User testing with a mobile application paper prototype

Recently I have been doing research and design work for the university module ‘UXD’ which asks us to follow a user experience process and design a mobile application. This research has included online surveys; user interviews; contextual enquiries; card sorting and usability testing on similar applications.

After the research phase, I sketched out the different screens for my application. Instead of drawing out every single possible screen, I decided to only draw the main user journey. Sometimes it can be difficult to decide what the user’s journey may be – it’s a good idea to create the pages for each of the main navigation selection.

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Using these paper prototypes, I conducted user testing with various different participants. Because I choose to test using participants which were within my target audience, I asked each of them to use the application how they wanted, without any set tasks. This has allowed me to view what decisions my audience are likely to make and how they will use the application. Also, asking the user to press onto the paper designs like it is a real application showed me how they interact with it.

Overall, it has been a very different experience to doing user testing on the computer but also a learning curve. User testing with a paper prototype allows you to interact more closely with a participant – for example, I changed my designs whilst doing the user test and asked a participant if it was easier to understand with my changes. I also ended up changing the designs three times and doing three different sets of user testing until the participants understood everything easily.

For more information check out this great exemplar and tutorial video about usability testing with a paper prototype:

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