Creating a Test-Worthy Prototype (It’s Easier Than You Think)

Creating a Test-Worthy Prototype (It’s Easier Than You Think)

One of the best ways to test out a new concept or site is by using a prototype – you can check if the new idea is effective with users before investing the time and money required for a fully functioning product. Prototypes are also great if you want to compare how well a few different ideas connect with users before deciding which one you want to use. But what makes a prototype ready for a successful test?

When testing a prototype, it's important that participants treat it like your real product so that we can get the most accurate reaction from them as possible. Here are some key ways that you can keep users focused on your design without spending extra hours on your prototype:

Use realistic content - It’s hard to count how many times participants have told us they can’t read Latin. We understand that when a concept is in the design stage it can be easier to use placeholder text and images such as Lorem Ipsum and blank boxes, but when it comes to test day users need something concrete to react to. Whether you’re presenting instructions, a product description, or something more extensive, participants can only provide feedback if your prototype includes representative copy. While the content does not have to be final language, it’s easier to learn if participants find your content helpful when they can read something close to it.

Be consistent with your details - User testing is one of those times when consistency is key. Nothing breaks a participant out of their flow more than when they see that the price of an item has jumped $50 from the last page, or when their ‘name’ has changed from Shaun to Michelle. This is because they are treating the prototype like a real site – if you were checking out at Amazon and your $20 cart changed to $70 on the confirmation page, it would be alarming. Our goal is for users to give feedback on your design rather than fixating on a surprising prototype bug. Before test day, make sure your numbers add up and that your products and names stay the same throughout the prototype.

Keep it simple by creating one complete path - Many prototypes that we test are in the very early stages of a design, or they were created quickly to test a concept. That works for us! There are only two aspects of functionality that we need up and running: we should be able to get from the beginning of a prototype to its end, and if there is a specific feature that we are testing then it should work well enough for users to react to it. Generally, this means that the designers create a ‘happy path’ for the users to get through which involves making one product or choice work while faking the others. Even with only one working path, we can still ask participants to share how they would usually proceed and why. This way we can see how clearly each choice is understood in the prototype before nudging users down the working path. Give users enough of a prototype to explore the features and interactions that you care about, but don’t worry about building unnecessary details.

Remember, the goal of a prototype is to test an idea without committing the money of building a real website or app. As long as you stick closely to your intended content, keep your facts in check, and make sure a user can get from start to finish, we can test your prototype. The polish can come later.

If you’d like to know more about testing prototypes or have a prototype that you would like to test out, email us or call us anytime at 847-864-7713.

Kathi Kaiser to Share Insights on Museums and Technology at UXPA 2017

Kathi Kaiser to Share Insights on Museums and Technology at UXPA 2017

What do you think of when you hear the word “museum”? Stately buildings with lots of columns? Peaceful spaces displaying priceless art? How about glowing screens, audio/visual add-ons, or even virtual reality space walks?

The museum experience is changing, and Centralis’ Kathi Kaiser will offer a glimpse of the future at her upcoming talk, “Museums, Tech, and UX: The Future of the Museum Experience”, at this year’s UXPA International Conference in Toronto. Kathi will be speaking from 4:30 pm – 5:30 pm ET on Tuesday, June 6 at the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel.

Kathi will explore several ways in which museums are using apps, digital labels in exhibits, and immersive digital experiences to widen the scope of their users’ experience. With examples from Centralis’ in-gallery usability testing, she will show how cultural institutions are currently leveraging technology to support their physical collections. Kathi will also discuss how museum staff and UX practitioners can learn from each other as technology becomes more pervasive in the museum space.

Come join Kathi for what is sure to be a fun and thought-provoking session!

About Kathi

Kathi Kaiser is a co-founder and partner at Centralis, a Chicago-based UX consultancy. For more than 15 years, she’s led a top-notch team in creating great user experiences for clients all over the world. Kathi is a frequent conference speaker on topics of UX.

About Centralis

Centralis helps clients succeed by making their products, services, software and websites easier to use. Founded in 2001, Centralis provides user research, user interface design, and usability testing services to a wide range of clients.

About The User Experience Professionals Association

The User Experience Professionals Association (UXPA) supports people who research, design, and evaluate the user experience of products and services. The UXPA 2017 International Conference, the most influential user experience annual event in the world, will be held in Toronto on June 6-8, 2017.

Now, New & Improved! When New Features Lead to Bad Experiences

Now, New & Improved! When New Features Lead to Bad Experiences

Companies are always touting “new” and “improved” experiences, but when business processes lag behind, “new” may not end up “improved”. Read how a major hotel chain’s efforts to reward its best customers with late check-out inadvertently left them out in the cold.

Expecting the Unexpected

Expecting the Unexpected

Working in a field that relies on people and technology to operate, UX research can quickly develop into a list of close calls. Our team at Centralis has run the gamut of what can happen during testing and are happy to share some tips on how to navigate through potential roadblocks.

UX Tools We Like: dscout

UX Tools We Like: dscout

While there are research tools available that we’ve used for years, we are always on the lookout for helpful additions to our repertoire. One of our newest tools is dscout, an online research tool that participants can take with them and use in moments that we could otherwise miss.

Design Jam: Reinventing the UX Wheel

Design Jam: Reinventing the UX Wheel

When we want to look back at the past, we have pictures, newspapers, and accounts to remember. But while we can do all this and more online, we are missing a historical account of the internet itself. Emily Moser compares one of the oldest standing websites with its current-day counterpart, and how design standards have changed over the years.

The Devil’s in the Error Message

The Devil’s in the Error Message

Error messages can be the angels or the devils on our shoulders: they can catch our mistakes and help us on our merry way, or plunge us deeper into confusion and frustration. Kathi Kaiser describes how an error message that cried wolf put a damper on an otherwise sunny travel experience.

My User Experience of Driving an Electric Car Summed Up in Two Words: Range Anxiety

My User Experience of Driving an Electric Car Summed Up in Two Words: Range Anxiety

My commute is seven miles round trip across Evanston and back again, and I decided that my subcompact getting 30 mpg wasn’t cutting it anymore. Why not get an electric car and avoid gas altogether? So I bought a Nissan Leaf, and I love it! Of course, I can’t help but analyze the user experience of my new car… and here’s what I’ve noticed:

Even though the range of ~90 miles is likely more than I’ll drive in an average week, I still suffer from range anxiety....