Paper Prototyping 2

In this post, I want to include some examples of the real usage of paper prototyping. The following videos show that a paper prototype can be very useful and it can help to show the users or stakeholders how the application or the product will be and to test if the interaction between the product and the users is fluid and easy to learn and understand.

Paper prototype of an app for University Students

This video shows clearly how the app will be and some of its functionalities. The designers can perform a test with real users to see how they respond and interact with the application.

Paper prototype for

In this video, there are some specific scenarios for the product and the user has to perform an specific task.

Paper prototyping is a powerfull tool to present to the stakeholders and users how an application or a product will look like and how will be the interaction between the product and the users using low cost prototypes that can be refined as needed before actually coding or manufacturing the final product. The application of this technique can reduce costs and produce very useful information and feed back from the users.

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Paper Prototyping

Creating prototypes to your software can be very interesting and useful to the designers and developers. Instead of wondering if the users really need or understand their proposals, the implementation of prototypes can provide them some valuable feedback from the users early in the project also the stakeholders or customers can compare if the software meets the specifications and if changes must be made, the developers can manage them on time and not at the end of the project when everything is almost done.

One of the techniques used to prototype and to test the usability of an interface is the Paper Prototyping. This is an interesting technique that basically consists on creating a paper version of the interface manipulated by a person who ‘plays’ as the computer and a real user.

Paper prototyping has many benefits that can help the developers, designers and companies to produce and generate products with more quality and generate user satisfaction. On the other hand, this technique has some factors that can be considered negative or not well seen.

Pros

  • Allows changes on the interfaces before actually implementing it.
  • Not code required to implement a mockup of the interface.
  • Low cost
  • Finds a variety of problems before writing a single line of code.
  • Be creative and experiment with different ideas before choosing the definitive one.

Cons

  • It doesn’t generate code.
  • Users can react different to a paper prototype than a real software interface.
  • Designers and developers can be worried that the customers and users think that they are unprofessional.

In my opinion and after reading information in different sources I think that this technique is very useful to obtain feedback on time from the users about the design and also the implementation is quite simple, easy and low cost. But the designers and developers should be very careful, because low cost and simple doesn’t mean that the paper prototype would be a not understandable drawing or an ugly drawing without any kind of correspondence with the future real software.

The presentation of this kind of prototypes should be very clear, neat and correctly distributed in the space for not disturbing the mind of the user or be a negative factor in the interaction between the users and the actual interface.

As a conclusion, paper prototyping may not be the most accurate prototype of the “real final product” but it is fast, low cost and can generate important benefits to the organizations to settle correctly the scope and the final designing decisions of the project before start coding, this can save a lot of time and money. So the recommendation would be to encourage people to use paper prototypes while designing their products.

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Wide vision about usability

There are several aspects and concepts in which most of the people doesn’t think about when they are designing and developing a product, in our particular case: developing software.

The main objective should be create a great product that fulfills all the stakeholder’s requirements and has the best quality possible; the problem is that this approach sometimes DOES NOT take into account the satisfaction of the user or the accessibility degree of our product.

The factors mentioned in the last paragraph (satisfaction, accessibility) and some others factors can transform a simple product into a COOL product. The definition of a cool product is very wide and difficult to explain but the result of having a cool product is that the users identify with it.

To design something “cool” but at the same time useful and accessible is not always necessary an extraordinary idea or to create something of another world; sometimes simple things can make the design correct, easy to understand and also “cool”.

Simplicity is a factor that at first glance has nothing to do with cool products or successful products but in reality the simplicity or just having the meaningful things on your product is the best approach for a “cool” and successful product. Why? Because it is easy to understand and to easy use and therefore the public will prefer it over some other products of the same kind but more complex to understand.

     

Another factor that must be considered is the context of use. If one product can be used in several and different contexts is accessible for more people and can reach a bigger market. To make it accessible for many people and in different context of use, the designers and developers of the product have to think in different scenarios and consider several possibilities in order to create a product that can complete its functionality but at the same time can be used by many different people.

There is no 100% successful solution to create a product that is always “cool” but the correct combination between great visual design, good usability and accessibility can upgrade your product to the “cool” level and also have a bigger market and happy customers.

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Importance of visual design in software engineering

One important part of the development of a new application of software is the visual design. Mostly our users don’t know or don’t understand about the programming part or the logic followed to develop an application, they only care about their user experience and part of this user experience is the graphical interface.

From the point of view of the users, the design or the distribution of the elements that are used for the new software interface have to be easy to understand, follow a logic (standards of the industry, the OS, etc) and be related in some way to the real world in order to facilitate the understanding process of our new user. The icons have to simple and related to the actions they perform and the distribution of the components in the layout must be clear and understandable.

From the point of view of the developers, the impact of visual design and graphic design is very important and can be a headache sometimes. The most common “war” in this area is between the graphic designers and the developers because sometimes the design is really beautiful, the static is perfect but the big problem is that it is not possible to implement or some changes have to be made on it to include the required functionality. On the other hand, when the graphic and visual designs are correctly and cleanly structured can be very useful for the developers and solve or make easy to implement some functionalities.

Good Practice: Create Mockups!!

So the impact of graphic and visual design has a big impact on the results of our final product. As software engineers, we cannot say “I program and then somebody else figures out what it should look like”. As mentioned before, both parts the programming (functionality) part and also the static (visual or graphical) part are related and are part of our product; both should be correctly designed and developed.

Successful software is the one that fulfills the requirements, is available when needed and provides a good user experience.

Sometimes is better to design first

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