Paper Prototypes for Kids

20 Nov 2007 - 3:25pm
6 years ago
1 reply
792 reads
Jeff Howard
2004

This article is about an elementary school group called "The Laptop Club"
with some great sketches of laptop computer interfaces as interpreted by
2nd and 3rd graders in construction paper.

http://www.themorningnews.org/archives/galleries/the_laptop_club/

What's interesting here is the insight into the students' world based on
what they've drawn. How their sketches reflect the social structure of
their group (friends vs best friends, etc) and what features they view as
most important for a computer in a way they might not be able to
articulate.

Even though this wasn't the point of the article, the approach reminds me
of some of Liz Sander's techniques with her Maketools generative
prototyping kits. Very much the same sort of research principle. Rather
than listening to what potential users say, or watching what they do,
interpreting what they "make."

http://www.maketools.com/

// jeff

Comments

22 Nov 2007 - 2:42pm
Jeff Axup
2006

Hi Jeff,

Yes, this is certainly interesting insight into the children's world. This
technique would probably fall into the camp of Participatory Design. I saw
the results of a study a while back (apparently not published yet) where the
researcher did a similar activity with mobile/cell phones. The results were
very similar to these photos: some of the functionality was straight out of
existing technologies. You could actually identify the nokia screen layout
and the form factors of common phones. On the other hand you'd get wildly
inventive (and somewhat impractical) ideas such as teleportation buttons.

I've often thought that extremely loosely definded design exercises such as
this probably tell us more about the lives of the children and the *
requirements* for the device; more so than actual *designs* which would be
feasible or worthwhile. Which is to say that it is a useful exercise, but
you need to know why you're doing it.

Early conceptual design/prototype work is fascinating in terms of
methodology. Slight variations in the method can produce very different
results, with different resulting value for a design process. For example,
slight "framing" of the exercise can help direct results toward the area of
interest. In one study I conducted, we took a variety of different shaped
prototype objects, and (somewhat) randomly assigned a high-level futuristic
function to each of them. (http://eprint.uq.edu.au/archive/00003610/).
Having a prototype or a drawing do "anything" makes it hard to do
"something" because the net is cast so wide.

So I guess the question is how to frame a study such that you stick
primarily to features which are at least remotely feasible, roughly in the
ballpark of what you're trying to build, and yet still wildly creative, and
not hampered too much by status-quo knowledge of existing products.

Thanks,
Jeff
________________________________________________________________________________
Jeff Axup, Ph.D.
Principal Consultant, Mobile Community Design Consulting, San Diego

Research: Mobile Group Research Methods, Social Networks, Group Usability
E-mail: axup <at> userdesign.com
Blog: http://mobilecommunitydesign.com
Moblog: http://memeaddict.blogspot.com

"Designers mine the raw bits of tomorrow. They shape them for the present
day." - Bruce Sterling
________________________________________________________________________________

On Nov 20, 2007 12:25 PM, Jeff Howard <id at howardesign.com> wrote:

> This article is about an elementary school group called "The Laptop Club"
> with some great sketches of laptop computer interfaces as interpreted by
> 2nd and 3rd graders in construction paper.
>
> http://www.themorningnews.org/archives/galleries/the_laptop_club/
>
> What's interesting here is the insight into the students' world based on
> what they've drawn. How their sketches reflect the social structure of
> their group (friends vs best friends, etc) and what features they view as
> most important for a computer in a way they might not be able to
> articulate.
>
> Even though this wasn't the point of the article, the approach reminds me
> of some of Liz Sander's techniques with her Maketools generative
> prototyping kits. Very much the same sort of research principle. Rather
> than listening to what potential users say, or watching what they do,
> interpreting what they "make."
>
> http://www.maketools.com/
>
> // jeff
>
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