Entries in design tools (7)


paper prototype

Paper prototype is a usual method used in testing design concept with end user. It is often recommended to designer as there is not much technique barrier - paper, scissors, pens for drawing and post-it notes are pretty enough for the task. I used paper-prototype in different contexts: signage design, web design and even in writing and teaching.

For those who are not familiar with the concept, here is a fairly self-explain YouTube video:

My recent paper prototype test was last week, testing two sets of user journey for a client project. The functionality is relatively simple; the focus is mainly on how user may read different elements on a screen and what their expectations are after finishing task on each screen.


Some reflections here: 

  1. think of realistic test stories and a lot of them
    Like any type of testing methods, paper prototype is only one of a set of tools to interact with your participant and probe information. Paper prototype lets the user to experience a story and try to interact with the proposed system in means as intuitive to them as possible. Good setting allows participant to really engage with the story you propose, thus, may leads to more validate test results.

    For example, I tested a jounry happens after the user purchased a number of things from one place. So my example is Tesco, and I mocked up a Tesco shopping list to help user to get themselves into the role and related the test case to their normal daily interactions, even though the test itself has nothing to do with Tesco.

    Prepare for a number of story lines, and make sure your design template is flexible enough to allow different scenario to happen naturally. Make a lot of small bits that can be replaced quickly is a good tip, also, maybe colour code different bits according to different storylines so you won’t lose count during the test.

  2. pilot with a number of people before go out to real test
    Test the test - this may sounds a bit funny but really key. I piloted it with 4 before I move on to real users, and again this is a very small test I did. In pilots, you learn two things (at least): 1) get familiar with your script. Especially while testing complicated tasks playing the role of a system and record user interaction as a solo tester requires a number of rehearse; 2) it reveals user reaction that you have not covered in the script. As designer, we become blind to the interface we designed. It always takes someone else to spot the most stupid mistakes. Also, it gives the tester a chance get a sense of how user might wish to interact with your setting and how easy they can follow your script. Do they wish to write or draw on your prototype? Would you need different colour coded paper for different path? Pilot gives you chance to think and learn by doing.

  3. prepare for extra sketch on the set
    No matter how well you prepare, there will be things pop up totally off the script. If the user suggested some interaction that I have not considered, then extra paper for sketch some scenario on the set might be helpful. I actually like these moments, as it is often very inspirations moments. I prefer to let these moment push the boundary a bit – letting user dominant the story and play along with the participant until we are seriously off the script. That is when the meaty stuff comes out. Forcing participants back to the script can make good test efficiency, but it might stop them from telling me what they honestly think, and start to treat the session as test to themselves - which should never be the point of any type of user testing. Again, a balance tricky for any tester, often the situation depend whether it is as inspirational piece you are working on, or you just want a clear answer: A or B?

  4. think carefully about how to collect and record user feedback 
    To be honest, I did not film my test often, sometimes due to short preparation time and more often I knew I won't have time to go through them afterwards. But if it is a piece of work involves different tester and might require review in the future, filming is always worth it. Personally, I find that I try to listen more carefully if I know there won't be a chance to go through the interview/session again. Well, I know many won’t agree and I welcome debate... What I do think any tester should spend some good time consider carefully before going into a test is how you want to let your participant give you feedback.

    Some prefer to test in silence because it represents a more realistic and objective interaction a user can have with the system. It allows the user to make decisions without influence from the tester. Then tester and participant can have an review on the session and ask couple of questions to clarify certain points. I tend to use probe questions during the test, but try not to give away too much answers in the conversations. I found these small talks build a trust between the participant and tester, thus they tend to reveal more about their doubts and thoughts. Whichever way, make as less influence on participant’s decision-making as possible.

    Personally, I likes to make small notes on the set, even when there are filming on set, to remind myself of ideas or to check out certain point user rise. Also, I put aside a lot time after each test to make reflective notes. For estimate, a 20 minute test, I will leave at least 10 minutes for notes taking after each session when my memory is still fresh and stimulated by the conversations. If there is a queue of participants, don’t forget to count the note-making time in.

