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The Uncanny Valley of GUI prototyping

Posted on Friday, May 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

The uncanny valley in robotics and computer animation is a …

… hypothesis states that as the appearance of a robot is made more human, a human observer’s emotional response to the robot will become increasingly positive and empathic, until a point is reached beyond which the response quickly becomes that of strong revulsion. However, as the robot’s appearance continues to become less distinguishable from that of a human being, the emotional response becomes positive once more and approaches human-to-human empathy levels

Something similar can be said for GUI prototyping. It is often good to keep it simple and use wireframes. The goal is to study transitions in the software and user interactions, figuring out which interface elements to include and where to include them. Hence, removing distracting detail like color, gradients and other stuff that does not contribute to this goal is necessary. I now state my hypothesis for the uncanny valley of GUI prototyping 🙂 :

As appearance of a GUI prototype is made to look more like the final product, it is generally more liked by the client until a reaches a point where it is missing just enough detail to cause strong revulsion. However, as the prototype further improves, it becomes liked again and it morphs into the final product.

– Coding User


Depending on the purpose of the GUI prototype, you have to choose the appropriate tools for the job. If you are a lone developer who just wants to have an idea how the app should look like, a rough hand-drawn sketch may suffice. If you have a multimillion-dollar contract with a client, you may want to go for professional prototyping tools or even full-fidelity prototypes. Whatever works….! Beware of the uncanny valley though, presenting almost-finished-but-not-final designs may make your client focus on the incorrect hue of the color in the logo.

In the next blog post, I will discuss choosing the Android GUI prototyping tools used for Gnucash.

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