Contextual Design Pt. II

In part one of contextual design, I covered how to develop system and product concepts. In the second half, we’re going to focus on the details and get ready to build.

5. Storyboarding

The first thing we do is look at the data, collect the issues for key scenarios and storyboard it out. At this stage, we’re still designing the coherent human technical system. We want to make sure it works for the life of the person before we start listing any features. But, embedded in every storyboard are system implications (see where I’m going with this?).

6. Interaction Patterns & User Environment Design

As you did in step three, ‘walk the storyboards’ to abstract out the system structure, i.e. the key places that will be in the application or suite of applications. Behind every box is a list of functions. As you organize things into coherent units for the user, you know what places are going to be visible to them. From this, you will create the layout or design pattern. This is your entering assumption of what you think might work for the user, but you don’t know. To confirm your assumptions, you’ve got to go back into the field.

7. Paper Prototype Interviews

Now it’s time to mock it up in paper, not wireframes, because paper does two things: 1) Since you’re making it in less than 24 hours, the team is less invested and is more able to let it go if the user doesn’t like it and 2) Paper tells the user, “I’m not done. I’m in a co-design relationship with you. I want you to pretend you’re using this.” Watch the user do their work on the paper. They might be going along and ask, “What happens if I press this button?” Encourage them to press it and find out. Maybe they’ll say, “I want to schedule something and I don’t see how.” Respond by pulling out a Post-it, putting a few lines on it and saying, “Here’s your schedule.”

During the paper mock-up interview, the user will respond to the structure, the product concept and the layout, and you’ll get new lower-level requirements. After this, come home and interpret that data. Adjust the interface and go out a second time with a mock-up that has higher fidelity. Come home and iterate again. The third time you go out, the mock-up might be online or have wireframes. If you do this three times, I guarantee you will have something somebody wants. You will have a layout that works and a user interface that makes sense. You will also have content whose voice has been tested. Now you’re ready for the last step.

8. Visual Design & Agile Stories

Define the visual design and test it online with customers. If you’re doing Agile, do user stories.

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