  5. reduce information noise
    Remove elements from the paper prototype that will distract participants. Having said that I would let user go off the script, it does not mean let things get in the way. Paper prototype is so easy to create, it is hard to resist the attempt to add another link somewhere on page, even if you have not thought through what that link does or why it is on that particular page… reduce information noise sounds like a tricky business, but actually really easy to be spotted in pilot test, and all you need is to cut things off the page!


 I am no expert in paper prototyping, but I picked it up totally by accident thanks to student project I did back in my Masters at Dundee University. For those who wants to look more into this as a technique, Wikipedia is a good place to start. There is also a book devoted for this one technique. Also, it appears often here and there in all sorts of collection of design tools: e.g. Service Design Tools <- my favourite!

Also, found this brilliant step-by-step how to make your iPhone paper prototype – can’t wait to try out so give me a iPhone project please :)

My colleague just showed me this fab little toolkit for paper prototyping from UXPin  - I am happy with my post-it notes, but their kit does look very professional!


favourite visual research techniques

I was invited to write something about my research for the Design Studies blog at the University of Dundee. So I decide to share some of my favourite visual research techniques with the smart kids at Dundee. This leads to a guest blog post 'Giving Research a Design Twist'.

Go and have a look at their blog because it has a rich resource of design in all contexts: design research, craft, creative enterprise, social innovation... anything you can think of! You may find something interesting for you as well...


customer experience touch-point cards

Early on, I mentioned that we received a set of cards for creating customer experience touch-point from the AT-ONE project as a gift from the Nordic Service Design conference. Jeff posted some information about what the contents are, and I got really curious about the stories behind the developing and using of these cards, so I contacted Simon Clatworthy, the host of the conference as well as the manager of the AT-ONE project, with a list of questions.

Now let's see what Simon says about these really inspiring cards...

1. Where does the idea of producing touch point cards come from? Who made them? Is there any project context that gave birth to them?

The idea emerged when we started running workshops in the AT-ONE project two years ago. AT-ONE is a project that aims to assist the first stage of an innovation project - the Fuzzy Front End - using service design techniques. In AT-ONE, each of the letters relate to different aspects of service innovation - Actors, Touch-points, Offering, Need, Experience - and we have developed innovation workshops for each letter. As part of the Touch-Point workshops, we found ourselves needing touch-point examples to help with both mapping and analysis work (before a workshop) and for idea generation during the workshops themselves. We started out with lists, then photos and decided that what we needed was a set of cards that could both stimulate new thinking, but also help map out existing situations. When we realised that the conference was coming up, we decided to print up a set for the participants.

The cards were made by Ingvild Støvring and me together, both of us from AHO (the Oslo School of Architecture and Design). She took most of the photos and designed the cards, I created the content list and the tools for their use. We printed at a local printers after trying (and failing) to find a cheap foreign printer.


2. How would you describe the process of developing these cards developed? Were they prototyped or tested?

The development process has been kind of evolutionary over the past two years. We have run tons of Touch-Point workshops together with various companies, and various versions of support examples were developed to help communication and innovation. We have moved from texts to images to the combination shown on the cards. We have also developed several tools to help design teams facilitate new thinking about touch-points, and some of them are included with the cards. So, they have been prototyped several times and improved each time, most recently during our master course in Service Design last Autumn. It seems like the forced association method is the one that the students always like to use. I guess its because it encourages radical ideas and forces you to think in new directions.


3. Who are these card made for? I noticed there are five different ways you suggestedto play these cards, so I guess the card game is designed not only for design teams, would you describe a bit more about the possible situations that thesecards can be used?


The cards are made for cross-functional teams who are at the start phase of an innovation process. When teams come together, there is often an interesting but odd mix of people and varying degrees of design experience. One of the main things that happens in the start phase is team building - finding common ground and pulling together. At the same time, the strategic mandate the project has received is translated into a chosen direction for the project. Its a critical time for the project, since decisions made here have huge consequences for future direction. Hopefully the cards will help the team (or individual members) analyse the present situation (if there is one) and develop ideas for new services or service touch-points. We have tried to design them so that they can be usable by any team member or team facilitator. So far, they seem to work well, and I find myself using them regularly in different contexts.

