Paper Prototyping

The preliminary stages of app design

WHAT: What did we do and how/why did we do it?

This week I was challenged to design a data repository application for Environmental Studies majors wanting to collect animal censuses on the UW campus.

I began my design process by thinking about the basic needs of my user. This specific group of students would not only be collecting data while walking on campus but also while hiking, canoeing, kayaking, etc., therefore a simple interface with easy navigation would be mandatory.

With this in mind I used the techniques I learned from last week’s charette to map the user’s journey through the application.

Mapping the user’s journey allowed me to decide which features were necessary and which detracted from the experience

From this I was able to streamline the overall design of the interface so that it would accommodate students on-the-go.

An interface similar to that of existing weather apps instantly allows users to know how to navigate

SO WHAT: Why was this process useful?

Paper prototyping was extremely useful because it allowed me, as the designer, to play around with different ideas without being fully committed to them. Low-fidelity sketching also inspired new features because I wasn’t invested in ones that had already been developed. I was able to quickly change details I didn’t like and add improvements before I refined my designs. I enjoyed this aspect of prototyping because I was able to build on my designs to better accommodate the user unlike last week’s exploration where I had limited time to create my application.

After multiple explorations of what the app would look like, I was able to refine and streamline its final design

NOW WHAT: How and where could you see yourself applying this technique in the future?

Paper prototyping and the Marvel app in combination are extremely useful tools in the development process. It effectively allows designers to get a feel for the layout of their app and how potential users will interact with it without needing prior coding experience. Obviously this specific technique is ideal for app design but it is also extremely helpful regarding user testing. In the future it would be extremely beneficial to draw out an interface on notecards (as I have done above), input the photos into marvel, and then watch the user interact with the application. Afterwards the user would be able to directly mark and make notes on the notecards in which the app was made from. The notecards could be copied and this process could be repeated for multiple users. This would be extremely useful for designers as it gives them tangible information to work with. Although paper prototyping and the Marvel app may not be appropriate for designing physical objects it could be used in conjunction as an informational application, telling users more about the product they are viewing.

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