There are different stages of prototyping, which increase in fidelity and time taken to create. Therefore it is important to start with low fidelity tools and move further as the ideas are more concrete. Some of these tools are

  • Story-boarding
  • Creating Paper Prototypes
  • Digital Mock-ups
  • Wizard of Oz
  • Video Prototypes


This technique involves rough sketches which tell a story. It should have the stage (people, task being done), the script (actions, sequences of steps) and the outcome (fulfilled motivations, satisfaction). Since these are lowest fidelity tools, a harsh timelines, like 10min per storyboard, fells keep the focus and discovering various options.


Storyboarding helps in keeping the focus on the problem being solved, instead on the UI. Thus having a common understanding of the goal and avoiding bike-shedding.

Paper prototyping

Paper prototypes are mock-ups of the UI using paper, post-its, sketch pens, scissors and glue, and other materials depending on creativity.

This technique helps in discovery of a good UI, and all stakeholders can easily contribute.

Once a good UI is discovered using paper prototypes, we can move onto the next stage.

Digital Mock-ups

These are the digital version of the paper prototypes and can be created by a variety of tools like, Photoshop, balsamic or HTML.

These let you refine the UI before developing the actual application.

Wizard of Oz

This technique involves simulating what the machine will do using human operators. This is a very high fidelity prototype, where the users might think it is the real deal. But instead of coding the back-end, we only have the UI, while the back-end is powered by humans. This is especially useful if writing the back-end is an expensive task, like using machine learning etc.

Advantages of wizards

  • Places the user at the center of development
  • Faster and more iterative prototypes
  • Identifies bugs and problems with current design
  • Can envision challenging-to-build applications

Disadvantages of wizards

  • Simulations may simulate technologies that do not exist or really hard to build.

Video Prototypes

These can be thought of as the video depiction of the storyboard. Therefore it should also have the entire flow, including motivation and success. But instead of drawing, you show the user and the settings in a video.

However, videos, especially audio can be a huge time sink and so should be used appropriately and aim at telling the story instead of perfection.

Education Technology

HCI: Need Finding

It is the process of observing people to discover their needs, goals, and values. Although the course if about “Human Computer Interaction”, the process of need finding is relevant to developing new products or even new businesses.

A good starting point for any new product is to clearly identify an existing problem or need. That’s because finding a big problem and need often yields important untapped opportunities. Observing people also helps build empathy and think from their point of view. So, how do we observe people and identify their needs?

Participant Observation

Observe the users and their behavior in context (performing the activity). This is most useful when you want to see users in their element and learn about their experience.

While observing, we seek answers to these questions:

  1. What do people do now?
  2. What values and goals do people have?
  3. How are these particular activities embedded in a larger context, or the big picture?
  4. Similarities and differences across people
  5. …and other types of context, like time of day

While observing people, pay particular attention to any hacks or workarounds. These could be a gold mine for new ideas.


HCI: Evaluating designs

There are several methods to evaluate a design:

Usability studies

  • This could be informal, watch and learn or formal usability labs.
  • They offer good learning and uncover quirks, bugs or false assumtions.
  • it is not the same as user’s using it to perform real work in real environment
  • difficult to compare alternatives
  • experimental bias


  • quickly gets feedback from a large number of users
  • relatively easy to compare alternatives
  • No need to build prototype, a screenshot or mockup will do.
  • There is a difference between what people say they’ll do and what they actually do.

Focus groups

  • gather a small group of people to discuss a design or idea.
  • could be difficult due to group dynamics or if the subject makes people uncomfortable

Feedback from Experts

  • peer review
  • dogfooding
  • heuristic evaluation

Comparative experiments

  • taking two or more distinct options and comparing their performance to each other.
  • observe actual behaviour as opposed to self report (in surveys)
  • it can be better than usability studies since it compares multiple alternatives.
  • but you can’t observe people like in usability study.

Participant observation

  • observe people in their actual work environment


  • Useful when alternatives can be mathematically evaluated against design goals
  • Allows lots of alternatives to be compared


The method of evaluation to be used for the specific design goal depends on these (often conflicting) parameters:

  • Reliability: could be reproduce the results
  • Generalizability: applicability to larger set of people
  • žRealism: do the observations hold good in real world situations
  • Comparison: can we easily compare different (new of existing) designs
  • Work involved: the effort to get the feedback

Human computer interaction – introduction

I am currently taking the Human Computer Interaction class, and unlike last time, will make notes during the course and not after.

What is Human Computer Interaction?

HCI is the design, implementation and evaluation of user interfaces.


Good design is a pleasure to use; it increase efficiency and prodcutivity. Whereas bad design can be frustrating and in extreme cases can even costs lives.

Design using Prototypes

Prototyping is the single most important strategy for effective design. It should focus on the goals and not get stuck with some (current fad) design idea.

Design prototype as like software prototypes. Quick approximation of the idea, that helps collect feedback and iterate towards the final (design) goal. They let the users experience what the final product might look like (feel), work like (implementation) or the UX (role).