We must consider the idea that the amount of people making decisions in politics, business, and service industries are not necessarily skilled statisticians. Nor are they skilled in the tools to extract data as we are. So, the question becomes: How can we allow the user (who is not a mathemetician or statistician) to access relevant information and make decisions based on it without a baby-sitter? Well, in order to answer this question, we must first think like a designer...
First, we need to empathize with the customer/user and understand his/her environment and motivations. Then, focus in on the things that he/she holds as valuable. Next, generate a number of different ideas that vary in order to arrive at a tool that will meet the needs of the customer.
*This idea of design thinking will be something I post about in the near future, but isn't a significant part of the context of what we're discussing. However, it is important to think about if you're considering using this tool to develop a prototype.
So, after we've identified elements of a tool.. what next? We have to prototype and make something, right? Well, what if the answer you've arrived at isn't something you know how to make... say an iOS application?
That's where the Prototype on Paper iOS app comes in. This application allows you to literally DRAW out exactly how you see an app being mapped out and make it. Thus, an engineer with next to zero knowledge on app development can communicate and show a developer what he's thinking and how he/she arrived at the idea. However, this also suggests a new way to look at app development.
For example, I'm working with the Lee County Emergency Management Agency on how they approach natural disaster relief. One of the specific areas we're analyzing is how social media is considered. On April 27, 2012 there were a series of horrific tornadoes that swept through our state. Because of the devastating carnage that ensued, 911 operators were tied up and those in peril could not contact anyone to let them know their plight. So, being resourceful, these people turned to social media to let anyone and everyone know what was wrong, where they were, and what they needed. This in effect, created a whole litany of other problems but the one we'll consider for the sake of this conversation was that this information was not going to the right people. Emergency responders were not notified of these people that were in need of help and therefore could not coordinate the proper relief efforts. So, people were rushing to help while wearing flip-flops and t-shirts and then stepping on rusty nails and becoming another victim in the picture. This image leaves us with some very distinct needs. The entity that is coordinating needs to have a picture of what information is traveling over local social media channels and have a way to manage tasks and send correspondence of needs/locations to people that can help.
Thus, I developed an app that will allow these things to happen. And here's how I did it:
- Download the app "Prototype on Paper" from iTunes
- Using some sort of methodology (I used design thinking as defined by the d.school at Stanford) to develop the "pages" of your app. Just like you would a website.
- Launch the app
- touch the "+" in the top left-hand corner of the homescreen after you've gone through the tutorial.
- Enter a title for your app (or project as it's defined in the app)
- Begin by touching the camera in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen
- Take a picture of each of your "pages"
- On the project screen (this is where all of your pictured pages sit in rows), select one of your pages.
- On the top right-hand corner of the screen, touch the "+" that is inside a box. A red square will appear on your screen.
- Touch and drag the red square to any place on your page where you intend for the user to touch to engage a new page. Resize by dragging one of the square corners at a time.
- After reaching the desired location and size, touch the prompt "Link To".
- On the next page, select the page you want that button to go to when pressed by the user. Note the bottom of the current page has 5 different selections for how the transition from one page to the next can occur.
- After selecting, press "Done" in the top right-hand corner of the page.
- Repeat this process until you have placed links to all the buttons on your drawn pages.
- When you're ready to test your app, select the play button on either the top right (when close up to one of your drawn pages) or bottom center (when on the project's main page).
- Navigate through your app and take note of anything you've forgotten.
- If you forgot to paste a link, pinch your fingers together on the screen and go back to step 9.
- Most important step, keep in mind you just threw together a quick and dirty app in like an hour. Now, give it to your user and see how they interact with it. Receive their criticism as an anthropologist, not an analyst. After all, what's to get upset about? You just spent a minimal amount of time creating this super useful tool and all you have to do to change it is erase something and draw something new or touch a few buttons.
I hope you enjoy!