Iterative non-functional prototyping

By Gordon Rugg

Sometimes, product development is straightforward. The client tells you what they want; you produce it; they’re happy with it, they pay you, and everything is fine. This is known in the field as the waterfall model of development; once the client has signed off on the requirements, the process then moves irrevocably onwards, like a river going over a cliff.

When you and the client are dealing with familiar territory, this approach usually works reasonably well. Sometimes, though, things don’t work that way. You’re particularly likely to hit problems when you’re developing something that’s new territory for you and/or the client.

One common problem involves the client changing their mind part-way through development.

Another involves the client being unhappy with what you produced.

Communication problems are another frequent source of trouble, with you trying to make sense of just what the client wants, and getting more and more frustrated.

If you’re in that situation, or you think there’s a risk of getting into it, you might want to try iterative non-functional prototyping. It’s a lot simpler than it sounds, and it’s a fast, cheap, efficient way of getting to the heart of what the client wants, particularly when clients don’t actually know just what they want at the start. It involves looping through mockups systematically until the requirements are clear.

This article gives a short introduction to the core concepts and the process. It should be enough to let you get started; there’s supporting material elsewhere on this blog which goes into more detail about the underpinnings, which I’ve linked to within the article.

Waterfalls and loopsbannerv1Images from Wikimedia Commons: Attributions are given at the end of this article

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New Hyde and Rugg website

By Gordon Rugg

The new version of the Hyde & Rugg website is now live, here:

http://www.hydeandrugg.com/

Among other things, it contains a resource section which pulls together our articles on a range of topics, including academic craft skills for students, elicitation methods, requirements, design, and education theory.

There’s also a section about our research, plus a section on the codes we’ve worked on. Again, these pull together our previous blog articles into a structured framework.

Over the next few months, we’ll be adding more material, particularly in the sections on academic craft skills and on our research.

We hope that you’ll find the site a useful complement to this blog.

 

People in architectural drawings, part 6; conclusion

By Gordon Rugg

This article is the last in a short series about finding out what people really want. I’ve explored that topic via discussion of idealised dream buildings, to see what regularities emerge and what insights they provide into people’s dreams and desires.

In today’s article, I’ll pull together strands from those discussions, and see what patterns emerge.

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Detail from: “Neuschwanstein Castle above the clouds” by Arto Teräs – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Neuschwanstein_Castle_above_the_clouds.jpg#/media/File:Neuschwanstein_Castle_above_the_clouds.jpg
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Observation, stumbles and smiles

By Gordon Rugg

If you’re designing something that’s going to be used, as opposed to something decorative, then it’s a really good idea to make it fit for its purpose.

How can you do that? Observing the users is a good start.

“Observing” is a broad term that includes various specialised forms of observation and analysis. In this article, I’ll describe a simple way of doing basic observation of users, which involves watching out for four key alliteratively-named actions:

  • stumbles
  • scowls
  • swearwords
  • smiles

It’s simple, but it’s powerful, and it usually catches most of the main problems, and it gives you a good start towards designing something that the users will like.

Not great art, but useful: Four things to watch for in task analysisbannerv1

Sources of original images are given at the end of this article

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The Knowledge Modelling Book

By Gordon Rugg

Over the last year, we’ve blogged about various aspects of knowledge modelling. That’s allowed us to go into depth about specific topics.

We’re now pulling that information together into a structured format, as an online book. This article contains the core structure of the book, with links to our previous blog articles about the topics within the book. Those articles cover about half of the material that the final version of the book will contain.

We’ve gone for this format, rather than a single downloadable document, because it’s more practical at this point. The knowledge modelling book covers a lot of topics, and even the current partial draft would be a very large document, with a lot of illustrations.

We’ll update this draft fairly frequently, via further blog articles. Some of those articles will be case studies showing how concepts from the book can be applied to real examples. Other articles will be about the broader and deeper context of the book; in particular, the introductory sections and the discussion sections for the main sections. At some point, we’ll put a more reader-friendly version onto the Hyde & Rugg website, which we’re currently updating.

We welcome constructive feedback and suggestions.

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Likert scales and questionnaires

By Gordon Rugg

I really, really, really hate badly designed questionnaires.

That’s an issue, because most questionnaires are badly designed. The bad design makes them worse than useless. At least if something is useless, it isn’t making the situation actively worse. Badly designed questionnaires, however, can make a situation significantly worse, by adding disinformation into the story, so that a problem takes longer to solve.

This is even more of an issue because questionnaires are so widely used. Any idiot can design a bad questionnaire, and many idiots do, with a variety of excuses, such as:

  • Every other idiot is doing this, so I want to get in on the act
  • Nobody ever got fired for using a questionnaire
  • It’ll all come right in the end anyway, even if I do it badly
  • Who cares?

None of these arguments inspire much confidence or respect with regard to the person using them.

In this article, I’ll make a start on the issues affecting questionnaires. They’re big issues, that have deep roots and broad implications, so discussing them in full will take a number of articles. For now, I’ll focus on a single topic, namely how Likert scales can be used within questionnaires.

Likert scales, and Likert-style scales, are widely used (and widely misused) in questionnaires. In this article, I’ll look at some of the key concepts involved, and at some of the issues involved in using this approach properly.

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Timelines, task analysis and activity sequences

By Gordon Rugg

This article is a re-blog of part of a previous article about assessing whether or not you’ve met a client’s goals in a product design.

I’ve re-blogged it to form a free-standing article, for anyone interested in systematic approaches to recording and analysing people’s activities. I’ve lightly edited it for clarity.

The examples I’ve used below relate to product evaluation, but the same principles can be applied to other human activities, such as how people make decisions when shopping, or how people find their way around in an unfamiliar place.

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