Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Try It On Paper

Creating programs and websites, software, and even hardware, entails careful consideration in terms of its user interface. Sometimes, in the planning stages of these programs, we get caught up in the big picture and are unable to foresee certain details that affect how our programs will pan out in a step by step manner.

The traditional way to develop programs is to build a prototype and test it. It would be fortunate if after testing, you will only have to do some minor revisions, if at all. The problem arises when you find out that your program has a user problem, which will entail for you to trash most of your hard work to solve the obstacle.

To help programmers and users, a user testing method called paper prototyping has been popularized by many top technology brands that boast of programs and hardware that are very user friendly.

The main difference of paper prototyping and regular prototypes is that paper prototyping utilizes paper as the medium to plot out programs. The method of prototyping is usually best conducted like a focused group discussion where paper prototypes are employed to simulate the program to be developed.

With paper prototyping, you can either utilize printouts of your wire frames or hand sketch your designs. You can even use a combination of both. Prototyping experts say that paper, scissors, glue and sticky paper are a must during the paper prototyping process.

These materials are made to simulate your programs so that through the interactive process of going through the paper prototype, you can find out if your product ranks high on usability. This paper prototyping process also saves you time and effort because it allows you outsider insight on your product, way before you even begin to actually build it. With this method of testing for usability, you will never have to "go back to the drawing boards" because you won't leave the drawing phase until all kinks are ironed out.

This method of testing is particularly useful for the production of websites, programs, and software for use in a personal computer or a mobile phone interface. You can learn a lot of valuable lessons from paper prototyping. For instance, if in your paper prototype, you find that the users testing the mock up tends to click a particular feature which was not designed to be a link, then you know that it should actually be one.

Paper prototyping can save you a lot of time, effort and cost at the planning stage, even before you begin to write codes or start building.

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