Mobile app development Part 4 – High fidelity and In-screen Prototyping

This is the fourth part in a series of how the development of a commercial educational  app was conducted. In the first part we looked at the need finding activities used to evaluate what features to include into the application. In the second part explored the creation of personas to reflect target user goals and motivations. The third part looked at the need for prototyping and user testing as being key in creating the perfect experience for the user.

We ended the third part with the creation of a paper-based prototype which was presented to users and through rapid prototyping polished based on user testing.

Through Participatory design with users, elegant solutions were created of how to complete user tasks. Because prototyping is paper based revisions are very easy to make whilst the users are still there.

High visual low functional fidelity

These prototypes focus on how something will look to elicit responses from users one would not normally get from paper based prototypes. This prototype was created in Pencil- a GUI prototyping tool. Its very easy to use, one can download freely available stencils online and exports works into many formats such as PDF and image files.

The design went through several iterations eliminating one screen through elimination of irrelevant information and use of available retail space on the screen. Taking the prototyping to the next level we introduce In-screen prototyping.

In-screen prototyping
The idea behind this technique is simple: place the prototype of the mobile application inside the mobile device. This allows users to get closer to experiencing aspects of the mobile user experience that are absent with paper UI sketches alone. User stories such as the one in the images above are established before hand and users go through a pre-define set of steps to achieve an activity.

It is evident that In-screen prototypes are not as realistic as high-fidelity prototypes, but they have the important advantage over low-fidelity prototypes in that users can hold the prototype in their hands in the same way they would hold the product in their hands. Although a paper prototype can allow a user to experience the way an application might look, it doesn’t generate the immediate emotional impact that the product ultimately will.

In-screen prototyping also allowed for the discovery of some essential elements than can help simulate the mobile user experience: contextual interaction experience, a better sense of realism, a focus on visceral and behavioral levels of design, the prototype-digitizing speed, and overall interactivity are all key benefits of this mid-fidelity approach.

Screens for the various user scenarios were then sent to developers for the actual implementation of the product. User testing of the final product is required to work out the kinks in the app.

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