Testing in i-doc production: what, when and how?

3 Mar

people testing paperprototyping

Question 5, in the UX Series, wants to address the practicalities of testing in i-doc production. Is rapid prototyping possible in interactive narratives and can we test from day one our ideas and design?

In a Web world where everybody preaches agile design and iterative methodologies it is difficult to think that interactive narratives should be treated differently. And yet, from my experience mentoring projects, and when I speak to i-docs producers, I can see that testing is in the back of their minds but they often wait till the last minute to do it. The pattern normally goes like this: so much time goes into elaborating the idea that the interface and interactive storyboard (wire-frame) are rushed and often given to an external  designer that was not involved in the initial concept. The author asks for a few design ideas and then selects the one s/he likes most. The coders are then asked to add the functionality. Bugs, technical issues, budget constraints then take most of the time and efforts of the team… and by the time there is a working prototype the project is near to launch. This is when there is a sudden panic attack and the team remembers testing. The assumption of the author here is that a narrative is more complex than a commercial website and therefore one has to wait for a working prototype before starting the testing. The consequence of this pattern is that what gets tested is only navigation and look and feel (do people understand what to click and what it looks like, rather than are they at all interested in the project, would they spend their time on it and what do they get out of it).

I decided to interview Isaac Pinnock from Made by Many because they specialize in rapid prototyping and iterative testing. It is true that their clients are commercial entities, but they have worked for ITV, the Telegraph and Skype and they have no doubt: any project should be tested at every single stage, and no more than 5 days of design should be done without testing. The trick is to test different things at each stage. To learn how to do it properly watch Isaac Pinnock in the UX Series.

I then turned into a very experienced i-doc developer/designer, Mike Robbins, from Helios Design Lab. These are the guys behind NFB’s Highrise. They design experiences that combine the art of traditional storytelling with new and emerging technologies in web, mobile and animation. They are “la creme de la creme” of the i-doc world. I asked Mike to tell me about the way they test their projects and… interestingly enough… I learned that they have refined their methodologies through every single project they have done. Check what Mike has learned during five years of Highrise production, and through their latest project OFFSHORE!

Mike will be coming to i-Docs 2014 and will present OFFSHORE with director Brenda Longfellow on Thursday 20th of March, in Bristol, UK. In another talk, Mike will also unveil how Helios Design Lab is addressing user experience and participatory design in the project they are currently working on: WOO (World Online Orchestra). Don’t miss your chance to meet Mike in person, and to be inspired by his contagious ideas: register to i-Docs now!

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