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Prototyping Technologies

I'm currently investigating different ways to produce "paper prototypes" which are rough sketches of interfaces designed to be low-fidelity so as not to distract the user with detail.

In previous contracts I've had the chance to use the Mimeo electronic whiteboard which worked reasonably well collaboratively.

I've also used pencil sketches, where we've been able to walk through a design sitting physically together, and then scanned in the sketches and put them in a simple website for later reference.

The CrossPad, portable graphics tablet with paper on top, is useful for site visits. It allows me to capture up to 50 pages, with a hardcopy produced on the spot, and transfer the graphics to a PC later.

Palm and PocketPC sketching is too small for most use - a typical letter-sized page is more suitable.

The following sections discuss different approaches I'm trying at present primarily to produce UI samples for remote clients.

 

Graphics Tablet and OS/X Built-in apps

OS/X Jaguar (10.2) includes an InkPad recogniser - if you connect a Wacom Graphire or similar tablet, you can use the InkPad for handwriting recognition and to capture simple sketches such as the following.

Using the InkPad, which floats above your current application, you can paste a graphic into the app if it will accept Tiff images via the clipboard.

The TextEdit application that comes with OS/X will do so, creating an RTFD document which is actually a folder containing an RTF document and related images. (Download a PDF version to see the result if you're not on OS/X). As OS/X has native Print to PDF incuded, it took seconds to convert the RTFD document into a PDF.

One flaw is that the TIFF images are ridiculously large - the TIFF version of the image below was generated at 444KB, although it compresses brilliantly.

The pencil-like quality of the sketches and ease of capture makes this appealling to quickly gather ideas. InkPad doesn't provide any way to edit the generated images but the Graphire tablet ships with Painter Classic included, which allows opening and sketching on a variety of graphics formats.

In later sections, I'll talk about experimenting with Painter Classic directly for prototype sketching.

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Links

Index of all downloadable prototyping samples.