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Case Study: The Importance of Paper Prototyping

Case Study: The Importance of Paper Prototyping


We needed to understand Alex’s journey to be able to achieve her goals and needs, we luckily were able to create her collaboratively using “Miro”.

The end goal of creating journey maps was to solve Alex’s pain points and understand what the problem is from her point of view as a user. We decided to focus on the sign-up process since this is the point where Alex gets frustrated and is ready to give up. From there we created the problem statement we want to solve.

When volunteers select an event, they are required to sign up and go through an orientation process.

Alex wants less paper work and more field time, but finds the processes out-of-date and time consuming.

How might we help her have a streamlined volunteer process based on her preferences?

To begin solving this problem we conducted usability testing on the NY Cares site. We wanted to take a closer look at why the problem exists and dig into it more. We conducted usability testing on five participants who have used New York Cares to volunteer in the past. As well as users who have never visited a New York Cares website. We wanted a diversity of data to be able to asses from the view of current volunteers, As well as potential volunteers.

Usability testing on one of the participants.
Current New York Cares Website

The takeaways we took from the usability testing was:

  • Users appeared confused about the sign-up process, especially when they had to sign up for an orientation to be able to volunteer. They felt that the website was not informative and didn’t communicate that from the beginning.
  • Users took multiple searches to find volunteer opportunities that match their preferences, that’s because every time they searched they would be redirected to a “no results page”, which made them go back and forth to reset preferences.

Based on these takeaways and problems we defined, we took these problems into the ideation phase.

A pencil and paper are all you need to come up with the next big solution. We conducted a 45-minute design studio. A design studio is sketching out ideas in silence for five minutes, then speaking about each idea in one minute to your team members. Followed by a three-minutes critique in total from your team members, then refining those ideas into one solution based on your team’s ideas, as well as the critique received.

Design Studio 1

The design studio was the most challenging design task for us as a team. There was a lot of tension and frustration, each member advocating for their idea aggressively, forgetting what matters, which is the problem statement, the persona, and the data. That’s why it’s essential to have the persona, the problem statement, and the journey map printed and seen by all team-member to keep the focus on the data rather than personal opinions. There was a lot of miscommunication and no intentions to communicate. It was like as if communication was an ego buster, so team-members bottled things within.

Time played an important factor in this part because there was no time for arguments and tensions. There was no time for unnecessary or extra talking; we were on a time crunch. Since there was no team-leader to make final decisions, we had to vote on the ideas we wanted to move forward with to Mid-Fidelity and even voting was challenging since everyone wanted to agree on a design to move forward with. Group facilitation techniques like time-boxing, parking, and voting were hard to enforce at this point. The team was not on the same page, and it just became just energy-draining, as we passed the 45 minutes.

We conducted two of these design studios. My team wanted to figure everything from the solution from the first design studio. In the second design studio, we spent it in refining the layout of the sketch we choose to move forward with rather than testing it on a paper-prototype. Recalling back, I think that’s where we went wrong, and I wish I advocated more for this rather than some design.

We thought since we wasted a lot of time in the Design Studio 1, and went above the 45- minutes; Paper-prototype was just an extra step to do when we can just make it visually acceptable to usability testing in Mid-Fidelity. Taking the role of a UX Designer, you often forget that it’s never about you, it’s always about the user.

Design Studio#1
Design Studio#2

Overcoming Design Studio Challenges:

  1. If there is no assigned team-leader, try to step up and become a leader for your team. You don’t have to verbally say “ I am your team-leader” rather show your team actions and help them. After all, what you and your team members have in common is the goal.

I tried to follow up with each team-member via Slack and get to break the ice, to see if they needed help with a software or having problem in general.

2. Always gather your team before you start any work and talk about your feelings. A venting session about How they are feeling about the project?, What are their thoughts?, Comments?

After finishing the design studio and moving to the next phase, I gathered my team to talk about our feelings; I called it, “Feelings check.” Everyone started with small words and repeated the world fine repeatedly. I started to vent out and talk about how I felt about the design studio and my team member’s behaviors. This made other team members talk honestly, and accept constructive feedback from each other. This reveals more than you think.

3. If there is a morning check-in, end it with an end of day check-in. End of day is a summary of what you guys did as a team, discussing energy levels, the goals you have set were they achieved? As well this is an opportunity to check if everyone is on the same page.

The morning feeling checks, as well as end-of-day check, helped reveal that a team member misunderstood a sketch in the design studio, and based an entirely different scenario because there was not enough context given. This was a mistake from us as a team.

4. Have lunch together as a team, this goes a long way and help give your team the dynamic they need.



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