Prototyping BIG Digital Systems: Pen & Paper Prevail

May 6, 2016 Ramy Nassar

Have you ever thought about designing a really big digital system?  Like, really big?

Our design and prototyping team was tasked with this kind of challenge last year when a client wanted to increase in-store customer engagement by creating an interactive experience that could bring customers and staff together. We were asked to build a gesture-controlled interactive wall. The specs? The 15’ wide wall would be made up of sixteen 55” LCD panels, laid out in a 4x4 grid.


At first we hit a roadblock, we didn’t have a 4x4 video wall in our office, nor did the project budget allow for such an elaborate expense. So we went back to the drawing board, literally, and realized that the initial phase of design and usability testing for such a system didn’t need any real hardware. We could build a paper prototype, and a big one at that.


We decided to use an oversized whiteboard, draw a grid to visualize where the LCD screens would be placed and tape product images to each screen. Within a couple of hours, we were ready to begin user testing without designing a single screen or worrying about any hardware restrictions.



While we had high hopes that every user would intuitively know how to ‘select’ a product, we quickly learned our first lesson: almost half of our users tried to touch one of the virtual screens. This very low fidelity user test immediately identified the need to provide more detailed usage instructions to our users, nudging them towards the correct interaction system. We continued to rapidly iterate changes to our prototype and eventually used a high power digital projector to bring richer visualizations to the prototype. In a matter of days, our team was able to validate the usability and desirability of a large scale digital system.


By discovering key failings early in the process, we were able to pivot our strategy and converge on a stronger solution that would maximize customer engagement; and we did it all without having to build a full scale software or hardware from the get go. This approach saved both time and money, and led to a solution that was truly user-centric.

On May 11th, 2016, Ramy Nassar will be presenting at UX Alive in Istanbul about how large-scale digital systems can be prototyped and tested quickly with almost no cost, and how Architech built a full-scale production system for a client.


Ramy Nassar is Managing Director, Strategy and Design at Architech.


About the Author

Ramy Nassar

As Managing Director, Ramy focuses on promoting Service Design -- working with internal teams and clients to create innovative and differentiated customer experiences. Operating at the intersection of Service Design and the Internet of Things, Ramy pushes the boundaries of how technology can integrate with everyday experiences.

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