On the uncanny valley & creating prototypes

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The uncan­ny val­ley is a term from the world of robot­ics, which states that when some­thing appears almost per­fect, it can cause a neg­a­tive reac­tion*. Or, to be more precise:

The uncan­ny val­ley hypoth­e­sis holds that when robots and oth­er fac­sim­i­les of humans look and act almost like actu­al humans, it caus­es a response of revul­sion among human observers.

Source: Wikipedia

I’m talk­ing about the uncan­ny val­ley in regards to cre­at­ing pro­to­types, so revul­sion may be too strong a term; but I think the prin­ci­ple still applies.

I was lucky enough to attend UX Lon­don recent­ly, and one of the work­shops in which I par­tic­i­pat­ed was Mark Bask­inger and William Bardel’s Quick Sketch­ing for Inter­ac­tion Design. In this work­shop we were taught to draw squares, and one of the key tips we were giv­en was to make them good, but not per­fect; if the cor­ners don’t have a lit­tle over­lap, your pro­to­type sketch­es start to look com­plete and are less invit­ing for com­ment and participation.

Three types of sketched corner

There‚Äôs anoth¬≠er way in which small imper¬≠fec¬≠tions can work in your favour. While my sketch¬≠es (such as this one, for a project which, unfor¬≠tu¬≠nate¬≠ly, nev¬≠er saw the light of day) could nev¬≠er be accused of being too per¬≠fect ‚ÄĒ that‚Äôs the rea¬≠son I attend¬≠ed the work¬≠shop, after all! ‚ÄĒ I do like to use the same prin¬≠ci¬≠ple in my more for¬≠mal wireframes:

Adventures (wireframe)

Although I use a basic grid to pro¬≠vide reg¬≠u¬≠lar¬≠i¬≠ty to the eye (usu¬≠al¬≠ly 3/6 columns), I make sure that large blocks of ‚Äėtext‚Äô don‚Äôt end at the same point:

Irregular paragraph lengths

This is only a small detail, but it more accu­rate­ly mim­ics how text appears on pages, and sug­gests to the view­er a more real­is­tic impres­sion of how the final page will appear, where a series of iden­ti­cal, reg­u­lar blocks would appear false. That small detail can help get your pro­to­types approved.

* Scott McCloud looks at the sub­ject from a dif­fer­ent angle in his excel­lent book, Under­stand­ing Comics:

Different levels of realism in drawn faces

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“On the uncanny valley & creating prototypes”

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