We recognise that interface
design is often a complex and involved process. But by drawing
upon a variety of user-centred principles and usability
engineering design processes the effort can be focused, which can
help optimise the design process.
Early design efforts should be
informed by a number of elements:
Understanding the Needs of
Roles & Relationships
Goal and Task Analysis
Knowing What Works & What Doesn't
Knowing the user requirements
enables us to evaluate competing products with more certainty of
what the user is trying to achieve. By testing the competing
products we learn what elements are usable and which are not.
We also gain a rough idea of the design elements that exist and
of what is technically possible.
Conceptual designs should not
be limited to re-providing what competitors offer through their
products. Additional research enables us to learn what other
features could also be included or technical capabilities that
could be used.
Using a Quick and Dirty Design
Our final goal in the design
process is to produce one design. But a final design
solution is rarely found after one design effort. Because of this,
the design processes should be quick and dirty. It must also
be iterative. We will not waste hours trying to make designs
perfect before they are tested with the target audience. We
use four steps in our process:
1. Consider requirements
3. Evaluate without users and
modify design where necessary
4. Test with users.
Then modify based on results from
the test and information from the specification, etc.
Beginning with the Abstract
A typical abstract design stage
begins with devising multiple designs and aims at achieving one
final abstract design that can be used in the detailed design
phases. In the early stages of design we find it helpful to
abstract away from detailed design solutions and focus on the
intended structure, organisation, and workflow. We use the
design stage to "flesh out" multiple
design concepts to the point
where they can be evaluated objectively.
We use a number of techniques and
technologies through out this process.
"Bang for the Buck!"
Brainstorming various models is
a useful approach. We take into account findings from the user
requirements analysis, competitive evaluations and additional
research to help derive the concepts.
The scenarios/stories detailed
for persona development can be re-used to demonstrate how the
conceptual designs(s) will satisfy users, environmental and
Where more than one conceptual
model has been developed, it is valuable to gain the users'
insights into what the model means to them and how they think it
will help them meet their goals. We do this by walking through
the scenarios/stories with the users.
Paper Mockups (Paper-Based
Low-fidelity designs are often
best presented as paper mockups (also known as paper-based
prototypes). Paper mockups rely on simple tools such as paper,
scissors, and yellow "post-it" notes. Paper mockups help bypass
the time and effort required to create a working, coded user
interface and instead emphasises the real issue - the interface
and whether the users are able to achieve their goals.
Large Interactive Display
The Usability Laboratory also
utilise large interactive display surfaces (LIDS) which are
back-projected large screens controlled by a computer. The
screen interaction is operated by a keyboard, mouse, pen or
user's fingers or hand. The LIDS is useful when exploring
design ideas with a group of users. The screen is large and
easy to view from all angles. All people involved are
encouraged to explain and sketch elements themselves. It is a
great brainstorming tool - things can be added or removed, and
cut, copied and pasted effectively. We can also easily record
all interaction with a scan converter.
Quick Working Prototypes
Where a concept is relatively
unique and difficult to describe and understand without a
working model used as an example, the Usability Laboratory
develops quick working prototypes of specific elements to help
with the low-fidelity design stage.
Moving on to the Detailed Design
Typically, only one abstract
design is brought forward from the abstract design process to the
detailed design process. In the detailed design process we
build on this model bringing more specific interaction and content
During this stage, we may choose
to extend the paper-based mockups we have developed or work with
our clients to produce a working prototype.