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Review of the book Paper Prototyping

Pabini Gabriel-Petit has published a lengthy review of Carolyn Snyders book Paper Prototyping: The Fast and Easy Way to Design.

Gabriel-Petit concludes:

"This is a valuable book on an important topic by an expert in usability. It demonstrates that paper prototyping is an effective technique that is useful in many contexts and provides a complete reference on how to use paper prototypes in usability studies."


Henrik Olsen - June 08, 2006 - via Putting People First

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See also: Books (44)  Prototyping and wireframing (52) 



The book Paper Prototyping: The Fast and Easy Way to Design and Refine User Interfaces

Being a strong advocate for prototyping, I'm a bit embarrassed that I haven't read Carolyn Snyder's book on paper prototyping until now. And I regret it. Her book has a lot to offer. If you are more into computer-based prototyping, you can still learn a lot from the renowned practitioner.

Carolyn assumes that if you want to build a prototype, it's because you want to test it with users. This has a strong influence on her workflow: Find test participants, create tasks, design the paper prototype, test it, refine it and test it again until you are confident that the design will work.

Something that fascinates me is that the book offers a ready-made step-by-step process for development teams to follow. Just add paper. The workflow seems to be a perfect companion for agile developments methods such as SCRUM.

On the negative side: Clients are almost absent in her book. And that's a pity, because prototypes are great for communicating with clients.


  • Companion web-site Open link in new window
  • The book at Open link in new window
  • The book at Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - May 14, 2006

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See also: Books (44)  Prototyping and wireframing (52) 



How to run a usability test

Joshua Kaufman has written a short tutorial on how to conduct usability tests. He describes the entire process from screening and recruiting participants, writing test scripts and questionnaires, moderating the test and analyzing results.


  • Practical Usability Testing Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - May 07, 2006

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See also: Primers (11) 



Predefined tasks in usability tests give flawed results

If usability tests are not guided by what real users want to do, they can give misleading results. Instead of using predefined tasks, Jared Spool suggests that we let the users design their own tasks:

"In interview-based tasks, the participants interested are discovered, not assigned. Unlike scavenger-hunt tasks, the test's facilitator and participant negotiate the tasks during the tests, instead of proceeding down a list of predefined tasks."

According to Jared Spool, it starts with recruiting. When conducting interview-based tasks it's important to identify candidates that have a passion for the subject matter we're evaluating.

The method is very similar to Mark Hurst's Listening labs.


Henrik Olsen - April 09, 2006

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Stockholm syndrome in usability tests

The term Stockholm Syndrome describes the situation where a hostage becomes sympathetic to his captors.

When Jensen Harris had to conduct his first usability test at Microsoft, he expected that the participants would let out their rage at Microsoft.

But it turns out that people tend to be less critical than they probably should be. The participants consider themselves guests in the usability lab, don't want to insult the hosts, and are embarrassed when they can't complete a task.

"Whatever the cause, this tendency to not criticize the software is a major risk to the results of standard usability testing."

For this reason, Microsoft supplements standard testing by initiatives in which they watch the software more in the real world.


  • Usability Stockholm Syndrome Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - March 25, 2006

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Online video interview with Jakob Nielsen

DevSource has published a nice 8-minute online video interview featuring Dr. Jakob Nielsen.

Nielsen addresses a wide range of topics, such as proper attitude for programmers, the importance of prototyping in design, and the reasons why PDF, Flash, and local search engines can hurt more than they help.


  • Online video interview with Jakob Nielsen Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - March 17, 2006 - via WebWord

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See also: Interviews (16)  Search (24)  Prototyping and wireframing (52)  Audio and video (23) 



Avoid making wrong conclusions from user analysis

According to Jared Spool, many teams rush the process from user observations to design recommendations. They are so anxious to fix things that they end up making the wrong conclusions and fixing the wrong things.

To make solid recommendations we should state all the alternative inferences we can for the observations we make, collect enough data to prove or disprove a given inference, compare multiple types of data sources, and construct quick prototypes to test our recommendations.


  • The Road to Recommendation Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - January 10, 2006

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Usability is more important that aesthetics in the long run

The October 2005 newsletter from HFI is a discussion of how beauty can influence users' overall impression of a product and how to measure the product-emotion relationship.

The newsletter mentions a study by M. Hassenzahl where a MP3 application was evaluated with a variety of different visual designs. They study showed that:
- When participants only looked at the MP3 player, the overall rating of the product was based on its perceived beauty and anticipated usability
- When participants were allowed to use the player, the overall rating of the product was more influenced by participants' experience of using the product

The study suggests that the emotional aspects of a design are important in attracting customers in the first place. However, when the product is judged through usage over time, usability is what matters most.


  • Is Beauty the new usability attribute? Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - November 16, 2005

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See also: Emotional design (6)  Visual design (16)  Research (103) 



Demographics is not critical when recruiting study participants

When recruiting participants for usability testing, field research and the like, candidates experience and behaviour is more important than demographics.

According to Jared Spool, studies of user experience professionals have shown that successful teams have learnt that candidates' previous experience and how they will behave in the study is more important than where they live, how old they are, and how much they earn. You don't need to have someone who is in your target audience. You only need someone who behaves like people in your audience group and is comfortable with the study situation.


  • Putting Perfect Participants in Every Session Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - November 13, 2005

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See also: Research (103)  User research (17) 



User-centred design cuts support calls by 90%

Here's a great case on how prototyping and early involvement of users pays off. Because McAfee made user interface design of their ProtectionPilot a prime directive, they ended up with a great product and received approximately one-tenth of the support calls that the company would expect.

The article lists 23 tips gleaned from McAfee and their design team.


  • Clean, cutting-edge UI design cuts McAfee's support calls by 90% Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - October 17, 2005 - via Dey Alexander

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See also: Cases and Examples (20)  Cost-justification and ROI (24)  Prototyping and wireframing (52) 

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