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Homeworks > Homework 2

Homework 2: Paper Prototype of an Interface

Assigned: Mon, Nov. 7, 2011; Due: Mon, Nov. 14, 2011

Using the information that you collected in Homework 1 for what is good and bad about the real appliance's user interface for the tasks you designed, now you are going to make Sketches and a Paper Prototype of a (hopefully) better design in homework 2. Following the redesign, you will run a usability evaluation of the prototype and revise your design based on the feedback you get in homework 3.

Turn in all parts of this homework in a recloseable envelope (like one of the ones at right) with your name on it!

PART A: Sketch at least three different user interfaces for the functions you are targeting for your device (three different design directions). The three interfaces should be dramatically different, for example, with different organizations of what functions are on each screen, using different widgets for various functions, and using a different layout of the widgets on the screens. You might also vary which buttons are physical buttons and which are on-screen buttons. You should sketch the main screen or screens -- not necessarily the whole interface, but enough that we can see how it works. Note, the goal is to have at least 3 good interfaces that are different in interesting ways -- you shouldn't just create a good interface and then two more bad versions of it. Be creative! By "sketch," we mean informally draw the general idea, and label a few of the widgets so we can tell your intent.  It is not necessary for the sketches to have every function or every screen, but there should be enough to show off your idea. Sketches should be done on paper with pens and/or pencils (not using a computer). The sketch for each design will typically include a few screens, which you can put on multiple pieces of paper. Please hand print neatly for the textual labels and any annotations on the sketches. Next, you will select one of the designs for Parts B and C. (Alternatively, if you decide you want to use a collection of ideas from your three designs, then please make a fourth sketch which shows your final idea, and discuss why you used that one.)

  • The first deliverable for PART A is a photocopy of your 3 (or more) sketches. (Keep the originals in case the copies get lost.) Be sure to label the different versions so you can differentiate them in your discussion. Each sketch may be one or more pages.
  • The second deliverable is a discussion (e.g., a paragraph) talking about the differences between the versions. This should be done on a computer and printed.
  • The third deliverable is a discussion (e.g., a sentence or two) about which design you picked for Parts B and C and why you selected that one. This should also be done on a computer and printed.
  • The fourth deliverable is a discussion (e.g., a paragraph) talking about what you learned from the contextual inquiry of homework 1, and how that is reflected in your design. That is, what in your design is a result of what you learn? This is called "design rationale". This should also be done on a computer and printed.

PART B: You should now decide what are the assumptions for the hardware on which your new design will be implemented. If you are doing a webpage or regular computer application, this might be limited to what screen size you are assuming.  If you are doing a mobile phone, then describe the screen size and resolution you are assuming (note that Android phones, for example, can come with a variety of screen sizes). If you are doing a physical device (like a camera), you should describe assumptions such as whether the interface will be on a touch screen panel on your device (so you will need big, finger-sized buttons), or the interface will only use physical buttons around a display-only screen (not a touch screen).

Note that even if you assume you will have a touchscreen on your design, you will still be programming and doing the usability evaluation of your interface (in Homework 4) using a mouse on a regular computer. Conversely, if you assume your real user interface will be operated with a mouse, when you do the usability evaluation of your paper prototype (in Homework 3), you will tell the users to pretend their finger is a mouse. You should also write down any other assumptions about your hardware, like whether the screen is color or black and white, whether it is a touch panel or not, whether there are any additional hardware (physical) buttons, etc. (You will decide on what specific buttons and kinds of buttons later.)

Next, you should write down the assumptions about your users. What level of experience do you expect? How familiar with computers will they be? What ages? Are there any other factors about the users that will influence your design or evaluation?

  • The deliverables for PART B are descriptions of the assumptions about your hardware and users.

PART C: Create a complete paper prototype of the version of your device that you selected in Part A. You can draw your paper prototype on paper or using simple drawing tools like Visio, Illustrator or even PowerPoint. (It appears you can download a free 60-day trial of Visio from Microsoft or a free trial of Illustrator from Adobe.) Unlike the sketches of Part A, your paper prototype must be complete, which means it should have at least a place-holder for every part of the entire user interface of the appliance. For example, if you were doing a microwave oven, there should be a square on the front panel for every button that would be on the front panel of the final implementation. For all the tasks you will ask the user to do (which should include at least those you did in Homework 1), you should have paper prototypes for all the screens, menus, etc. that the user would see. For parts of the interface that you do not intend to test, you can just make place holders (for example, screens with just titles), or buttons without labels. Note that the level of complexity we are expecting is as described in Homework 0: It should have at least 30 different controls that do different things; for web pages, it should have at least 10 pages (including product description pages), and for desktop applications, it should have at least 5 different screens or dialog boxes.

  • The first deliverable for PART C is a copy of your paper prototype. If you use color in your prototype, then you should turn in color copies. If you have little pieces of paper to represent pop-up menus and so forth, be sure to include copies of those in your turn-in. (Again, keep the originals in case the copies get lost!) Please put your paper prototype into a re-sealable envelope.
  • The second deliverable for PART C is a short description of what tasks you will have users do with the device, and the specific sequence of actions that the user should take with your prototype to achieve those tasks.
  • The third deliverable for PART C is the actual instructions you will give users to tell them to do those tasks. We want to see what you are planning to say to the users in your usability evaluation.
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