Reading Reflections of Week 9: Conceptual Design

27 Oct

The reading materials are Cooper chapter 7 and UxBook chapter 7, 8, 9. Copper chapter discusses how to design an effective product based on our requirements. Through defining the interaction framework, the visual design framework, the industrial design framework, a solid and stable framework definition is reached. After conceptual design, the designers should collect user feedback and do usability tests to find major problems with the interaction framework and refine some features.

UxBook uses three chapters to talk about how to design a new system. The author first presents three design paradigms and then comes up with design thinking, ideation and sketching. In the second chapter, the author focuses on how to create conceptual design and design for embodied, ubiquitous and situated interactions. The following chapter illustrates how to implement the design with annotated scenarios, prototypes and wireframes. Compared with Copper, UxBook is more meticulous and specific.

In order to understand these articles more deeply, I read the four chapters again with the five questions. Here is my answer.

1. What are the products of conceptual design? When we are done with conceptual design, what tangibles do we have?

Conceptual design is an implementation of the mapping to convert the designer’s mental model to user’s mental model. As a part of an interaction design, the products of conceptual design contain a theme, metaphor, or idea of a system. It is a concept!

After determining our personas, scenarios and requirements, the first step is conceptual design instead of sketching any widgets or objects. With synthesizing all our ideation and sketching results, we can examine what the system is to users from the ecological, interaction and emotional perspectives. When you show conceptual design ideas and sketching them based on the three perspectives, we are done with it and we have our tangibles, that is, what the product is, how it fits with its ecology and how it operates with users.

2. Some of the tools that help us come up and communicate the conceptual design are sketches, wireframes, and prototypes. They have various levels of fidelity: low (sketches); medium (wireframes); or high (prototypes). Although we read about prototypes next week, try to figure out: Why do we use redundant tools at different levels of fidelity? And what does it mean for something to have less or more fidelity?

When we start to design an effective product, it is impossible to achieve a perfect system in the beginning. The design group should modify and refine their versions again and again. That’s why we need different tools because design is lifecycle iteration and various types of design have their own kind of tools and evaluation. Just as Uxbook says, for each different project context and each stage of progress within the project, you have to adjust the amount of any kind of design, prototyping and evaluation to fit the situation in each of these incarnations of that lifecycle template.

Fidelity means the quality of being faithful or loyal. Here it denotes the degree of similarity. If the model reproduces main properties of the real product, it has a high level of fidelity, just like prototypes which serves to provide specifications for a real, working system. If the models just represent multiple alternative conceptual design ideas, they have a low level of fidelity, just like sketches which convey a broader design concepts and ideas. Less fidelity product is an uncompleted objects and it often happens at the first stage of lifecycle iterations in design. The tangibles are ideation and sketching. While more fidelity means more concrete and more accurate, these products are almost finished and it often happens before design refinement where we need to complete specification of interaction design.

3. What are other useful tools and techniques for creating conceptual design?

According to UxBook, participatory design is a useful tool for creating conceptual design. It is a good way to involve users in the design process and usually starts with reciprocal learning. In the situation, designers and users are the same. Anyone can express their design ideas or change some features. It is very effective for interaction situations.

According to Copper, user feedback sessions and usability tests are useful techniques too. They can identify major problems with the interaction framework and refine many important features like button labels and widgets. Without usability tests assess products’ effectiveness, we can not make a compelling product.

4. What are some major do’s and don’ts of conceptual design?


  • There is only one user experience — form and behavior must be designed in concert with each other.
  • It’s very easy to explore a variety of ways of presenting information and functionality and to perform radical reorganizations, if necessary.
  • It’s also important to consider environmental factors and persona aptitudes when devising visual styles.
  • It is often useful to develop one or two extreme options that push the look-and-feel a bit too far in one direction
  • Keep in mind that prototypes alone are rarely sufficient to communicate underlying patterns, principles, and rationale, which are vital concepts to communicate to programmers.
  • It requires vigilance to ensure that the design vision is faithfully and accurately translated from the design document to a final product.


  • Never show a design approach that you’re not happy with; stakeholders just might like it.
  • Don’t let yourself get distracted by the details of a particular area of the interface. Spending too much time and effort on intricate details early in the design process discourages designers from changing course to what might be a superior solution.

5. What role do users, user research, and user feedback play in conceptual design?

All our conceptual design is user-centered. It is the basis for interface design that makes sense to the user. The conceptual design is not just the designers’ business but users. We can involve users in our design session. It is not a substitute for learning about uses’ roles. It is the objective of contextual analysis.

User research must occur before ideation. Our design should be based on a solid research foundation. It is very important to determine the personas, scenarios and design requirements. Without user research, without effective data collection and analysis, our design is merely a castle in the air. How can we implement a clear and compelling product if lack clear definition of the target users and their goals and needs?

After conceptual design, we can collect feedback from users in order to refine and modify our system. Given less time and money, we can use informal feedback sessions. With clear explanation of our notions and ideas, we observe how users respond and evaluate. Meanwhile, we can ask how they feel and think about the idea.

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Posted by on October 27, 2012 in Reading Reflections



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