The contexts for their use are as follows, but we have found that they can be used in other contexts as well.

Firstly, they are aimed to be used at the early stages of the innovation process, the fuzzy front end. This is a divergent stage in a project in which various directions are being explored, and many opportunities are still open. The cards aim to help analysis, reflection and idea generation during workshops in which multiple stakeholders are involved. Generally a design team includes stakeholders from across organisational silos and include a broad set of disciplines. The cards should hopefully assist communication accross these different boundaries, and help create a common understanding regarding various touch-point issues. They also make explicit, what earlier has been up inside peoples heads. This is a common comment about design and its role in process facilitation - the use of images creating a common understanding within a team - and its true. We have found that using the cards helps move the team forwards in a good way.


Use context 1: Mapping an existing situation.

The cards help map out an existing situation. For example, the team can go through each stage of a service (or customer) journey and pick out the touch-points that are relevant at each stage. From this, many aspects can be discussed, such as which touch-point is most important to the customer, which are (maybe) used in sequence, which are most frequently used etc. This helps get the discussion moving around how customers view the service through touch-points, and how they often jump between them. It can also help raise the discussion about who is reponsible for develping and maintaining each touch-point. It is always a surprise for a team to understand that there is often a total lack of touch-point coordination accross an organisation.


Use context 2: Identifying pain points

Once the service journey has been mapped out, then there are loads of things you can do. One of the things we find useful is to identify the touch points along the service journey that dont perform particularly well, and why. This can be a useful means for improving consistency of experience along the service journey.


Use context 3: Whose touch-point is it anyway

One of the things we have found out is that in large organisations, different departments can be responsible for different touch-points. This often comes as a shock to an organisation, but is something that is usually noticeable from the customer perspective. There can be different tones of voice, interaction styles, use of images, typography and especially different terminology. Identifying who is responsible for each touch-point and finding ways of coordinating between them can be very useful. So, what we do is simply to note who is responsible for each touch-point used to access the service.

Use context 4: Touch-point migration

An organisation might get lazy, or might just not have routines in place for updating their touch-points. Over time, a touch-point might become out of date or there could be a better touch-point alternative that can be migrated towards. This is particularly relevant when it comes to use of technology and discussions regarding self service. Going through the touch-point cards can give ideas for new touchpoints and can help map out a migration strategy from one touch-point to another.

Use context 5: Touch-point addition or subtraction

This one is aimed at challenging todays situation by removing important touch-points. Based upon the touch-point mapping, remove the main touch point at each stage of the service journey, and discuss how it can be replaced. Surprisingly, you will find that it can be replaced, and this can give you ideas regarding new facets to a service. It it cannot be replaced, then the team has gained a deeper understanding of the touch-points importance and role. The opposite of this is to pick a random card at each step of the service-journey and discuss how it could be used to improve the service. We have added some specific touch-points for this, such as "service integrated into a product" or "smart phone". This can be a useful task in many ways, particularly to help challenge todays situation, which might have deep historical roots and need updating. Thinking about how an iPhone app could improve the service is never a bad thing anyway.

Actually, a bit of a sidetrack here, but when we started the project we had one card for mobile phone. However, we realised quite quickly that technological development has moved so fast that there are mobile phones, internet enabled phones and smart phones running apps. We had to create several categories of phones, and will probably have to add even more over time, such as tablets perhaps.

Use context 6: Forced association to create new services

This one is a favourite in workshops, even though it doesn't always generate that many relevant ideas. In this task you are forced to create a service based upon random cards: pick two (or more) random cards from the pack and design a service for your client based only upon these two cards. Forced association is a well known technique to force you away from logical thinking, and doing this with the touch-point cards is a good way to force yourself to think differently. Quite often you will end up with useless combinations, but its easy to put the cards back and pick again. Its a fun and challenging way to look at touch-points, and often unearths useful reflections regarding a service.

