The Basics of Paper Prototyping

Paper prototyping allows early testing of a UI design for any kind of software. The simplest method is drawing a user interface or a series of “screens”.

This post is a recap of the Scrum User Group meeting on February 5, 2014, in Karlsruhe.Paper prototyping

During the workshop, the participants were shown some sample drawings and then could put the theory into practice, by developing a paper prototype for a restaurant app.

So, what is actually paper prototyping? This method allows for early testing of a user interface design for any kind of software. The simplest method of paper prototyping is drawing of a user interface or a series of “screens” the end-user will see. The clear advantage of this method is that it saves a lot of money and time in testing and trying out different designs before the actual development has taken place.

Some important things to remember whilst applying paper prototyping are:

  • It is better to have cross-departmental teams involving somebody from an IT, a designer, a usability specialist and possibly a marketing/sales specialist. Only in this way it is possible to evaluate the ideas from a 360-degree angle. As an example: often a small change in the design requires a lot of extra work for the IT that could be avoided if the prototype had been discussed by the whole of the development team from the very start.
  • The initial design should be kept simple, without much detail (e.g. the texts can be omitted first),  the main focus should be on the layout and functionality of the software.
  • Paper prototyping naturally has limitations in comparison to the testing on the devices, e.g. interactivity or performance on different screen sizes. These parameters should definitely be kept in mind as an adjustment in the design may be required later.
  • Remember that one picture often says more than a thousand words. Do not be reluctant to draw, even if you think you are not good at drawing. In essence, most  Graphic User Interface (GUS) elements can be depicted using simple geometric forms, e.g. “a trash bin” is nothing more than a cylinder with a parallel line with a dot on top of it.
  • Consider the user journey in developing your paper prototype. Does the user expect a “next” button at the top or bottom of the screen? Does he/she find a confirmation screen helpful? Though it is nice to be creative, the usability and clarity of your GUS  should be the primary goal.

All in all, paper prototyping is important in the initial stages of a software development process, and if done accurately, helps to save a lot of effort during the development stage.

 

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Two Types of Online Users: Simplifying the Segmentation

Below I will describe a simple approach to customer segmentation online, based largely on behavioral characteristics.

There are numerous approaches to customer segmentation, some of which include a lot of hard and soft factors and fracture the customer base down to “a segment of one”. However, this micro-marketing is hard to apply in practice: modern online marketing is largely data-driven and the problem is rather to generalize and structure the massive amounts of user data and to incorporate it in simple procedures that you can actually manage and apply.

Below I will describe a simple approach to customer segmentation online, based largely on behavioral characteristics. All users can be subdivided into two groups. There is empirical data by Yandex proving the existence of these two user types, as well as some surveys  such as the one by Novomind  introducing the subdivision of online users/buyers into two main types.

Let us see how the theory can be applied to understanding the user behavior and conversion on a website.

Segment 1: “Experimenters”

Type 1 users, “experimenters”  or “synthetical” type are driven by emotions rather than reason.

  • They tend to “skim” through the page or read it “diagonally” paying attention to the parts that stand out or create a structural break in the page.
  • They are more likely to click on a CTA that is three-dimensional, large or made in contrasting colors.
  • They seldom read the text attentively and are not moved by detailed explanations.
  • If offered a choice of products, they make their decisions rather quickly without much scrolling and clicking, though having a lot of choice is important for them.
  • They tend to break off if prompted to type in extra data, or if forced to do extra clicks.
  • They leave the page rather quickly if they do not find what they want immediately.
  • They are often on the lookout for new, innovative or exclusive products.
  • They are prone to do spontaneous purchases if offered a good deal on the spot.
  • They seldom make repeat purchases and have less customer loyalty to an online shop.
  • These users are slightly more likely to be male or younger users.

Segment 2: “Readers”

Type 2 users, “readers” or “analytical” type tend to be more consistent and methodical when navigating a page.

  • They normally navigate the page “top to bottom” thus paying attention to less “visible” elements
  • They make less spontaneous clicks.
  • They react to CTA’s that match the background design of the page, as this makes them more “trustworthy”.
  • They tend to look thoroughly through the website and need time to make a final purchase decision.
  • They get irritated if the website lacks a clear structure or if there is too little information about the products or services.
  • They often  break off the buying process if feeling insecure about their personal data or feel pressed for decision (“limited offer, buy now!”).
  • If satisfied with service and products, they are likely to return and even become permanent customers.
  • These users are slightly more likely to be female or older users.

Implications of the Segmentation

Having in mind these two customer types helps to explain why the same conversion optimization measures yield completely different if not contradictory results when implemented on different websites (as their customer base may predominately have users of type 1 or type 2).

While the first user type require interactivity, large print and colors to attract their attention and reacts negatively to the informational overload, the second type, on the contrary, require clear and detailed information and dismiss anything that seems suspicious to them or resembles advertising.

If one is not quite sure what type of users a website has or if there seems to be a good mixture of both, balancing off the interests of both groups (e.g. additional information is easy to find, but can as well be skipped through) or even designing several types of interfaces for different landing pages may serve as a solution.

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