Do you use enough paper?

Every designer I know, has a unique design process. Paper prototyping is an important part of my design process, and if you don’t use it, I recommend you start. I love this methodology because it has tons of benefits at almost no cost.

My paper prototyping process is as follows:

Sketch out key screens
I start by sketching out key screens, using pencil and paper, keeping things very rough. I don’t worry about the high-level architecture, I just sketch out whatever seems to be the most important couple of screen designs.

Create hi-fidelity screen designs using Adobe Illustrator
I use Adobe Illustrator to create polished screen designs. Not wireframes. I’m talking good-looking screen designs in full color. Vector art programs are great because you can scale things indefintely and easily reuse widgets.

Print designs in color and post them all over the walls
At Coinbridge, the walls of our offices are covered with print outs. Not single print outs, but stacks of print outs (I’ll explain this in a minute). Too many designers limit the power of the human mind to connect things, by managing information in linear stacks (think power point). When I have a hundred 8.5″ X 11″ screen print outs on the wall, I can easily scan and interconnect data. There are limited ways of doing this elegantly on screen. (Note: Check out Jef Raskin’s work on “zooming” if you want to learn more about innovation that’s been done in this area).

Tape revisions on top of earlier designs — create a history
Don’t throw away your old designs. Just tape new ones on top of them. As time progresses you will find a living history of your design direction. It’s helpful and fun to see how your thoughts have progressed.

Create fictional personas and scenarios
I practice this method very informally (lots of people do it very seriously). Basically, it’s role playing. Create a persona that matches your user base, then create a few tasks that you have to complete. Walk through your designs and start discovering all the scenarios you neglected to design for!

Refine continually. Repeat.
We’re designing a web application right now. We’ve been working on it for about 3 weeks (full time). At this point we’ve probably got half a pound of paper on walls.

Leave a Reply