Assignment 3: Paper and Video Prototype

Grade Value: 75 points

Due: Tuesday October 7, in class


As Carolyn Snyder writes, "Paper prototyping is a variation of usability testing where the representative users perform realistic tasks by interacting with a paper version of the interface that is manipulated by a person 'playing computer' who doesn't explain how the interface is intended to work." In the first part of the assignment, your group will construct a paper prototype, test the prototype on someone else, and write up the results.

But, paper prototypes still lack the context of a system in use. In the second part of the assignment, you'll be creating a video prototype, where you show an entire scenario of use for your system. As Bruce Tognazzini put it: video enables one to build the ultimate demo out of pure 'unobtanium.' Gone are hardware limitations and computer artifacts.

Paper prototypes for three versions of a home thermostat. From [Tohidi CHI2006].

Assignment part I - Paper Prototypes

Create a paper prototype that illustrates 3 major tasks for your interface / interaction design, perhaps based on your storyboards. The prototype should be complete enough to "run" a new user through each task. Use paper prototyping techniques covered in the Snyder reading, and optionally to guide your process.

Design your paper prototype with specific STUs – situation, task, and user – in mind. For example, your prototype might address how a kid (user) buys a "snow cone" (task) from a ice cream truck (situation) with PayPal mobile.

Find one appropriate user [who is not in your group] and run them through the major tasks in the prototype to make sure that you have something that works. Be sure to iteratively refine your prototype until you feel satisfied that it works.

All major tasks should be tested. If possible, every group member should play the part of "Wizard" or "computer" at least once.

(Target time: This exercise should take you about 4 hours as a group.)

Assignment part II - Video Prototype

Your paper prototype and initial testing should have shown you what areas need improvement, and what promising directions you can take your application in. For the video prototype, your team's task is to refine your paper prototype, and then create a video showing the prototype use in context.

Two things to keep in mind:

You don't have to worry about producing Oscar-worthy performances and editing -- what we're really interested in is how well your video conveys a sense of context and meaning to your prototype's intended situation.

If you don't have a digital video camera, they're available for any student to check out from Meyer Library. You could also use a point-and-shoot with video capabilities, but videos shot on a real video camera will look significantly better.

We STRONGLY recommend using iMovie for the video editing; it's miles ahead of Windows Movie Maker in terms of basic usability. If you'd like to step up another level, the computers in Meyer have Final Cut Pro installed, though the learning curve on Final Cut might be too steep for this project.

(Target time: This exercise should take you about 6 hours as a group.)

To submit your video prototype, first upload it to YouTube or Vimeo, then use the "Embed" attachment on your submission to add it to the course submission system. The advantage of YouTube is that it's familiar to most folks and more popular (your prototyped will get more eyeballs). On the other hand, you might want to keep your prototype private; in that case, upload to Vimeo (which has much higher quality video) and select the "password protected" option. Then, place the password in the "description" field of your embed attachment for your submission.

Note that for both YouTube and Vimeo, you can expect times ranging from 30 minutes to an hour for the video to be encoded and made available, so upload your videos well ahead of the submission deadline.

in studio

As a group, you will describe the STU(s) chosen. Each group will run a single user test on another classmate. Each group member will tell a 30-second story about what they learned.


Gillum et al.'s paper prototype
Lee et al.'s paper prototype

Apple video prototype from 1987; futuristic, visionary, big budget.

Fantastic video prototype by Lisa Seeman (student)