Prototyping: what it is and why it’s useful

We mentioned in our end of year roundup that we were developing a prototype of our new programme planning tool for section leaders.

We’ve been testing this with a Community of Interest group and, during those tests, explained the purpose of a prototype within the wider context of the tool’s development.

Prototyping is a crucial part of the design of any modern tool, so we thought we would go into more detail about why.

 

What is a prototype?

A digital prototype usually takes the form of wireframes. Wireframes are simplified designs which help to keep a viewer’s focus on the substance of the product rather than the designer’s visual choices, like which font they used.

Images like this are intended to demonstrate the functionality of a tool. Copy may not be finalised and images may be lacking but the viewer is aware of the purpose of the page.

Where a wireframe becomes a prototype is when a tool links these images together. There are various online services that provide this functionality, such as Marvel, InVision and Axure. We’re using the latter to prototype our digital programme planning tool. Linking wireframes together allows a static page to emulate a functional tool.

 

What is a prototype for?

A prototype is intended to help viewers test what we have designed without distraction. The aim is to see if the user can fulfil their goals on their own. It isn’t the time to critique colours or image choice, hence the rectangular box with an ‘x’ in the middle which acts as a placeholder for an image.

This helps to evaluate ideas and, through testing, to learn what we didn’t know. That lesson could be how people react to the placement of a button, or what users are expecting from your tool. A prototype will help you develop and test the function, as opposed to the visual form.

Because a prototype is not the finished product, it can prove integral to ensuring development is on the right track, before going too far in the wrong direction. Being careful to avoid bias, user engagement through prototyping can help to keep the development of your tool focused on creating a positive user experience.

What next?

Once you have a prototype you and your testers are happy with, you can start to create the visual design, or the form, of your tool.

Creating a digital tool like this means constantly balancing form and function. It is incredibly easy to do one or the other – the hard work is striking the right balance.

To learn more about our digital programme planning tool, or to become part of our digital Community of Interest group to assist with future testing, please get in touch.

 

Digital Day: Building Scouts Digital with Raspberry Pi’s Olympia Brown

We’ve had to keep it secret for weeks, but with today’s announcement of our partnership with the Raspberry Pi Foundation, we are happy to share their contribution to Digital Day. If you are not already familiar, the Raspberry Pi Foundation is a charity dedicated to teaching computer science skills to young people. They are best known for the small and affordable Raspberry Pi computer. This basic and customisable PC is the best selling British computer ever. They also host seminars and workshops across the world to teach people of all ages about computer science.

They were a big part of Digital Day where we announced our partnership with them on the Digital Maker Staged Activity Badge and they led workshops about teaching digital skills. The Scouts are working with Raspberry Pi on several projects, from those workshops at our Digital Day to the full redevelopment of our Digital Maker Staged Activity Badge. The new badge requirements move away from computer science to using digital skills to solve problems, build resilience, help their communities and express themselves. The partnership is bringing a whole new set of activity resources that leaders can use with their group as well as innovative ‘How-to’ videos. The design of the badge has also been updated to reflect the essence of the partnership. Much more is to come as the Scouts and Raspberry Pi are working to ensure the badge is accessible to all members. Talks about training leaders and development of kits are happening, so stay tuned!

Below Olympia Brown, Senior Programme Manager for Youth Partnerships at Raspberry Pi, talks with us about our partnership, the Digital Day, and Scouting.

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Digital Day: Making a new homepage with and for volunteers

From next Tuesday, 15 May, Scouts.org.uk will have a new homepage. We felt that Scouting needed a new homepage now, for a number of reasons.

  • The previous homepage was not meeting needs of members or potential members (see below for further details on this)
  • The new homepage allows us to get a better understanding of how people use it, and to test ideas in order to make improvements – you will see changes straight away.   We will even take a few risks to try new things.
  • On our new homepage, we will start putting our research into use (further details on this below).
  • We want to celebrate the new brand with a fresh, updated homepage that better reflects where Scouting is now.
  • New digital products are a critical part of the strategy, so we need to get started straight away
  • Most importantly, we want to start working on how we work together, immediately. This homepage has important input from members who participated in our Digital Day workshop on designing the homepage.

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Digital Day: Understanding volunteering through research

In order for us all to build the right digital products, we must first make sure we understand current Scout volunteering by conducting research.  This post is about how we are using research to build based on your needs, how members were involved in what we have done so far, and how you can be involved yourself in the future.  I first presented this at Digital Day, so if you are interested in what happened, or if you want to see and share what you saw that day, you will find that here.
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