Designing Interactions — Week Two

The Rundown

The topic of this week’s studio was interaction design, the practice of designing interactive digital products, environments, systems, and services. We were to create a low-fidelity mobile app prototype via Marvel to help Citizen Science members collect data on an animal population. We used last week’s UCD model of brainstorming ideas, creating an interaction flow, and drawing out interface screens to implement this project. Everyone in the studio first thought up of targeted animals for research and the regular citizens whom would want to use the app.

(left and center) A wall of potential animal research proposals and citizen users; (right) myself with an armful of ideas

My chosen citizen was a park ranger with a focus on all the animals in the park wilderness. Their motivation for gathering this data is that it is required of them for their job to upload to the park’s website, maintain records of the animals in the park, as well as general interest in the animals they are surrounded by.

Initial user interaction prototype screens as linked together for my app

I charted an interaction flow which helped me formulate the path of each screen. I drew each of these interaction screens on one paper for ease of visibility. I wanted the app to be relatively simple so that anyone, regardless of skill, can use it. Thus, I designated three big buttons with recognizable icons to be on the first screen: one to take a picture, record location, and record sound. The data collected would incorporate a variation of the picture of the animal, the location they were seen in, a description that could be edited, as well as their vocal call. I thought it was best to include these features as the more information you have, the better you can use the data for research, understanding the wildlife in the park, and even attract more visitors if a wide variety of animals seen is formally known. I understand that not everything can be collected at once though, so I did not make it mandatory to input information in each category. Finally, I incorporated an upload button at the bottom of each animal entry so the information could be put on the web as well as enable evidence of the park ranger fulfilling their work quota.

A few of the final sketched user interface screens to be used

Looking Back

The greatest issue I had during this process was drawing out each screen for the low-fidelity prototype. While the concept of Marvel amazes me, physically drawing out each interaction screen on paper took up a large amount of my time. I do recognize the benefits of low-fidelity prototyping however as there are no coding skills required, it is cost-effective, and that it encourages user participation as well as their creativity. Nonetheless, it felt like busywork as I ended up sketching and rearranging about 50 screens. Here is where I could have improved significantly though. I could have added less detail that weren’t necessary towards the functionally of a low-fidelity prototype such as less buttons on the settings screen as well as not having 4 data entries. I was focused on making sure every little button worked and connected to each other that I made it more complicated than it should have been. For future implementation of this low-fidelity process, I would focus more on the essential necessities that make the app practical with the best design solution while spending less time on needless details that can be applied later in the project when I reach the high-fidelity point.

Looking Forward

Low-fidelity prototyping for interaction design is very useful in many aspects of developmental work. A few examples that can be said are mobile applications and websites. Apps and websites are major marketplaces for businesses as well as are both functionalities that everyone utilizes today. It would be wise to first employ a low-fidelity prototype to cultivate these digital interfaces as it is inexpensive to do, will allow for hands-on involvement, and its unofficial appearance will encourage member contributions to decide on how to best design it. It is especially useful for smaller start-ups who don’t have the necessary funds to do high-end research and design, and repeating the process if the project is to be scrapped is not too difficult as well. Sample website layouts for specific purposes can be designed this way as well through first sketching, then implementing. However, user input as well as fully researched ideas is fundamental in consumer product designs. I believe that this approach would be repetitive and irrelevant if the proper research was not done before, and if it has been, a higher quality design process would be used to implement it.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Samantha Chang’s story.