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THESIS WORKERS

Since January 2015 we were joined by Master Thesis students Kristoffer Leo and Joakim Bonnevier. Every week they share their findings with the team, making this exchange a valuable experience for all of us.

KRISTOFFER AND JOAKIM

We are both fifth year students from LTH studying Information & Communication Technologies, with an advance in Usability & Design. Seeing that the Internet of Things phenomenon continues to grow and a lack of tools for creating cool experiences with the hardware that actually already exists, we started searching for a company that parts our interest. We are grateful for the opportunity to do our thesis with Topp that live and breathe prototyping each day. Every week is a new adventure! 

PROJECT BRIEF

There already exists various prototyping tools to prototype applications consisting one screen, but there are no simple tools for prototyping more complex systems involving sensors and multiple devices. Our main problem to solve is how to design this tool and which variables that has to be taken into account for the UX of prototypes created with this tool to be as good as possible.

One of our target is for the tool to be flexible enough for users that are experienced with programming to be able to create anything they want without feeling limited, but also for users with no programming experience to be able to understand and easily create basic flows without complication.

WHY USE VISUAL PROGRAMMING ENVIRONMENT FOR PROTOTYPING?

There are many parts of programming which makes it complex to learn. A program consists of a number of instructions needed to perform a specific task. These instructions can be written in different formally constructed programming languages which all could include different syntax. With a Visual Programming Environment we retain the programming concept of giving instructions but lift out the problematics of syntax that might steal focus from the logical flow for of the system. In prototyping, this decrease the learning curve of creating an actual integratable prototype and makes the iteration time for inexperienced programmers faster.

Michael Winberg, co-creator of the flow-based prototyping tool Noodl and prototyper at Topp states that the iteration time for an experienced programmer that knows the used language by heart is about the same, or even slightly slower. For him the real value lies in the ability to be able to demonstrate the logical structure of a prototype to customers and team members, which he experiences a significantly better and more impressed response towards showcasing a JavaScript library. 

CHALLENGES OF IOT PROTOTYPING

What Internet of Things refers to is simply an object of any sort that is interactable, controlled or listened to through the internet. This can be done with everything from a small temperature sensor to a large complex machine.

The greatest challenge for a tool designed for IoT is the vast variety of ways the sensors could communicate with the tool, not to speak of the huge list of possible hardware to prototype with. To make the tool easy to use, even for non technical users, this complexity of communication must be hidden. This in turn creates high technical demands on the tool.

With our tool design we focus on decreasing the time it takes from IoT idea to a first design iteration. By doing this we need to find a way to abstract unessential parts for the user setting up their hardware, but still keep realistic requirements on maintaining the tool.

IoT is a very technical area today and few users focus on the user experience. With a good prototyping tool we predict this could completely change the industry.

PROJECT GOALS

  • Explore existing ways of UX prototyping, different types of IoT scenarios and which sensors are of most importance.
  • Design new ways of prototyping UX when interacting with systems containing various sensors and multiple devices. The methods will be tested, evaluated and analyzed.
  • Produce a prototyping tool containing sensors integration and multiple devices.

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