Institute of Informatics
THE FAST AND EASY WAY TO DESIGN AND REFINE USER INTERFACES
Author: Elyna Nevski
The book I read is written by Carolyn Snyder and includes practical information how to make
paper prototypes and how to get cost-effective usability data about user interface designs.
All chapters were very interesting but I chose only some of them. I was particularly interested in
the 5.-9. chapters. I read also some information about author and introduction to paper
I found out that paper prototyping is one of the fastest and cheapest method for designing, testing
and refining user interfaces. Surprisingly, in the early 90´s it was a fringe technique and
unknown to the vast majority. Only few product development teams used this method. By the
year 2002 paper prototyping is mainstream practice in many companies, both large and small.
The reason I chose this book is that I am one of those people who have only heard about paper
prototyping but who are very interested of learning about it. I really enjoyed reading this book,
because at the same time we had interaction and design course and I had a possibility to practice
the theory. In this essay I will note some observations that are important to me.
Before reading this book I knew who should be personas and why it´s necessary to create
scenarios. But I had no idea what to do with them. So, reading about paper prototyping was very
helpful. Especially, it helped to understand better the tasks and the whole idea of the course.
Therefore, it was easier to create user stories and web application prototype.
The necessary prototyping steps (in the book) were written very graphically and in a simple way.
That is why it was very comfortable to read. Both the course and the book described the right
tools and techniques. For example, a prototype should be drawn on a white paper, scissors, glue,
tape and correct size pens should be used and digital camera for taking photos.
There were a few supplies that the book author don´t generally use in the paper prototyping – a
ruler and sticky notes. Our team also didn´t use those supplies. Why? As the book said sticky
notes don´t lie flat after they have been moved a few times and we experienced it. It was quite
annoying. We didn´t use a ruler because for a hand-drawn paper prototypes straight lines usually
aren´t important and we would have wasted time by making our prototype overly neat.
Sometimes it was quite hard to remember that principle and we spent too much time for nice
That´s why graphic designers shouldn´t have to draw prototypes because they give prototype
valuable input for creating the layout and look of the interface.
Another important issue was hand-drawing versus screen shots. Book author emphasized that
readers don´t need much artistic ability to create paper prototype. The same subject was also
pointed by the lecturer.
Initially, we planned to use Facebook screenshots to present our web application, but lecture told
this graphical content may confuse test users and distract attention from important problems.
Our biggest problem during usability tests was over-coaching and helping the test user. Both the
lecturer and the book warned us that we wouldn´t make this mistake.
In the book there was a good tips how to manage hand drawn prototype elements. It´s no doubt
that paper prototype is messy and a big challenge is organizing all the pieces of paper so that the
Computer (Anne) can quickly find the right ones. We organized the pieces by tasks and joined
them with tape. We gave all those little sticky pieces (e.g. add, invite friends buttons) a home
(A4 paper). We gathered those tiny pieces on a white paper. Book author called those homes
pages of stuff or gallery of annoying pieces.
It´s a pity that we hadn´t enough time and we couldn´t use the real users in design sessions. We
would have liked to use people who didn´t know nothing about paper prototyping and who have
never participated in such courses. Our prototype was tested by lecturer and IMKE students.
Carolyn Snyder gave an overview of the activities typically performed by the usability test
facilitator and we used some of them. For example our facilitator explained to user the testing
protocol – how to interact with the paper prototype and think loud; facilitated each task,
interacted with users as needed, ended the session on time and thanked the users. Facilitator also
mentioned that the session is a test of the web application and we´ll not test the user.
It was good that all the teams had opportunity to work in separate rooms. The book said that
enough space is needed because all prototype parts are spread out all over the table. Sometimes
we were lack of space but Mac (computer) class helped us out and gave us privacy that we
needed to complete the tasks.
That book and course gave me a good understanding of how paper prototyping works and how to
use this method to benefit product development process. I also got to know that paper
prototyping doesn´t require any technical skills. After all the book helped to understand better
the course and vice a versa.