You often read claims that lower fidelity prototypes illicit different reactions than higher fidelity prototypes.
This came to mind again today because I came across it when reading a post on UIE (http://www.uie.com/articles/pitfalls_prototyping/):
A great designer, however, chooses the right fidelity for where they’re at with the design. Lower fidelity, like a pen-and-paper sketch, produces a different kind of reaction and critique than higher fidelity, like a jQuery rendition. (This is why tools like Balsamiq try hard to fake a lower fidelity.)
Now obviously the user can't really react to aesthetic things that don't exist in the paper prototype, so you have that much going for you. I am sure many of us have had a user who reacts more to colors than the functionality -- although both are important, early on this might not have as much value to the project.
But one thing I've heard fairly consistently (and I think is being implied in the UIE article) is that a user is more "honest" in their criticisms about a paper prototype. This seems to be why Balsamiq is designed the way it is too.
This thought assumes that the user is more likely to give their true opinion on something -- especially if it's negative -- on a paper prototype because the user perceives that less work was involved in creating it.
It also therefore assumes that they'll be more reserved in critiquing a higher-fidelity version because they feel like they're looking at an almost finished product -- where decisions are mostly final, a lot of work was done, etc.
While that makes sense to me (and I would say I've seen it happen), I've been unable to find any studies that significantly back this assumption up. That example is one I heard consistently in my past, but has anyone "officially" proved the accuracy of it?
I have found several studies about the efficacy of paper versus computers. For example at http://www.usability.gov/articles/newsletter/pubs/062005news.html:
The two types of prototypes produced essentially the same quantity and quality of critical user observations (there was no reliable difference). However, 92% of the test participants preferred working with the computer-based prototypes.
The others I have found generally back this finding up -- the quantity and quality of critical user observations remains the same in both cases.
In my work we do both low and high fidelity work and will continue to do so, but I find yself continuously curious about this concept and how much water it holds. To clarify -- I'm not asking about the value of paper prototyping (which I think is immense), but whether or not a user's impression of a low or high fidelity prototype actually changes the type of feedback they will give.
So what does all of this mean for the assumption that we're getting "different" types and approaches of criticism for low and high fidelity prototyping?
To clarify: I think what I'm trying to get answered is more psychological than it is specific to pixels or design. I definitely agree with the points on progressing from low to high, the various differences between the two, etc... I guess I'm just particularly curious about this one aspect of it. My interest on this is less about the TYPE of feedback (as in that pixel size is off) as it is the intent or context of that feedback.
Is there inherently something different such that someone will tell you about your overall design due to their impression of the amount of work they perceive went into the prototype (high vs low)? I suppose it's also a question of does one type cause people to be more reserved with their feedback than the other?
For example, if you showed the same design in low fidelity is that person more likely to talk about their general experience and expectations BECAUSE it is low fidelity? Would they be less likely to talk about that with a higher fidelity prototype they infer was more work and is less likely to be altered based upon their feedback?
And if this is the case (and I generally would agree that it seems to be), is there any formal study on this?