For this round of prototyping I once again focused on the same two tasks for the Doctor’s watch: setting alarms, and locating objects or people. For the previous set of paper prototypes, I had laid out some basic screen structure, but there had been only cursory thought given to how to transition between different screens. Since PowerPoint does quite well at demonstrating navigation between screens, I decided to focus on that aspect of the screens.
For the alarm task, the Doctor needs to be able to set an alarm to go off when he is in a certain location, or at a certain time, or when both location and time conditions are met. Set alarms appear in a list that is shown when the screen opens. From there, a new alarm can be created, or a previously set alarm can be edited. Alarms are still missing the ability to be deleted, which will have to be addressed in future prototypes. There are navigation buttons that can be pressed when alarm creation/editing is in progress to bring up location and time settings. Messages can be entered to inform the Doctor of what the alarm is for, in case he forgets why it was set. Since he travels across time at will, keeping all these reminders organized is very important.
For the homing/tracking task, the Doctor has transmitters set on several people and objects that he wants to keep track of, including his TARDIS, his traveling companions, and UNIT field offices that he’s working with at the time. At any time, he can call up a map that indicates the directional bearing of the object or person, and a path to travel to get to that location on foot or by vehicle. For this iteration, object selection and map viewing are separate screens that need to be navigated between.
Version 1 to Version 2
The largest changes from version 1 to 2 was in the Homing task screen. At the advice of another student, I dropped the 3D map entirely, and only offered a flat map interface. For future prototypes, I think that navigating the entire universe will still require a 3D interface, but my current working idea coming out of this prototype is to have a seamless 3D view of location on the interplanetary level down to 2D map representation of location as the view is zoomed in to the single planet level.
For the Homing task screen, I also dug deeper into PowerPoint’s ability to convey navigation. In version 1, I just had a set of buttons for each trackable object, with no interactivity represented. For version 2, I made each button pressable. There are now 3 trackable objects, which results in 8 possible states. For each state, I made a button slide with slight modifications to represent selected buttons, and made a corresponding map slide with routes to the tracked objects marked.
The Alarm interface had much fewer changes, but I did manage to fill in a few missing pieces of functionality. Each alarm can be saved with a name, but this functionality was completely missing from version 1. Version 2 corrected that.
Messages for alarms can either be typed in, or can be input by voice which converts the spoken words into text. Version 1’s ear icon seemed confusing to the fellow student I showed it to, and made it a microphone icon in version 2 as she suggested. I also created an interaction on the microphone to indicate when it is and isn’t recording.
Looking ahead to future iterations, I’m thinking that in the homing task, consolidating the object selection and map into one screen will be a more elegant approach.
For alarms, I’m still bothered by ‘typing’ in a 3D holographic screen.
Reflection on Using PowerPoint
The main thing I missed when using PowerPoint is that interactions are limited to clicks and mouseovers. I really wished I had a way of dragging shapes around on one screen, especially for the alarm time setting interface.
My other gripe is that for anything that’s not boxy in shape, PowerPoint’s drawing capabilities are limited. In talking with other students, it seems that many of them drew their unusual imagery in Illustrator or Photoshop, imported the images into PowerPoint, and then drew hotspots over the navigable parts.
Still, none of this takes away from PowerPoint’s ability to create basic prototypes that can answer simple questions quickly.
Other Situations and Projects
A friend of mine at work almost always does his prototypes in Visio, but I think I may be able to convince him to try this out. The main problem with using Visio is that there’s no way that I know of to communicate navigation. PowerPoint also seems capable of representing most of the user interface elements that an application needs, and since the two applications are related products, Visio content can probably be easily integrated with a PowerPoint prototype. We’ll have to give it a try next time we’re working together.
Another aspect of this tool for work is that PowerPoint presentations seem to be very common. I’ve often joked that there’s the attitude of, ‘PowerPoint, or it didn’t happen.’ It’s as if a talk or presentation can’t be made without a slide deck, and sometimes, the sole source of documentation for a software package comes in the form of a printed PowerPoint presentation. I think this is really weird, but at least PowerPoint is an accepted form of communication, while not confusing anyone about whether or not it’s a finished product. I think the only thing I’d have to make sure of is that, if emailing the presentation, the people I’m communicating with actually start the presentation rather than just skimming the slides.