Paper Prototyping

This was the first time I had ever attempted to test with a paper prototype. I had only heard of this once before when I was first researching usability testing. If done right, this seems like an easy and cost efficient way to get a lot of testing done in the early stages of development.

Since this is the first time I was conduction a paper prototype I found that it was crucial to get as much research as possible. The first site that I looked at, explained the importance of prototyping.

It supported a lot of the benefits that I had assumed would come from paper prototyping. One of the things it said was, “Yes, it’s nice to start building a website or multimedia project and just see where it goes, but starting with rapid prototyping can help weed out bad ideas or help improve good ideas that are hampered by poor implementation.” As I had thought, paper prototyping is a great way to find out what works and what doesn’t work in a design, in the early stages of development. Learning this information early on will help save time later on in the design process.

I know that I took some great information out of my tests. I now know what works and what doesn’t. When I move on and further develop my design I can choose how I would like to change it.

The site also bulleted the important steps to paper prototype testing, this is what it said:

▪   Find users —These should not be other people working on the project. People with as little knowledge as possible about your design and work will provide the best feedback.

▪   Assign a person to be the computer — If you built the design entirely yourself, you’re the computer that the person interacts with. You’ll want to grab a friend to record the testing sessions so you can watch them later. If you have a team, assign one person to make your prototype respond to user inputs.

▪   Record the test — Recording a test is recommended. This doesn’t replace observing the test, as you’ll see below, but there are several reasons to record a usability test. You can refer back to it later, you can show people who didn’t observe the test how it went. If you’re trying to convince someone that a design needs to be changed, showing them a video of users struggling with a design is a great place to start.

▪   Conduct the test — Explain what users are supposed to do. Give clear tasks and scenarios. Let’s say we were testing Here is a scenario you could give a user: “You are a big fantasy book fan. You just heard a new illustrated edition of The Hobbit came out in October 2013. Find the book, put it in your shopping cart and buy it.”

▪   Think aloud — Have users think aloud while going through your test by speaking what they are doing and thinking. Are they confused? Why are they clicking on this? What do they expect to happen when they do that? This will help you understand what they are thinking while they use your prototype. It will also help you formulate questions to ask them when they are done.

▪   Observe — Even though you are asking users to think aloud, they may not say everything you need to know. Users may be struggling with a site but still tell you they think it is relatively easy to use. This can be because users want to appease you or because they don’t want to appear to not be able to work a website. Regardless, observe what is happening. You’ll learn a lot by seeing how well users can complete various tasks with your prototype. Remember, you’re testing your design, not the user. I always make this clear to users.

▪   Debrief — Ask users what they thought of the prototype, what they thought went well, what they thought didn’t go well, how they felt using your prototype, etc. If you noticed a user struggling with part of the prototype, specifically ask them about that.

▪   Create a list of issues to fix — Based on the feedback that you got from users and what you observed while watching users, create a list of issues to fix. If there are a lot of issues, you may want to modify or create a new paper prototype. If it went fairly smoothly, it’s time to create a higher-fidelity prototype and get additional user feedback later.

I made sure to reference these steps when I was developing my prototypes and my test.

The site also referenced a video that demonstrated a paper prototype test. This test was not for a phone application however it really showed the process of the test. They even gave the users paper credit cards to use. This showed me that my paper prototype had to be as close to the experience the participant would get actually using my application as possible.

The next site I saw said that wireframes do not work as paper prototypes. This confused me because it contradicted with a lot of the other things that I saw that said that this stage was made for wireframes. Although I could see the benefit of avoiding wireframes I still used them in my testing. I regretted this decision because I think it was a little difficult for my testers to use. However, I feel like I learned from the experience and will not make that mistake in the future.

The next site that I saw expressed the two major uses of paper prototypes. It said that they were:

  • To communicate ideas: between designers, developers, users and other stakeholders in the first stages of the user-centered design process.
  • As a usability testing technique: to observe the human interaction with user interfaces even before these interfaces are designed and developed.

These ideas just further supported the importance the paper prototyping has. Usability testing is crucial to a well-developed design, and paper prototyping allows this.

I then watched a few videos to get a better visual idea of how the tests are conducted, and to gather more information about paper prototyping. The first video I watched, explained the importance of paper prototyping. As designers we come up with several different design ideas, Paper prototyping is a cheep way for us to test those ideas and see what works and what doesn’t. I am using it as a way to see how the user reacts to my design. That way I could fix any confusions before it is too late.

The next video was a demonstration of how paper prototypes work. I found this very useful because I could see the method they did to cerate the changing screens.

I referenced this when creating my prototype.

The next video was another really useful video explaining how to create a paper prototype and conduct a test. I really liked how they used tape in their paper prototype tests. I was inspired by this and conducted my tests using this method.

The last video I watched showed how beneficial it is to use prototype testing. She shows the several drafts she has made just staying in this stage of testing. These changes show that she is receiving crucial feedback at a stage that is very easy to fix.

She was also very organized in her testing, and I made sure to also be this way by keeping my screens in their sections.

Here a few photos that I found as insertion for my paper prototypes:












In my redesign of my paper prototype I will make sure to take features from this design. They are all very clearly laid out and easy for the user to understand. This is something crucial that I include in my redesign. Also they are the size of the actual phone. I will make sure to reference these images. It is really important that the tests accurately portray the use of the application and size and clarity have a big affect on that.


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