Students will design a paper prototype of an application, or part of an application, to better address the problem at hand … and then test that prototype.
Paper prototyping is a basic usability testing technique that can help test interfaces cheaply and quickly. At its most simple, it is nothing more than a visual representation of what an interface could look like via sketches on pieces of paper. Potential usability problems can be detected early stage in the design process before any code has been written.
It should be noted that this approach can look haphazard and unprofessional if done badly, and continuous guidance is often required from a moderator. It is also difficult to simulate more detailed functionality, and it can be hard to measure specific goals such as time spent, etc.
With the project group together at IADT in November, an initial paper-prototype was created, showing basic functionality for the following:
- searching for wrecks via three different criteria
- selecting one of the search results and viewing the wreck details
- initiating the process of booking a tour
Smaller pieces of paper were used to represent dropdown options and selections, and help provide a basic element of interactivity. Some of the screens can be seen below, click on each to zoom in.
Three test users were given the following task to complete using the paper prototype:
“Search for a military wreck based in Cork, of novice diving difficulty, called the S.S. Anne, and then book a tour of it”.
As mentioned above, heavy moderation was required on our part to move the sheets of paper as the users “interacted” with them. However, the users themselves grasped the nature of the test quickly and were able to navigate with little difficulty.
Post-Test Questionnaire and Results
The System Usability Scale (SUS) was invented by John Brooke in 1986, and is still widely used today to obtain lightweight, subjective feedback from users. The SUS is comprised of 10 questions, but for this “quick and dirty” test session, we used a subset of four questions to get some fast, initial feedback.
The questions used, and the responses given, are presented below:
|1. I thought the site was easy to use||✔✔✔|
|2. I think that I would need the support of a subject expert (diving/wrecks) to use this site||✔✔✔|
|3. I thought there was too much inconsistency in the system||✔||✔||✔|
|4. I found the site unnecessarily complex||✔✔✔|
As can be seen immediately, feedback was generally very positive – with “top” marks given by all users for three of the questions. It was only the area of “inconsistency” that split our users. An immediate analysis could put this down to the very nature of paper-prototypes – with the rough and ready approach not suiting all users. It also, of course, indicates that more work is required on the overall style and commonality of the screens.
This feedback will contribute towards a more high-fidelity prototype for our next iteration.
- Test User 1
- Blank bit of screen in search screen was inconsistent
- Test User 2
- No introduction text on home screen
- No information on diving experience
- How do users return back from the wreck screen?
- Should ‘book now’ button be at the very top or very bottom of screen, rather than in the middle of the page?
- Test User 3
- Dropdown list should be in alphabetical order
- Display list of all
- Give better indication to show that lists are scrollable
- What is the image of the wreck? Is it before it sank or is it under the water? All wrecks under the water could look the same
- Should be a label showing how many of wrecks have been return in the list
- Should there be an option button to select wreck rather than just selecting the row entry?
- No way to go back from the wreck information screen. Should there be a forward and back arrow
- Once within the wreck information screen, maybe show information on the location.
- Paper prototyping Pros & Cons
- Ania Mastalerz (2016). Using paper prototypes in UX – Optimal Workshop
- Usability.gov. System Usability Scale (SUS)