Learning from IDEO: 7 Ways to Build Better Prototypes

This week has been full of new and exciting ideas. Learning about user research, sketching, participatory design, affordances, usability testing, CBPaPl, storyboarding, interfaces, learnability… and the list goes on.

On Thursday one of the topics we covered was prototyping, and we watched this video on a new shopping cart design from the team at IDEO.

IDEO is an amazing consulting firm with a history of innovative and inspiring work, and it was fascinating to see their approach and process in action. A few things that stood out about their prototyping process were…

There was no hierarchy.

Early on it was made clear that everyone’s input was equally valid, and seniority didn’t influence decision-making. There was no “I’m the boss, this is how we are doing it” mentality, and team members were encouraged to…

Share crazy ideas openly.

Creativity and out-there ideas were encouraged and welcomed, questioned and evaluated, but not criticized. One of the principles mentioned was “defer judgement”. Don’t shoot down an idea because you don’t agree, but instead see what you can learn from it.

Bring together diverse backgrounds.

As Bill Nye said, “Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” The team working on this project brought an eclectic range of experiences and insights to the table. Titles included: MBA graduate, linguist, biologist, marketing expert and psychologist.

Leverage existing research.

Your time is valuable. Don’t do unnecessary work. IDEO used existing research on safety and pain points around shopping carts to influence their design.

Solve your problem in 5 minutes. 

If you have one hour to solve a problem, use 55 minutes to do your research and 5 minutes to solve the problem. Thoroughly understanding the problem you are trying to solve is crucial to coming up with an effective solution.

Utilize rapid and resourceful prototyping. 

Physical shopping cart prototypes we built in a single day. The team worked quickly and efficiently, using basic tools to develop functional prototypes that could be tested. Which leads to…

Use time constraints to control output.

Having a finite amount of time can spark creativity and also keep projects from lagging.

One final quote from the video that summaries the approach perfectly was “Enlightened trial and error triumphs over the lone genius.” 

Thoughts on Interaction Design

Summarizing some thoughts on interaction design after getting into Designing Web Interfaces by Theresa Neil & Bill Scott…

Make it direct. How immediate is the action? Allow users to interact quickly and efficiently with your design by not obfuscating functionality.

Keep it lightweight. Allow of micro-interactions that don’t take your user out of the flow. Little Big Details.

Stay on the page. Reduce the need for adding extra content by using elements like overlays, i.e., a dropdown menu or pop up.

Provide invitations. Give your user the tools to understand where they are headed. Use explicit calls to action, and don’t leave your user wondering where to go next.

Use Transitions. Illustrate the action just taken. Error message with animation instead of text. iPhone camera button.

React Immediately. Respond directly to input, changing input, indicate progress, prevent errors before they happen.