Paper Prototyping for Usability Saves Time!

March 23, 2010

As a venture capitalist who started my career as a mechanical designer, I tend to be very visual and am somewhat fixated on simplicity of products and the experience users have with products. Through my eyes, all software interfaces and web interfaces can be improved and most interfaces can be dramatically improved from the perspective of the user and the user experience. Also, great user experiences and well designed user interfaces are great goals as part of your business growth strategies.

From my perspective, the only way to improve products for users is to build things, test them with users to get their feedback, and then make adjustments to the product and repeat the cycle. I continue to be amazed at how few user tests and iterations go into the product management lifecycle of most software/Internet product companies, so I push this point a lot. As part of this effort, I have been pushing paper prototyping as a vehicle to get good UI/UX feedback with limited effort and I just came across a couple of good examples.

The first example shows a relatively sophisticated example of a paper prototype test in action:

The second example is a good demonstration of an introduction to a paper prototype test and also an explanation from Steve Krug, one of the usability greats. It should be enough to get you started if you have not tried paper prototyping in the past:

One commonality that I notice in most companies is that one of the stages of product development maturity is when the product management process is separated from the development implementation process so that product management can focus on design while product development can focus on implementation. This helps to separate the user-based conversations and design from the computer resource-based conversations and design and it also helps to make sure that there is enough resource allocated to UI/UX design.

If you are not yet at the stage where you can afford to do this, perhaps you can at least start putting in place a paper prototyping and usability testing cycle to help you to optimize for the user as much as possible as you build new functionality into your product, even if this activity is carved out of development time?

Founder & Partner

As the founder of OpenView, Scott focuses on distinctive business models and products that uniquely address a meaningful market pain point. This includes a broad interest in application and infrastructure companies, and businesses that are addressing the next generation of technology, including SaaS, cloud computing, mobile platforms, storage, networking, IT tools, and development tools.