Interactive Design Process

What was done

This week, I was tasked with building a data collection application for mobile phones that allowed the user to collect and submit animal census data to be used in research projects.

First

The first thing I did was look at the requirements for the application design prototype, which are as follows:

  1. Provide the means for users to navigate between app functions
  2. Support the collection of numeric / sensor data from the phone (gyroscope / GPS / altimeter / etc.)
  3. Support the collection of textual data from users (for things like observations)
  4. Provide some kind of motivation for the continued use of the application
  5. One additional useful / interesting feature of my choosing

I then wrote a storyboard for a possible usage of the application by a suburban housewife, making sure to include all of the features mentioned above. I decided that a good motivation for continued use of the application was to game-ify it. In other words, I added a leaderboard to the application that would keep track of how many data each user had submitted and arrange them accordingly. As users submit more data, they move up in the leaderboards. I also decided that a good extra feature would be the ability to see the fruits of one’s labors. In other words, users who contributed and whose data eventually led to a published study have easy and quick access to a full copy of the study, and an expert summary of it. This both promotes the learning of the scientific process and educates the user on what their data is being used for.

Second

The second step was to figure out what screens I needed to prototype and then draw them. I settled on prototyping 8 screens, main page (active studies), leaderboards, previous studies, a confirmation page for a submitted report, a camera, a page for a numerical entry, a page for observational entries, and a page to access all the different types of data that researchers may want for any particular study.

The three main screens, Active Studies in the middle, Previous Studies on the left, and Leaderboards on the right. The user accesses these screens via the bar on the bottom.

After finishing the main screens I had to make the screens for the actual data gathering. For the sake of simplicity I put every feature into a single study, the ‘Deer’ study, so that the prototype was a little easier to construct. Once the user selects the deer study he is presented with the following screen:

The screen that allows the user to navigate between the required data reports for each study.

Location, determined by GPS is a simple toggle here. Once the user has entered all the required data (the screens for which are not included here, but are present in the prototype), he or she presses submit report and is presented with the following screen:

Report Submitted screen, the user presses the “You’re Welcome!” button at the bottom to return to the Active Studies screen.

Third

Once all the screens were done, The next step was to prototype the application using Marvel. You can view the finished Marvel prototype here.

What did I like about the process?

I enjoyed the freedom I was allowed within the constraints of the application. It was a liberating experience to be able to design an application with a specific user in mind and think of and consider things that I often see overlooked or ignored in a design process, such as clear labeling, or sensible screen navigation. I also liked the freedom it gave me during the design process to recognize possible faults that could be in my design and to redesign around them.

Where can this process be applied elsewhere?

The process of low-fidelity prototyping can be applied to a few other fields as well. Some examples would be architecture, carpentry, interior design, or any other field or task in which a malleable and temporary idea must be used in order to continue and refine the design of an object or space. In other words, low-fidelity prototyping is applicable to all forms of design where the finished product has some sort of visual element. I will absolutely use this technique in the future in order to visualize and conceptualize future projects where the end product has a visual aspect.