As you can see, the cards help stimulate both understanding and various kinds of innovations. They can be used for anything from analytical approaches to idea generation to impulsive and radical new solutions, depending upon the project and project context. They can be used alone or in teams, and work well together with clients.


4. Have these touch point cards been used in projects yet? (for example student projectin AHO?) It would be great to have some examples of these cards being used indifferent context or projects.

The cards have been used in student projects and together with several service providers. The project has a collaboration with several organisations in Norway, but two main ones - a large insurance company (Gjensidige) and the National Lottery (Norsk Tipping). We have carried out two iterations of the methods used in AT-ONE per year, so have already run through 5 iterations of the process. The experience so far is very encouraging, and we are in the process of validating the process and individual tools at the moment. This is not an easy thing to do, since innovation is not always easy to measure. Where do ideas come from, where do they go, and do how do they become adapted underway? Is organisational change a more important innovation than the number of ideas generated? Does the focus upon touch-points that this particular tool encourages (there are tens of other tools too) lead to better consistency in a service over time? What we have found is that the tools help generate a lot of ideas. They also help give new perspectives and understanding, and particularly help companies understand how customers view their company through touch-points and over time. So far, we are pretty happy with these cards, and we will definitely print up some more quite soon. In addition, we will make them available as a download on www.service-innovation.org, together with the other tools we are working upon.

If we were to remake them, I don't think I would change many things. There are some formulations that could be improved, and we have only scratched the surface when it comes to how to use them. I think its a good idea to set them free, so that people can add cards and add tasks. In that way they could continually evolve, which would be nice.

( from Simon Clatworthy, 18 Jan 2010)



sweet sweet gifts

To be honest, I was quite impressed by the organisation of Nordic SD Conference - received this little pack shortly after arriving at the hotel. Couple cute gifts from the organisor, including a pair of over-shoes to 'protect your favourit e shoes regardless of weather conditions' (shame that my Timberland seem too big for them...) and a set of design cards around touch-points from the AT-ONE project.

It seems that card making is the new 'black' in Design now. we all know the famous IDEO cards, as far as in Service Design, I know of two other sets of cards. One is the SILK method cards made by Engine with Kent city council. The other one was Lauren (Redjotter)'s Master project: Making Service Sense, a set of postcards of SD case samples. Both brilliant projects - I would love to see more likely projects, and also see these methods find their way into organisations and make tangible differences. It would be great if the use of design card becomes as normal as using SWOT Analysis. well... if you know of any other similar card sets, I would love to hear from you!

I mean it's a good thing. It's a sign that designers are preparing to share the authority of being the 'gifted ones' with more people and moving into a facilitating role in order to encourage innovation at larger scale, well and democracy as well. I consider it as a sign of this profession becoming more and more matured, and am happy to see that Service Design is honest to what it claims to be: co-design, and empower others.

Really look forward to tomorrow, yet, have to prepare for my own speech first... left the speech notes in the UK, so gotta work from scratch again... Well, let's enjoy the next three days!


Introduction to Service Design

Find this interesting site for Service Design beginners...


relationship mapping

(image quoted from Enginegroup.co.uk)

Find this facinating tool on Engine's website about how they find out the people and their relationships in a service system.

"Services are created and consumed through systems of relationships between people, things and processes. In order to innovate within these systems, it is important to understand the network of relationships between the people and organisations that make a service work - or that fail to make a service work. "

It seems to be really powerful tool when it comes to identify 'silent designer' in the system or 'key people' who has power over the service situations. Wonder if the designers from Engine Group are able to have face-to-face encounter with these 'key people' in their map in the practice? Ha-ha, one more questions for my interview list :)


Design Serving People

Liz Sanders's paper on how design can serve people's creative activities. It describes the changing role of designer from the output creator towards the creative process facilitator. More and more we witness service companies such as IDEO, Engine and Livework design toolkits for partcipants and client to create their 'own' service system, which provides an possibility for the client to sustain the innovation the organisation at different levels even after the designers step away.

Liz did some interesting workshop with the M.Des years ago when she visited, and I wonder if we can invite her to do another one the current M.Des on designing tools for participatory design approach next year sometime... emmnn...