Design Meets Disability: Feeling Meets Testing


Our first reading for Developing Assistive Technology is a chapter in Design Meets Disability: Testing vs Feeling.

The chapter begins with how clinical trials are rooted in the world of clinical research. Precise clinical trials are needed to yield robust qualitative data. But in addition to it, what might be other beneficial models of prototyping?

In it Pullin explains shifts in mainstream design and the benefits that “experience prototyping” could offer as a complement alongside clinical trials in design for disability.  Experience prototyping prioritizes the user’s experience of the interaction.  (here is a paper from ideo about experience prototyping), it places importance on putting the individual at the heart of the process.

Pullin breaks down how the word prototype itself can be often too ambiguous leading to unrealistic expectations or an undervalued prototype. That often it’s helpful to define what it is a particular prototype represents verses what it does not.

  • “… an appearance model might  be described as a looks-like prototype; a technical rig might be a works-like prototype; and an ergonomic rig might be a feels-like prototype. Then a weighted appearance model in the right surface materials, might be a looks-like-feels-like prototype, and so on… the kodak camera was a behave-like proto-type but neither looked the same or worked with the same technology as the final product (pg141).”
  • “Marion Buchenau & Jane Fulton-Suri defined experience prototyping to encompass activities that prioritize engaging people with an experience, even at the expense of fidelity to the design. (pg 141)”


Pullin reiterates too that it’s important to consider the context of environmental factors. That in addition to including what’s in a prototype, it’s equally important to consider where and how to use it, like for the example of the product SpyFish there was an effort made to test it in a more relaxed environment away from typical work desks. However “on a moving boat, somewhere sunny during a lazy holiday, could have contributed even more to the experience.” Experience prototyping can be a healthy alternative solution to accidentally keeping the whole design process conducted in a laboratory  or built within the lab mentality verses everyday use.

  • “This Complexity of people’s fuller experience could be seen as a problem, as extra dimensions of variability and subjectivity. User testing is more traditionally carried out in a usability lab, in which the variability of everyday contexts is eliminated to better establish the cause of a user’s reaction and allow more direct comparisons between different trials. Experience prototyping is more likely to embrace subjectivity and idiosyncrasy (pg144).”


Pullin writes about “Wizard of Oz” prototyping and Quick & Dirty Experience prototyping. That sometimes there can be extreme value to fast prototyping to pin down the most important interactions.

Equally considered is when can a rough prototype be inappropriate? And that the “issue of exposing people with dementia to unresolved and unreliable prototypes can be disorienting and even upsetting to them.” The Gloucester smart house project was used as an example where unexpected solutions, things that the designers would’ve expected to be disorienting ended up being the better solutions.

Also that living with a prototype at home could also shed light on the process as well verses it being chained to a usability or traditional research lab.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s