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.