Case Study: Rapid Prototyping

This initial exercise in the UXDI program allowed me to explore some basic UX disciplines including User Research, Mind Mapping, Affinity Mapping, Sketching Testing, Validation, and ultimately Rapid Prototyping. Our assignment lasted four days, from initial brief to final presentation.

At the end of the process, the task was to deliver a rapid paper prototype, demonstrating not only basic navigable functionality, but also an understanding of the disciplines listed above.

User Research

Being paired with partners from class, we were tasked with conducting interviews to determine how we could build a simple mobile app to solve a problem unique to one another.

This exercise was allowed us to practice crafting open-ended questions that led to a conversational tone, rather than simple “Yes” and “No” answers to rote questions. The goal: to reveal deeper insights into the users’ needs that went beyond their stated “wants.”

After our conversation, my project partner described himself as a “lifelong gamer”, participating in rather complex board games such as “Betrayal At Hill House” and “Arabian Nights”, two games from Avalon Hill, a game maker noted for the complex strategic thought needed to play these games.

Mind Mapping

This exercise actually involved a rather rudimentary level of sketching. The mind map is essentially a paper and pencil iteration of a “word cloud” of terms related to the subject interview. I ended up with two, okay maybe more like two-and-a-half drafts of the mind map, the second of which revealed some deeper concepts to begin the affinity mapping process.

Mind Map 1 (and 1A)

After taking some time and revisiting the exercise, the tone of the words began to change.

Mind Map 2

Affinity Mapping

Essentially a sorting of key words and phrases culled from the interview, affinity mapping is another graphic expression of the key themes expressed by the subject. Grouping them in the manner shown below begins to organize these concepts is intended to reveal key insights which in turn guide design principles for the solution.

Affinity Map, or “Intro to Post-it Note origami” c. 2016

Key Insight

The mapping exercise did provide me with the insight statement that helped to fuel the rest of the design process:

“Board gamers are seeking like-minded companions for a gaming experience requiring complex strategic thought, providing them with both an intellectual challenge as well as opportunity for social engagement.”


A familiar discipline for me, but one that probably could use a bit of a refresh. A great way to simply and quickly generate and then sift through ideas, many of which many not have much merit, but can reveal a path to a soultion. This process ultimately gave birth to two main creative concepts: 
1. Gaming Friend Filter/Finder 
2. Gamer Quest

Gaming Friend Filter/Finder
Because the research revealed that there were specific styles of games the subject was interested in, the most efficient way to discover those like minded players was through a game filter feature. The filter became a core component of building the user profile.

Then using location based algorithms, the app could then link the user to either A) Other Users, or B) Venues for Gaming. Below, some first sketches used to explore the mechanism:

Sketches show exploration of path from profile builder through game filters, then to potential cohort and venue/event matches.
Greater refinement of the user path. L: Profile build, game filter, profile confirm, friend and venue/event path split. R: Deeper look on friend and venue/event path splits to task completions.

Gamer Quest
This design concept took a more fanciful approach. Leveraging gaming techniques such as character, plot and world builders, this version would create a persona for the user that would ultimately connect them with like-minded users…and yes, that’s a wizard at bottom right. Thanks for asking:

Initial sketches on persona building version.

Testing and Validation

After refining the sketches on both concepts, I revisited the subject for testing and validation on the direction which was revelatory.

On the gaming friend filter finder: This design had strong functionality, but the user did not see the friend finding component as constructed as a useful tool. One specific quote from the session was:

“I’m probably not going to text with some random person because we like the same game, but if I meet them at an event, that’s different.”

This prompted a redesign, shifting focus and functionality from “Friend Finding.” Instead, users were then given the choice of either finding a venue, or hosting a venue.

One other request made during validation. The user also was interested in the ability to see who might be attending a scheduled event. This was integrated into the event data, and actually kept the social component of the app alive.

On the Gamer Quest: Though the concept was well received (um, yeah, particularly the wizard), ultimately it didn’t facilitate the task of connecting gamers in real world encounters.


Using the web and mobile app “POP”, I developed the final working prototype for presentation, which then could demonstrate the basic functionality of the app, taking the user from profile building including zip code (to enable the location based nature of the search) and game filtering (matching with potential cohorts) At this point the user has the option of either searching for venues/events or creating and posting their own event. Below this image showing select screens from my prototype, there is a link where you can test the prototype for yourself.

A portions of the final screens from the interactive paper prototype.


For me? my first functioning prototype. For everyone else? Happy connected gaming enthusiasts. Order restored in all universes!