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IxDA NYC: Todd Zaki Warfel’s Prototyping for UX Practitioners

On August 13, the venerable Todd Zaki Warfel of Messagefirst gave a great talk on prototyping (on which he is the premier speaker) at the monthly IxDA NYC event. His energy and engaging style really got the crowd pumped up. We even did a group exercise towards the end of the evening. My Twitter notes are below.

  • @zakiwarfel‘s Prototyping for UX Practitioners: Best Practices, Methods and Tools starts now!
  • “Prototyping is a process.” Don’t focus on the actual prototype, it’s just an outcome of the process. – @zakiwarfel
  • Sketching and testing are the integral parts of prototyping to focus on. The prototype is a vehicle to do those activities
  • Prototyping in UX is the equivalent of design studio in architecture / industrial design. Gives people an opp to critique your work
  • 6-8-5 method used @zakiwarfel‘s company MessageFirst = 6-8 sketches in 5 minutes. Limit the time you take. Generate lots of ideas
  • When sketching, initially aim for quantity not quality. After you’ve done this for a few cycles, you’ll end up with 2-3 great ideas
  • When setting this up, don’t tell participants they’re only getting 5 min ahead of time cuz they’ll panic. Tell them right before
  • Include clients in the sketching process. They’ll love it. In 6 hrs you can crank out 3 weeks of work. But it’s exhausting
  • Involve clients in process early & they’re less likely to fight about details later. Involve dev & they’ll feel greater ownership
  • When @zakiwarfel runs these design studios with clients, ppl in the room have said “no one has ever asked my opinion before”
  • Q: How to deal w corp culture issues? Politics? Hierarchy? Get dirt on everyone in the room before you start. Then design the team
  • Knowing strengths and weakness of everyone on the team lets you better moderate the design studio & will be more successful session
  • Bring in items for inspiration. Encourage teams to steal from each other (at the end of the day you’re all on the same team).
  • 1) Sketch out your ideas. 2) Pitch idea to room in 3 min. 3) Room gets 2 min to critique: 2-3 strengths, 1-2 improvements to make
  • 4) Bring it to life. Prototype the best idea(s), on paper or digitally, and present to client. Then iterate, iterate, iterate
  • After a few iterations, use the prototype to test with users. Iterate more. Review with client again. Rinse. Repeat.
  • Reasons to prototype: the concrete is easier to discuss/understand than the abstract; prototypes are cheap(er), generate more ideas
  • Experiencing the ideas in a more emotional way (by actually bringing them to life) will change the way the team works together
  • More reasons to prototype: gauge tech feasibility; work through design; sell an idea… lots of benefits
  • 8 guiding principles to prototyping: 1) Know your audience & intent. Helps to determine goals, fidelity, toolset, functionality
  • 2) Plan a little. Prototype the rest. Get something in people’s hands quickly. The feedback is what’s important. Just do it
  • 3) Set expectations. What will be in the prototype & what won’t. Don’t surprise the client. If you do, they’ll focus on wrong stuff
  • 4) You CAN sketch. Everyone can, a 4y/o can. Don’t be afraid to draw on the page. You’re just getting the basic ideas down, not art
  • Sketches are rough and dirty. They just need to be enough to communicate a concept to the team. It can be throwaway (most are)
  • 5) It’s not the Mona Lisa. Doesn’t have to be perfect or high-fidelity. Don’t spend too much time. Meant to be unfinished
  • 6) If you can’t make it, fake it. Whole point is that it’s supposed to be unfinished. Do whatever it takes to get the point across
  • 7) Prototype only what you need. You don’t have to build the whole system from the onset. Only focus on what you need to test
  • 8) Reduce risk. Prototype early and often. Small increments in the prototype, smaller investment. Don’t go too far down the road
  • What’s the best prototyping tool? The one that fits your needs. It might be pen and paper, PowerPoint, Flash, HTML, OmniGraffle etc
  • Some people even prototype in Excel. Why the hell would you do that? Well, it’s already on your computer. Use what you know
  • Some good tools to use for your given situation: http://mypict.me/l450
  • Paper prototyping pros: free (nearly); fast; easy; tangible; you can do it anywhere (at the diner); no tech req’d; collaborative
  • Paper prototyping techniques: handlebars (folded paper for on/off components), accordion (e.g., to show self-healing)…
  • @zakiwarfel is demonstrating how to simulate sliders with paper: http://mypict.me/l4md
  • @zakiwarfel is now telling us to prototype an iPhone app to display photos and play videos. Need to show gestures, scroll & zoom
  • Uh oh. Now I can’t stop playing w/ paper. I’m not keeping up with the preso. @zakiwarefel talking about Flash/HTML prototyping pros
  • Check out @zakiwarfel at @UIE‘s User Interface 14 http://www.uie.com/events/uiconf/2009/

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