Paper Prototype

The Ideation Framework

Josh Wexler gave an awesome workshop at Agile2013 on The Ideation Framework for helping teams rapidly think through and prototype new ideas.

We used it to each come up with our own idea of a better travel site. 50 people in the room, 50 totally different ideas/approaches arrived at, all in about an hour – pretty cool.

Index Cards

Glorious 3×5 Cards

Start with a pile of 3×5 cards. On the first, write down your Problem Statement – ideally including something about who you’re solving this for. The assignment was for a site that made it easy to book travel. I put:

Help people who want a spontaneous getaway to quickly & easily discover and book a fun place to travel to.

Others chose apps for finding child-friendly travel for families or for making it super easy for business travelers to rebook travel when they continually have to travel back to the same place again and again.

Loved that everyone “got” that the more niche they went, the more interesting they could make something then just another flight booking system for the masses.

What’s Your Inspiration?

Rather than burying our heads in the sand and pretending that nobody else has ever thought about this idea, Josh encouraged us to not only recognize others doing similar things but to learn from them. Hey, good artists copy, great ones steal, right?

So on the next 3×5 cards, we were to write down an app we wanted to take inspiration from (1 app/card). What do we like about it? Not like about it? What can we borrow from it for our app? I put:

App: This or That
What I Like: Super easy to flip through ideas to establish what you like/don’t like
What I Don’t Like: A little too open-ended, probably need criteria to start from
What I Can Borrow: Use This or That format to present different travel options for users to choose from and use this to hone in on a recommendation that fits what they’re in the mood for

I did a 2nd card on Hipmunk’s awesome UX/agony sort for finding the best flights. With a little more time, I’d go look at group travel options for what I could steal for how to then coordinate this with the friends you want to get away with.

What was so cool here was that even though I’d never thought of this app before, I was able to very quickly start getting an idea of what I might want it to look and feel like.

Tell Me About Your Peeps

The next 3×5 cards were around who your people are:

User Personas: 1 card for each persona with Name/Age/Background/Goals

User Narratives: How does the persona interact with your app

My target  was young working professionals with some disposable income that like to get away and be adventurous. People who value spontaneity and don’t want to spend a bunch of time planning. So I created a persona for Mia who’s 32 years old, loves to travel and get away with her friends, but never has anytime to plan because she’s too busy with work.

Mia opens the app and provides some basics around how long she wants to get away for (the weekend) and whether she’s got any geographic constraints (wants to stay in the US). Then, she starts flipping through This or That options (lie on the beach at Ocean City or go hiking in the White Mountains). For each, she picks which is more appealing to what she’s in the mood for, the options start getting more specific to her tastes until finally she indicates that she’s found the perfect place to go. And… now we’re getting to the point where a picture would be so much more helpful…


So, of course, our next step was to draw out paper prototypes. We weren’t to get hung up on specifics like what labels said or the exact UI controls. But it is sometimes helpful to use real data instead of lorem ipsum to clarify intent.

Travel Prototype

I thought it was pretty awesome – within an hour I went from an idea I’d never thought of to something I thought could be pretty cool. Afterwards, I used it to help me think through some ideas for Hack Boston – which isn’t even a product, but the framework is still really helpful to get your brain moving. Thanks, Josh!


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