Rapid paper prototyping

Generate ideas

Paper prototyping is a great way to generate lots of ideas at the early stage of a project. Bring the idea into reality by drawing it and it doesn’t matter how good it is. A picture paints a thousand words. When you see it take form you can understand it, talk about it with your team, test it with users and iterate it.

Throw some away

You can also throw ideas away. Paper is much easier to screw up and chuck (recycle) than something digital. Its also cheap and quick.

Two people sketching in a notebook
Sketch credit: Aurora S Melchor, twitter @roarsdraws

Interactive paper?

Sketch, glue, label or stick to make what you need to bring the idea into reality. Be creative.

Rapid paper prototype workshop

I saw a great prototype technique at UXBristol 2016 (2018 has sold out already and I wasn’t quick enough for a ticket, boo) by Sandra Gonzalez, Head of UX at JUST EAT and founder of UX for Change. She developed it while prototyping with kids in educational settings and its just as powerful in other settings. In just 45 minutes you create the prototype, test it, iterate and test it again.

I gave a workshop on it today and had such positive feedback I though I’d share it here.


Use simple, cheap tools

  • Small notepad – to replicate the size and *feel* of a small smartphone
  • Post-its & stickers – to navigate around the app when testing
  • Sharpies/pens – for drawing
  • I bought materials for 32 people at a total of £9

10 mins to create the prototype

  • Draw your screens – a new screen per page
  • Leave Space – leave 5 pages between each screen (you MUST do this)
  • Show navigation –  place dot Stickers on buttons & match the colour to post its
  • Show pop-ups – by mini post-its

5 mins to test the prototype

  • Get into groups and test your prototype
  • Give the person your prototype and ask them to ‘think aloud’ as they view it
  • Note any problems/improvements

5 mins to iterate

  • This is why you have 5 blank pages… now you can tear off the screen you want to change and draw a new page

Test again / show and tell

  • test/iterate as many times as you need to
  • if you have time you can have a show and tell of ideas and even vote for the best ones to take forward to a digital prototype.



Digital Exeter and cows

Share and connect with like minded digital professionals at this free evening meetup

Digital Exeter now has a 1000 members and meets in the evening every other month at Jury’s Inn, near the bus station and Vue cinema. It’s free and is for like minded digital professionals to hear talks and network. You can book a place on the Meetup app and the next event is early Sept.



What happened

I went for the first time on Tues 6 July to reconnect with the digital world before returning to work in Nov from maternity leave.

It was relaxed and informal with a bar and a room set up in theatre style. The first talk was on UI/UX design from Honeybe Creative. The second on Cows and technology from Milkalyser which was really fascinating to learn about changing from a government scientist to owning a business and applying for grants as well as setting up data transfer about healthy cows from across the globe.

I really enjoyed the meet and recommend it to others from whatever part of digital you are working in. There was lots of insider information on other digital talks, tech talks and discounts.


Digital Exeter (and Tech Exeter)

Free event run by Rob Glover

Every 2 months, evening

Jurys Inn, Exeter

Book a place on the meetup app

UXBristol is back

UXBristol is one of the best UX events I’ve been to. I went last year and met lots of UXers, took part in hands on workshops and had pizza & beer.

Three workshops that really stood out for me last year:

Sketching notes

We sketched the workshop in notes, learnt shorthand sketch and what pens to use. I’ve been taken no notes that way ever since and it’s saved me time & paper.

Board games 

We created a board game, prototyped it and tested it on other teams. You learn a lot in a short space of time. My team themed theirs around Shaun of the dead.

Quick notebook prototypes

Using a small flip notepad to create a prototype for a game played on handheld devices. It was a cheap, quick and effective way to prototype.

I recommend UXBristol as one of the friendliest and interactive UX events there are. Go and play 🙂

UX of babies

There’s been a gap in my blog posts as I am now a Mum to an amazing girl, Mango Mae, born 6 weeks before her due date.

What a life changing time. I have never been so happy and overwhelmed at the same time. Babies have very simple needs and yet they are complicated to work out because one cry covers every need.

Imagine carrying out User Research on a project with babies as it’s all about asking the right questions with users who can’t reply. You’d have to study and understand their needs.  

My last project at the Met Office before maternity leave was working on weather visualisations for the media and I look forward to seeing what’s new when I go back in September 2017. 

Smashing Conference

sunset in oxford

Make huge leaps in knowledge from Conferences

Last week I spent three days in Oxford at the Smashing Conference learning from Designers and Developers as they talked about their stories and their craft. Most speakers talked in part about their life and the history of culture – experiences which tied into their craft. Where human and technology mix. It’s aptly named – smashing.

As a Designer I learned most from the UX and Design talks and saw ways that these corresponded to my own work. It was great to gain an insight into Development as well.

The talks

Here are the talks with links to the slides (where available). All of the links and also videos of the talks will be added as they become available.

