Interaction Design + Rapid Prototyping

By Thomas Quigley • June 9, 2015

One of my favorite aspects of being a UX Designer is prototyping. I love the ability to quickly iterate on designs and test them out on users, so when it came time to deliver my first Learning + Leadership seminar, I knew I wanted to present on some of my favorite prototyping tools.

But first: What is interaction design?

Interaction Design, or IxD, is defined on Wikipedia as “shaping digital things for people’s use” or alternately as “the practice of designing interactive digital products, environments, systems, and services.”

I personally like to think of IxD through the lease of Sir Isaac Newton’s famous words:

“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

Let’s simplify everything down to the anatomy of the click of a mouse. You click on a button, and receive visual feedback that confirms your action. This breaks down into:

Affordances – A quality that makes a potential action possible. For example, a door knob is shaped so that it is possible for you to turn the door knob.

Signifier – An indicator, some signal in the physical or social world that can be interpreted meaningfully.

Interaction design is focused on designing for the humans behind the screens. The term itself comes from HCI (Human-computer interaction) and Ergonomics.

Let’s take a step back and talk about Skeumorphs (I promise I have a point).

Skeuomorphs are deliberately employed to make the new look of a product feel comfortably old and familiar, catering to our simply habits that are too deeply ingrained to wash away. Remember that apple mouse with the little ball in the middle for scrolling? During the prototyping phase they realized that people weren’t used to the quiet scrolling, so they put in a tiny speaker to mimic the old scrolling wheel. The noise serves no purpose other than to put into the cultural experience, context, and comfort of the intended user— exactly what Skeuomorphic design calls for.
Products like the Apple scrolling mouse show us why prototypes are so important in the design process for yourself, as well as for your users. You must test a product in order to get the feedback necessary to produce an ideal item.

Now comes the “how.” My favorite tools for prototyping are: Axure, HYPE, and just good ol’ pen and paper. I’ve also used ‘Hotspot’ based prototyping tools such as Invision, POP, and Marvel, but tend to prefer to use them for mobile-mock ups instead.

Pure Prototypes are great for making the immediate jump from wireframes to clickable screens. I find them especially useful to use with ecommerce or SaaS websites for testing IA structure. Some wonderful tools for these sites are: Axure, Keynote, HYPE 3

At the end of the day, my main prototype advice is to work quickly, and get the best product you can out there. Remember there is no right way to make a prototype! Use what fits into your workflow and be sure to create something.


Click here to see my full Learning + Leadership seminar on Prototyping
Special thanks to my GA teachers Luke Miller, Nevan Scott, and Rashida White!


Thomas Quigley

Whether personally or professionally, I always attempt to approach new projects with the spirit of a thinker, maker and do’er.

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