Prototyping and user research

11:14 am

Paper prototyping
As I started thinking more about how to start to generate user feedback and find out how to best explain the experience I was planning, I started to think about putting together storyboards and paper prototypes. A quick session doodling out how the user would go through the experience I began to run into roadblocks whichever way I tried to do things. No matter how I tried, I found myself constantly using the word “imagine” when thinking of how to present these to the user.
I’m not an overly artistic person and attempting to create a visualization of an experience to help with something as complex as learning was beyond me. So, for better or worse, I scrapped paper prototyping for the time being.

Getting hands on
What I can do is knock together usable prototypes relatively quickly, so I planned to put together a functional prototype which would cover the absolute core functions – To write code, to view other people’s code and to feed back on it. This approach would allow users to get a hands-on experience and generate much more valuable feedback despite the initial development time overhead so I began to think about what sort of user feedback sessions were possible with a functional prototype.

Day to day usage
As a couple of other people are considering javascript/web-based implementations of their projects and we occasionally discuss problems, having a working prototype provides an easy way to share knowledge and gather feedback at once.

Takes very little time
Provides occasional but constant feedback
Feedback from the primary user group
Ability to observe how people are learning to code first-hand
Mutual benefit – so people are willing to contribute time

Feedback from only a small number of individuals
Small amounts of sample data however regular

Test groups
Gather a number of people who are familiar with front-end design and development, have them explore the application and put together bits and pieces and see how it fits their day-to-day workflow and what sorts of things would make it a more valuable tool.

Feedback from people who know their stuff
Large amount of feedback to work with

Feedback from people who know their stuff and will likely have very different perceptions from people who are only just starting to learn
Little benefit to the testers – may be difficult to generate numbers

Popup tutorials
Provide occasional front-end/javascript tutorial sessions open to all and free providing the application is used. This is by far and away the best method I can think of to conduct user research but has the drawback of being somewhat reliant on my own charisma and public speaking abilities.

Mutual benefit – potentially people will be willing to attend as long as there are enough people interested in the subject matter
Continual feedback from (Hopefully) the same group of people

Would require additional time and planning


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