Throughout my career I have found it very useful to quickly create different designs and put them in the hands of users, to gather quick feedback.
Normally, I’ll start off by sketching some basic ideas straight onto paper, just to try and get all my different ideas in one place. I then find it helpful to complete some very basic competitor analysis, to see what people who are trying to achieve similar goals are doing and see if I can take any inspiration from these pre-existing designs.
Once I’ve got quite a few ideas to work with, I then move into another low-fidelity design method and will put together my ideas on Balsamic. This helps me to get a much better feel for my ideas rather than just having them on paper. I also do this step as I find it a lot easier to “play around” with my designs in Balsamic. I can test variations of designs by moving some features around the page and seeing how it would work. I find digital wireframing allows for a much more fluid design approach, where I can test multiple ideas easily.
Following on from wireframing I would either move onto Paper Prototyping (see below), or sometimes straight onto Adobe XD. I think Adobe XD is great for testing interaction, something you can’t do with basic wireframing. By being able to use XD on a mobile device is great for testing the designs with users and I find this method really effective for getting quick feedback for designs and interactions. I can quickly put together my designs from wireframing and be getting user feedback without having to start coding. I believe that this helps to focus my design on usability as much as possible.
I find paper prototyping also very useful for testing usability within designs. I also believe that paper prototyping is great as it can be as simplistic or complex as you choose it to be. When creating mobile designs, I think that I’d prefer to use Adobe XD as it’s quick and efficient for testing interactions and with it being on a mobile device, it’s a lot more effective for the user.
However, paper prototyping is great for testing and displaying interactions and is something that I’ve used multiple times with a good amount of success. When creating my Roman Hairstyles Mirror for The Yorkshire Museum, I found it very useful to create a paper prototype for my design. It was simple, showed the interactions that a user could expect and all of the options in the UI that a user could expect.
I recorded myself demonstrating the interactions with the paper prototyping and showed it to staff at The Yorkshire Museum during my user research phase and found it very useful. Staff could easily see what was planned for the system and were able to offer feedback and other functionality that they thought would be good for my designs. I also think that due to the prototyping being low-fidelity, viewers find it a lot easier to critique the design as they know it’s not the finished product and that I haven’t spent a lot of time on it.
I find that using the Arduino is great for prototyping devices, making use of a breadboard to test different functionality, which can all be thrown together very quickly. When creating the Don’t Text and Drive project, we ran into an issue where we didn’t know how we were going to allow the user to control the system. Using the Arduino, I was able to quickly put together a potentiometer (to act as a steering wheel) and a few buttons (to allow the user to “text”) and show to the group this way of allowing the user to control the system.
The Arduino IDE is very similar to that of Processing, which I’m very comfortable with, so we wrote some code to send information via one of the ports, so that Unity would be able to access it. We found that it worked perfectly and that the value of the potentiometer could be received by Unity, therefore we decided to go with the Arduino.
Being able to prototype with the Arduino was so valuable to us and allowed us to easily prove a design before fully committing to it, which was great in making sure it was what we wanted. We were then able to solder all the components together, build a custom steering wheel and package the end product together very neatly.