Design talks

  • Understanding People – Chris Shiflett
    Summary: Perception versus reality. What is right isn’t as important as what is perceived to look right. User’s aren’t stupid, they are human.
    Checkout: change blindness (spot the difference in the pictures), ambient signifiers like the chimes on the Toyko tube and the piano stairs that are more fun than easy escalators!
  • Joining up the dots – Heydon Pickering
    Summary: explores the Web as the ultimate outcome of our unique impulse to make systems of shared meaning.
    Checkout: punching salads.
  • Living Design Systems – Jina Bolton
    Summary: creating a design system for a large Enterprise company. Design for scale.
    Checkout: opensource tool called Theo which converts files to several types automatically.
  • Design Systems in Difficult Places (no slides yet) – Mark Boulton
    Summary: talked about working in challenging places with distributed teams, devolved responsibilities and little understanding of users. Create a design system to create change and not just to create pictures. Mark spoke about his work at Al Jeezera and CERN.
    Checkout: stories about GB road team winning the Tour de France by taking a holistic approach and tweaking every possible aspect so that small gains = large overall gain.
  • Overthinking Design and Embracing Minutia (no slides yet) – Jon Setzen
    Summary: good experience is key to happy, loyal customers. It should be holistic and ever evolving.
    Checkout: Snoop gets mad, but who should it be at?
  • Souls & Machines: Designing the Future of Content (no slides yet) – Hannah Donovan
    Summary: Content without context is meaningless. Perspective gives feeling. Humans care about things, it’s how they determine what matters.
    Checkout: designing for desire is ok (just as for needs is ok), cleaning up API vomit, design invents culture.
  • Improving On-screen Legibility (no slides yet) – Tobias Frere-Jones
    Summary: sub pixel rendering causes problems with legibility. Mosaic effect. Small sizes can be legible as proved by printing press over hundreds of years.
    Checkout: his experiments with Mallory to get sizing exact.
  • Building Great Design Teams – Aaron Walter
    Summary: UX teams require Researchers, Designers and Developers. Work together, sit together, respect each other.
    Checkout: Many great insights from his work at Mailchimp, including videos being good ways to share research and knowing each others superpowers and kyptonite.

Developer talks

Love graphics

Need a new wallpaper? Check out February’s offerings from Smashing Magazine.

desktop wallpaper image
I’m chuffed to bits that my creation has been published. It started as a doodle in black pen on white paper. People liked it so much that I worked up in colour using Illustrator. 

Here’s how it began: 

Enjoy the designs and colours on your screens. 



NASA Space Apps, Exeter

Want to learn about space?

Then come along to the NASA Space apps challenge, 23-24 April 2016. It’s an international get together focused on space exploration that takes place over 48-hours in cities around the world. It happens every year and anyone is welcome to join.


Teams of technologists, scientists, designers, artists, educators, entrepreneurs, developers and students across the globe collaborate to address global needs to life on Earth and life in space.


To do the challenge in Exeter: register your interest with the Met Office

Other locations

For other locations (worldwide) check the NASA Space apps website in the next few months as the 2016 locations will be announced soon.

Tim Peake said no to a onesie?

That’s one of the things I learned at the 2014 challenge.

Tim Peake said ‘no’ to a onesie

Yes, ‘the’ Tim Peake. The British Astronaut who is now on the International Space Station for his 6 month mission. He was on skype from Houston and answering questions about life on the space station.


What do you do on the space station?
“We carry out research, we exercise … we need to be comfortable but also want to wear something we like the look of.”

Do you carry things around?
“There’s a lot to do on the space station. We have things to check and fix. We need to be able to carry around a toolkit and use it without it floating off.”

Would you wear a onsie?
“No” (laughs.)


I don’t know. A onesie seems comfy to me but I guess there are more important considerations in space. Why I spoke to him was as part of a team at the NASA Space Apps Challenge. It was held at the Met Office in Exeter which was one of the UK locations for the 2014 challenge. NASA hold the challenge every year. Anyone can enter and take part. You register and turn up at the location, hear what ideas are being put forward, join a team and create with whatever skills you have.

Want to take part?

Register on the Space Apps Challenge website.

What’s a hackathon?

It was my first hackathon and I had no idea what to expect. I work in technology as a digital designer but I don’t do the backend complicated code type stuff and I thought that was what a hackathon was all about but I had to give it a try. Would there be anything for me to do?

The idea I joined was to create wearable technology for an Astronaut. It was put forward by Jon Spooner (Unlimited Space Agency) and Jon Rogers (Dundee Uni). They go to schools and talk about how exciting space is. Their patron is Tim Peake.

Saturday – day one

The team was introduced to each other. There were fashion students and teachers from Exeter College, myself and another IT person, 2 web developers, Jon Spooner and Jon Rogers. We started with ideas, with drawing lots of ideas. We then spoke about all the ideas and settled on creating a comfortable spacesuit with a mission badge that lit up as it was connected to social media. The idea came from connection. We thought that Tim Peake’s family could use it to communicate with him in space.


Then we created. Well, this is how it went…creating, talking, creating, talking, revising, changing, creating, talking, going to other teams for help/advice, creating, etc etc… sewing machines appeared, badges were sketched, material cut, arduinos tinkered with, tapping on laptops, coffee, food, lots of wires, soldering, coding, drawing, gluing, sewing etc etc.

Sunday – day two

I arrived back at the Met Office in the morning and found that some people had worked through the night. That’s the thing about a hackathon, a weekend is not long to create something that’s never been created before. You get so excited about the project that you’ll work through the night. Here’s the final result which was presented to the other teams as we also heard about their projects.



What I liked about the hackathon

I had easily found things to do in the team even thought I’m not a coder because creating something in a short space of time just needs people to offer and go for it with a range of skills. From helping the fashion students to go with their ideas and not be afraid of technology, to sawing and gluing a case for the battery to sit in, to drawing shapes in pixels that could be displayed when the tweets came through.

The team won best mission concept 2014.