In human-computer interaction, paper prototyping is a widely used method in the user-centered design process, a process that helps developers to create software that meets the user's expectations and needs--in this case, especially for designing and testing user interfaces. It is throwaway prototyping and involves creating rough, even hand-sketched, drawings of an interface to use as prototypes, or models, of a design. While paper prototyping seems simple, this method of usability testing can provide a great deal of useful feedback which will result in the design of better products. This is supported by many usability professionals.
Paper prototyping started in the mid 1980s and then became popular in the mid 1990s when companies such as IBM, Honeywell, Microsoft, and others started using the technique in developing their products. Today, paper prototyping is used widely in user centered design by usability professionals. More recently, digital paper prototyping has been advocated by companies like Pidoco due to advantages in terms of collaboration, flexibility and cost.
Paper prototyping saves time and money since it enables developers to test product interfaces (from software and websites to cell phones and microwave ovens) before they write code or begin development. This also allows for easy and inexpensive modification to existing designs which makes this method useful in the early phases of design. Using paper prototyping allows the entire creative team to be involved in the process, which eliminates the chance of someone with key information not being involved in the design process. Another benefit of paper prototyping is that users feel more comfortable being critical of the mock up because it doesn't have a polished look.
There are different methods of paper prototyping, each of them showing several benefits regarding the communication within the development team and the quality of the product to be developed: In the development team paper prototypes can serve as a visual specification of the graphical user interface, and by this means assure the quality of a software. Prototyping forces a more complete design of the user interface to be captured. In team meetings they provide a communication base between the team members. Testing prototypes at an early stage in development helps to identify software usability problems even before any code is written. The costs and annoyances of later changes are reduced, the support burden is lowered, and the overall quality of the software or website is increased.
Paper prototyping is the quick way to generate the digital ideas by sketching on the paper. In tight VPC workshop, the quick ideas need to be explored and evaluated. Usually, paper prototyping is preferred as the tools to generate the ideas by visually and evaluate in the team and with target customers.
Paper prototypes should be considered when the following is true:
The most important areas of application of paper prototypes are the following:
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