3-

The previous week, part TWO of this post was on the benefits which digital, web-based prototyping will make exportation and presentation easier. This FINAL part will show you how iterations can be made easy and that using digital solutions will in fact help against the fight of global warming.

Quick Iteration: share

One of the main benefits of using the digital solution is the possibility to make us of quicker, easier and cost-effective iterations. But this will only happen if the prototype can be adjusted to new requirements in an instant. Digital paper prototypes can be re-used and won’t have to be created all over again once a new iteration starts. You simply have to adjust specific elements once and then apply those changes to the rest of the prototype, that’s it.


Sustainability: green

The average usability testing project leaves a footprint of approximately 250 kilograms, or 0.25 a tonne of CO2. That may not seem much but that is close to amount of CO2 emission as a 3 hour flight. Usability testing is universally seen as the best way to improve a system’s ease and satisfaction of use. If one usability test itself emits the equivalent of a 3 hour flight, there clearly are considerable gains to be made! In an ordinary usability test, someone travels from his/her location to a laboratory or office where they interact with a test facilitator. Normally this takes about an hour and the process is repeated with 7 to 10 people.

The carbon emission for a usability testing project is based on an average of 10 participants, with each participant traveling 20 kilometers return to get to the test and spending 1 hour with the test facilitator.
More on: http://www.prnewswire.com


Conclusion:

By making use of the newest technologies it is now possible to make the shift from paper-based prototyping to digital or web-based prototyping. User-centered design, sharing of ideas, iterative work-flow, collection of feedback and collaborative work are all aspects which speak in favor of implementing such process. Developers, designers, clients and test-users alike can benefit from working on digital prototypes which engage them from the very first idea. Unnecessary iterations which often confuse and hinder continuous work-flow can be a thing of the past since everyone will be up-to-date. Test-users can work in their natural surrounding whilst the design team can make changes on-the-fly.

Overall, web-based prototyping can only be beneficial for all parties involved. Also, since using excessive sheets of paper can be a thing of the past, it will be a make our planet a little greener.

The Beauty of Web-Based Paper Prototyping -Part 2-

The previous week, part One of this post was dealing with some of the core ideas of why classic paper prototyping is no longer sufficient. This week, I will talk about why versioning of prototypes and the ability to acces, export and present the results are a necessity.


The Need for Digital Prototyping:

Conference TableThat big round table to which everyone gathers around can never be big enough! The bigger the table becomes, the more sketches and papers are on the whiteboard, the bigger the chance of losing out on some detail. A reasonable alternative would be making use of digital prototyping and to have that table digitized (including the papers, sketches and the words being said). Why keep working with the whiteboard, stacks of paper which have to be carried around the office? Digitizing the work and all what comes with it would make the chaotic meetings a thing of the past. Using a digital solution is a  way which allows collaborative work-flow to be fully recorded, ammended, shared and viewed at at given time.


Team Work Challenge:

collaborate

One of the requirements for successful team work is to administrate various versions of the same prototype. Versioning of prototypes has two meanings within this context:


(1) the different stages in development process which can be accessed at any time
(2) different versions of the same prototype

Once several people work on the same prototype the need for digital versioning quickly becomes apparent. While one is already working on the CSS, the other is still in the process of developing the menu bar; now can you see what may go wrong? Using a tool which gathers all the different process and work-flows of the various co-designers will help to unite the project into one single application and help the collaborative flow. Real-time collaboration will ensure that misunderstandings and miss-communication are reduced to a minimum. A team which works from different locations and on different elements within the same project are in dear need of such a tool!


Presenting the Results:

Once a prototype is finished, the real work starts. The prototype will be used for extensive usability tests, will be used for presentations and is part of the developers specification. All the various players need access to the prototype which again needs to be in various formats. Since it is pivotal to have a prototype ready for presentation, viewing and export, it should be digitized and ready-accessible on the Web. Well, not accessible to all, just to the one’s involved in the process of course!

Usability tests need to be run and an interactive and/or clickable prototype must be easily accessible to the test users. Furthermore, if qualitative feedback is what is needed, a moderator also would need to access the prototype without a problem. In addition, the developers and the rest of the design team must be able to quickly ‘click through’ and be able to make some minor changes if needed. This is why a prototype needs to be open to all the people involved, needs to be updated in real-time and be exportable to any format and at any time!


Part THREE will talk about the benefits of digital iteration cycles and talk about the positive impact digital prototyping can have on our environment. Hope to see you there!