Thoughts on Assignment 1 – Deliverable 6 (Paper Prototyping in Action)

After deploying our paper prototypes in action, I have the following observations:

• It appears to me that, at least for this assignment, bias is inescapable. there are several mitigating circumstances that I am finding very difficult to “experiment out”:
1. Even though I am not the designer of the Ravens Nest No.1 of Harford County webpage, I have a “rooting interest” in the successful design of the webpage. I have always wondered, for example, how a sports official can ever truly referee or umpire a sporting contest without bias. One has to assume that, they would not be an official if they did not love the sport which would mean that at some point in their lives they had a “favorite” team which leads to the inevitable possibility that they will at some point officiate a contest that involves their favorite team. One can be as well trained as possible, and as professional as possible, but at the moment of a spilt second judgment call, how can one not see the reality of a play from the filter that bias creates? I feel like that official when conducting these tasks. I can tell myself to be controlled and professional, and when things are going according to plan or at least predictable, I am in control…but what of the split second, unaccounted for “thing” that causes a split-second bias reaction on my part? How do I control instinct?
2. Even if I was able to maintain perfect professionalism, these are my friends. They are “rooting for me” to do well. This may not bias me…but it biases them. This is seemingly impossible to control because they ARE my target audience. These ARE my users. Taking random people off the street would not achieve the objectives of the redesign we are attempting. In retrospect, the only way to control for this, would have been to recuse myself from conducting the actual experiment. But that is about as realistic as an NFL official recusing themselves from officiating Super Bowl XLVII because they were a Ravens fan.
• Paper prototypes can be cumbersome. I found that to do them effectively, I needed to have a lot of flat and open space, which for some of my participants was at a premium. Having a laptop for the Think Aloud assignment allowed for a greater amount of flexibility in terms of where I could conduct.
• The more dynamic the interface, the more confusion was caused by using a paper prototype. I simple menu click was obvious and straightforward, but some of our task involved things “popping in and out” or coming alive as a result of a hover event. Those events were sometimes a little more difficult to assess.
• Despite all the negatives listed above, overall I found the use of paper prototypes to work fairly well. The users were able to understand and maneuver though most of the tasks in a realistic manner that I actually found a little surprising.

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