Tools For Interaction Design – Experience Prototyping & Beyond

I have been thinking about Erik Stolterman’s lecture about design.  A large part of the lecture was about the tools and materials used by designers.  He used a carpenter analogy and stressed that the skilled designers, including carpenters, carefully select the tools they use for a task.

As interaction designers, one of the most important tools we choose is our prototyping tool.  Prototypes are very important and have a variety of uses.  These uses include validation, communication, and collaboration.  The use I am going to focus on now is validation, or testing with users to see if it is a ‘good’ design.  There are a number of prototyping tools used to effectively ascertain usability feedback on a design, including paper & pen, Dreamweaver, and a variety of other rapid prototyping tools.  A designer chooses which of these tools to use based on the situation and type of feedback they want.

If a designer wants feedback on the usefulness, likability, or overall experience of the design, which prototyping tool should she use?   It seems to me that we really have no tools to create this type of prototype.  This is even further complicated when designing social networking or communication tools, where the usefulness & experience of the design is tied to complex social relationships.

Buchenau & Suri’s paper on experience prototyping ( ) talks about looking at the actual experience by creating ‘experience prototypes.’  The prototypes in the paper are created using a variety of tools from different disciplines.

So, this all leads to my questions:  Would a tool that created prototypes aimed at testing usefulness, likability, and overall experience be useful?  If yes, is it possible to create such a tool?  What would the prototypes it creates look like? How would this tool look/act?

Or would it be useful to have a tool that tests these things by aiding in creating something other than prototypes?  What would it create?   How would this tool work?

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