Authors: Preece, Rogers & Sharp
Case Studies
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Interaction Design: beyond human-computer interaction  
Using an Interactive Sketching Tool

Creating storyboards is a very useful, low cost design technique, allowing the envisaged use of a new design to be quickly communicated and evaluated. There are different ways of capturing storyboards, but in the initial design stage, it is important that the designs can be captured quickly and easily. In the book, we focus on paper-based storyboarding, but in this interactivity, we introduce you to an alternative approach.

DENIM is an interactive sketching tool that helps web site designers in the early stages of design. The system allows you to sketch the overall structure of a website, to design the contents and layout of each web page, to link the pages together, and then to 'run' the design, i.e. to interact with your design like you would in a web browser.

DENIM was developed at the Group for User Interface Research at the University of California at Berkeley.

Downloading DENIM

Before you can use DENIM, you need to download the software from Go to the site and follow the instructions. If you are working on a network, or if you don't have full access privileges for your machine, you may need to find someone with appropriate permissions in order to install the appropriate version of Java should you need it. also contains links to numerous publications and further information about the work being conducted at Berkeley.

When you first run DENIM the following screen will appear. The main part of this screen is called the canvas, and this is where you will develop your design. DENIM includes a comprehensive Help system, accessible from the pie menu in the top left hand corner of the screen.

NOTE: DENIM was originally designed for a pen interface, although it can be used with a mouse and keyboard. Writing with a mouse is a little challenging, but it is also possible to type in headings, phrases, link names etc.

DENIM screen shot

Follow the tutorial

To get you started in DENIM, we suggest that you run through the introductory tutorial which is downloaded with the software. Click on the pie menu at the top left of the screen, and then choose 'Help'. This brings up a second pie menu, and from here choose 'Contents'. The frame shown below will appear. Choose the tutorial and user guide link on the right hand side.

DENIM Help - screen shot

Following the tutorial exercise will get you accustomed to the interface, and the different modes of input. DENIM has two different input modes: one to input lines and one to input gestures. In the former case, the lines you draw are drawn in the canvas. In the latter case, the lines form a symbol, e.g. a line down the canvas, which is interpreted by the system as a command, e.g. scroll the visible window.

Remember that you can type in strings if your handwriting with the mouse (or pen) is too messy. To do this, gesture a caret (^) and the system will prompt you with a text input box.

NOTE: The tutorial assumes that you have a pen interface. To check the equivalent operations on the mouse/keyboard, refer to the reference section of the Help, specifically the section 'Pen and Mouse', where there is a table of operations.

Using the tool for your own designs

Once you've understood how to use DENIM and what it can do, try putting it to work on one of your own designs. We suggest that you produce the initial design in DENIM and evaluate it with some users. One of the advantages of DENIM is that no special experience is required to run the storyboard. It acts just as a website would do. Alternatively, try Activity 8.6 using DENIM instead of a paper-based storyboard (See page 264 in Interaction Design). The activity at the end of Chapter 8 would also be a good example to try.

Comparing a paper-based and electronic approach to storyboarding

Having used a paper-based approach and the DENIM approach to developing and evaluating an initial design of a website, compare how they vary, assess their advantages and disadvantages and choose the one you prefer. You might also like to discuss this with your colleagues.

You can vote for your preferred approach below. The results will be displayed dynamically after you've voted. Any further comments you have on this issue, you can send in to us and we'll post a representative sample of your responses to the students corner.



"It is easier to produce an initial storyboard using a system like DENIM than using paper?"

"Did users prefer to evaluate a paper-based prototype rather than one produced in DENIM?"


  Copyright 2002